Coach: Mark Anderson (14th season).
Last year's conference finish: Third in FVC.
Top returning runners: Morgan Schulz, sr.; Talia Duzey, sr.; Gretchen Price, sr.; Sarah Riley, jr.; Molly MacDuff, jr.; Linnea Yokup, so.; Sarah Caesar, so.
Top new runners: Meghan O'Malley, so.; Rachel Feurhelm, so.; Avery Henegar, fr.
Worth noting: The Trojans should be a factor in the conference race, as they usually are. Schulz exploded in her first cross country season last year and was in position for Class 3A All-State status, but collapsed about 50 meters from the finish. C-G has experience and depth and should be one of the area’s top teams.
Crystal Lake Central
Coach: Anthony DeStephano (third season).
Last year's conference finish: Second in FVC.
Top returning runners: Sami Staples, sr.; Mary Fleming, sr.; Brooke Larsen, sr.; Rachel Kautz, sr.; Janine Orvis, so.; Kelly Doerr, so.; Avani Flanagan, so.
Top new runners: Debra Tomlinson, so.; Stephanie Doerr, fr.; Maddie Hollander, fr.
Worth noting: The Tigers finished fifth in the Class 2A state meet and graduated only one runner, Maddie Dagley, from their top five. Fleming had another strong season last year, while freshmen Orvis and Doerr were in the top 20 at the FVC Meet. Staples, the Class 2A state champion in 2011, is trying to regain her form after battling various injuries. Tomlinson transferred from Crystal Lake South, where she helped the Gators win the FVC Meet by taking 16th.
Crystal Lake South
Coach: Ken Greenfield (fourth season).
Last year's conference finish: FVC champion.
Top returning runners: Kiley Britten, sr.; Andie Kobrick, jr.; Caitlin Bruzzini, so.; Ann Lewandowski, so.
Top new runners: Jenny Luken, jr.; Kayla Ehrenhaft, fr.; Alex Ray, fr.
Worth noting: South won the FVC Meet for the first time last season, by one point over Crystal Lake Central and two over Cary-Grove. The Gators did it with terrific balance and several of those runners return led by Britten and Bruzzini. Tomlinson’s transfer to Crystal Lake Central hurts, but if the Gators find a strong fifth score, they could contend again.
Coach: Tyler Carlson (second season).
Last year's conference finish: 12th in FVC.
Top returning runners: Maggie Himmel, jr.; Jenna Berlet, so.; Lena Hemmer, sr.
Top new runners: Kayla Hostetler, jr.
Worth noting: Carlson likes the core of younger runners and hopes the Chargers can turn a corner this season. The numbers with the younger classes are encouraging as well.
Coach: Patti Nihells (11th season).
Top returning runners: Natalia Sztuk Vel Sztukowski, sr.; Morgan Reichert, so.; Shayl Sotelo, so.; Anna Wilson, jr.
Top new runners: Elizabeth Evans, jr.; Marie Mayer, so.; Sophia Aury, fr.
Worth noting: Sztuk Vel Sztukowski returns after having a strong junior season. Evans was a standout in track running shorter distances, but could help the Whip-Purs. Nihells said their main goal is to run as a compact team.
Coach: Brad Gallaugher (fifth season).
Last year's conference finish: Ninth in FVC.
Top returning runners: Kelly Meehleib, sr.; Kate Mitchell, jr.; Jerissa Chan, jr.
Top new runners: Chloe Smith, fr.; Megan Hernandez, fr.
Worth noting: Meehleib is getting closer to her freshman form, when she was one of the area’s top runners. Gallaugher feels like his top three spots are locks, then there is a lot of depth to fill the rest of the lineup.
Coach: Kevin Christian (eighth season).
Last year's conference finish: Sixth in FVC.
Top returning runners: Lauren Van Vlierbergen, sr.; Molly Barnes, sr.; Taylor Bona, sr.; Courtney Eubanks, sr.; Alex Lorenz, jr.; Kathryn Van Vlierbergen, so.
Top new runners: Chloe Walsh, fr.; Bailey Zinger, so.; Natalie Cook jr.
