Athletes to watch: Jade Dooley, Sr.; Theresa Hoge, Jr.; Abby Bultema, Sr.; Julianne Salmen, So., Taylor Adams, Fr.
Outlook: The Bobcats joined Beecher's boys downstate last fall, the first trip to Peoria for the girls since 2007. Dooley and Hoge were among the scorers for the Bobcats, who wound up 20th in Class 1A as a team, and Bultema also ran at state. They'll lead Beecher into its first season under Adam Depew, who replaces Pam Deery as head coach of both of the school's cross country squads.
Quote: "Everyone is really looking forward to this upcoming season, and that focus has already been evident during practice. The drive for us as a team is to make a competitive showing at the state meet." !~ Depew
Athletes to watch: Gina Narcisi, Jr.; Joanna Sanchez, Sr.; Sullibet Ramirez, So.
Outlook: Sanchez provides the Blazing Trojans with a veteran presence, but Narcisi and Ramirez are certainly no slouches as both advanced out of the Andrew Regional last fall. Coach Huey Johnson expects more good things from those three runners, but he needs to find a few reinforcements if Bloom is to make any noise as a team.
Quote: "We are working hard to show improvement." !~ Johnson
Athletes to watch: Chastity Powell, Jr.; Latris Daniels, Jr.; Milea Foy, Jr.; Tineja Foy, So.
Outlook: Coach Lias Werner has 16 runners out, including 10 returners and four of last year's top seven. Powell, Daniels and Milea Foy made the all-Southland Athletic Conference team. Last year, the Warriors won the SAC and qualified as a team for sectionals and they have a good chance to do the same this year.
Quote: "Leave it all on the course; don’t take it home with you." !~ Werner
Athletes to watch: Courtney Cross, Sr.; Ima Eno, Sr.; Idara Eno, Sr.; Megan Magurany, Jr.
Outlook: Vikings coach Rob Assise is optimistic about the 2012 season, and with good reason: Five of the top seven runners from a year ago are back. Behind that group, Homewood-Flossmoor improved its standing within the SouthWest Suburban Blue, then posted higher finishes in both the regional and sectional meets than it had the season before. Assise called that collective effort "a step in the right direction for our program."
Quote: "If everyone stays motivated and healthy, we could have up to four runners who can be better than our best runner last year. If that happens, and we can have a few others step up, it could be one of the best years our program has had in a long time." !~ Assise
Athletes to Watch: Alexa Beezhold, Jr.; Emma Pawlowski, Jr.; Alex Clausing, Jr.; Monica Smits, Jr.; Kristen Brink, Sr.; Lauren Brink, Sr.; Tiffany Groen, Jr.; Brittany Groen, Fr.
Outlook: Heading into the season, Illiana's girls have high hopes. Even though two of the Vikings' top seven runners from last year have graduated, the majority of the 2011 state-qualifying team is returning. Beezhold finished 37th at the state meet and is expected to make greater strides this year. Newcomer Lauren Brink should also help boost the Vikings, who will again be strong contenders in Class 2A.
Quote: "Barring any unforeseen injuries, I'm hoping this will be the strongest season the Illiana girls' cross country team has ever had." !~ coach Deb Top
Athletes to watch: Jacqueline Silverman, Sr.; Caitlin Henry, Jr.; Kristin Dryanski, Jr.; Nicole Dryanski, Jr.; Emily Wegrzyn, Sr.; Maureen Volkman, Sr.
Outlook: Only minimal changes will take place for the Spartans this season. While the total number of large meets will decrease in favor of smaller ones, the girls running these races will remain very similar to last year. The team is anchored by upperclassmen, and coach Tim Sovereign hopes his girls will be achievers within their conference this season.
Quote: "We have a good core group returning, but our two biggest challenges are improving in conference and advancing out of regionals." !~ Sovereign
Athletes to watch: Dasia McCain, Sr.; Destiny Wesley, So.; Courtney Johnson, Jr.; DeaJunique Brewer, So.
Outlook: The Falcons will sport a youthful look this year, as McCain is the lone senior. Thornridge coach Tashanna Gillenwater-Catron credits McCain for the leadership she has already shown and a "go-getter attitude," but the Falcons must have some younger runners contribute regularly. A plus is that Thornridge's roster numbers are on the rise and Gillenwater-Catron has high hopes for a few freshmen.
Quote: "We have more girls coming out for the team and they are a very committed group, so I think the team will do well this year. The dedicated and disciplined group of girls will make for a wonderful season." !~ Gillenwater-Catron.
Athletes to watch: Autumn Jeffers, Sr.; Karina Perez, So.; Yanet Mendez, So.
Outlook: As is true with several south suburban cross country teams, the Wildcats' main issue is a short roster. Coach Vince McAuliffe does have some good athletes to build around in Jeffers, Perez and Mendez, but he'd like Thornton to be more than just a collection of talented individuals. Team success remains the ultimate goal.
Quote: "Autumn and Karina will be an outstanding 1-2 punch that should be in the mix in every race they're in, and Yanet Mendez will make a solid No. 3. After that, we will be in need of some girls stepping up to give us a chance at a special year." !~ McAuliffe
Athletes to watch: Monica Munoz, So.; Andrea Munoz, Sr.; Amareya Taylor, So.
Outlook: Like Chris Szablewski from the Meteors boys' team, the Munoz sisters are entering the 2012 season on the heels of a sectional-qualifying effort. Taylor doesn't have that same kind of background, but she is considered a promising newcomer after running well in distance races during track season. Overall interest in the program is growing, too.
Quote: "After heavy recruiting, we will have a larger and more dedicated team this year that will compete for team points rather than just individual places." !~ assistant coach Omari Garrett
Athletes to watch: Jessica Fierce, Sr.; Breanna Fisher, Sr.; Kaory Gomez, Sr.; Olivia Velasquez, Jr.; Alexis Garcia, Sr.
Outlook: Despite a large number of newcomers on this year's team, coach Steve Nelson is optimistic. He believes his runners can continue to improve and that, as a result, the Rebels will be competitive throughout the season. Fierce, who returns as the team's only sectional qualifier from 2011, is expected to emerge as a leader for T.F. South.
Quote: "Our team this year is really hard-working and [we] look forward to a successful season. We have a lot of new athletes and I'm excited to see what they can accomplish together as a team." !~ Nelson
Athletes to watch: Misty Rogers, So.; Natasha Grayson, Jr.; Jaleesa Bowers, So.; Mariam Faniyi, So.; Andriel Hubbard, Sr.
Outlook: The biggest challenge facing Thornwood could be a lack of numbers, as coach Roy White has encountered some difficulties in recruiting. He's hoping the situation will improve once school is in session, but even if that isn't the case, the Thunderbirds should still have enough talent to cushion themselves. Rogers, the team's top runner last year, competed at sectionals, and White thinks the training she and her teammates have put in during the summer will pay dividends this year.
Quote: "Like any competitive team, staying healthy is key with small numbers to choose from. Our kids are talented, but are still learning the sport. With luck and consistency, we hope to finish in top half of conference and advance as a team to sectionals." !~ White
NOTE: Seton Academy and and Washington did not provide information to The Times for the season preview.
!~ Compiled by Kenny Karrson