Worth noting: Lauren Van Vlierbergen has won back-to-back FVC titles and finished fourth in the Class 3A State Meet, then she won the 800 meters at the Class 3A State Meet. Barnes and Bona both put in strong summers, although Lorenz and Kathryn Van Vlierbergen were limited in their summer workouts with injuries.
Coach: Beth Czubik (third season).
Last year's conference finish: Fifth in FVC.
Top returning runners: Lauren Opatrny, sr.; Katy Purich, jr.; Ellie Gioia, so.; Karen Sielck, sr.
Top new runners: Kieley Medinger, fr.; Chelsea Graves, fr.
Worth noting: Opatrny finished 16th in the Class 3A state meet and had a strong track and field season. Opatrny, Purich and Gioia ran on the Classs 3A state-qualifying 4x800 relay team.
Coach: Amy Taege (first season).
Last year's conference finish: Seventh in FVC.
Top returning runners: Andie Shine, sr.
Top new runners: Katie Bergeron, fr.; Kate Ferguson, fr.
Worth noting: Taege takes over for Kelly MacDonald, who had one of the area’s longest tenures with 17 seasons as coach. Taege looks forward to seeing what kind of improvements the Wolves can make throughout the season.
Coach: Jay Fuller (first season).
Last year finish: Fourth in FVC.
Top returning runners: Kate Jacobs, so.; Amy Zhang, jr.; Grace Beattie, jr.; Megan Hansen, jr.; Sarah Semmen, sr.; Maddie Neubauer, so.
Top new runners: Cristina Romero, jr.; Izzy Solberg, so.; Camryn Tafoya, fr.
Worth noting: Jacobs narrowly missed Class 2A All-State honors as a freshman and was one of the area’s top runners. Fuller is looking for breakout seasons from Beattie, Zhang and Hansen, and feels like the Blue Streaks have increased their depth.
Coach: Bruce Ferris (fifth season).
Top returning runners: Izzy Mazanti, jr.; Briana Baltes, sr.; Peyton Wood, so.; Landis Delgado, so.
Top new runners: Amanda Valdes-Garcia, fr.; Sydney Gawronski, so.
Worth noting: The Thunder should have a complete team for meets, which is a change from the past two years. Ferris was encouraged by the summer training, in which all of the girls put in 300 to 500 miles.
Big Northern Conference
Coach: Casey Seyller (first season).
Last year's conference finish: Third in BNC.
Top returning runners: Jordan Peterson, jr.; Daphne Austin, sr.; Javauneeka Jacobs, sr.
Top new runners: Riley Korzcak, fr.; Catherine Austin, fr.; Cynthia Pelayo, fr.
Worth noting: Harvard made great strides last season as a team and qualified for the Class 1A State Meet. Peterson was the Hornets’ top runner, while Austin and Jacobs usually were in the top five. Willhoit likes what he has seen from some of the new runners so far.
Coach: Chris Setzler (20th season).
Last year’s finish: 13th in FVC.
Top returning runners: Delaney Pruitt, sr.; Anna Fox, sr.; Tess Grimes, so.
Top new runners: Felicity Westphal, fr.; Ashley Molidor, fr.
Worth noting: The Skyhawks will move back to the BNC this year and also fall back to Class 1A for cross country. Pruitt, one of the area’s best soccer players, should be Johnsburg’s lead runner.
Coach: R.J. Meyer (sixth season).
Last year's conference finish: BNC champion.
Top returning runners: Kitty Allen, sr.; Kaylin Punotai, sr.; Ashlynd Broling, so.; Claire Cowan, sr.; Stephanie Voller, sr.
Top new runners: Ellen Siracusa, fr.; Hannah Secor, fr.; Briana St. Clair, fr.
Worth noting: Marengo has won four consecutive BNC Meet championships and has another strong group to chase that title this season. Allen takes over as the leader on this team after back-to-back Class 2A All-State seasons. Cowan could be a key after battling knee injuries for two seasons. If she can return to her freshman form, the Indians will have a solid top five runners.
Coach: Ryan Carlson (first season).
Last year's conference finish: Third in BNC.
Top returning runners: Megan Spohr, sr.; Breanne Retherford, so.; Emma Langlois, so.; Eden Manuel, sr.; Brittany Tower jr.
Top new runners: Amy Frisch, fr.; Gabby Ross, so.
Worth noting: Carlson takes over for retired Keith Forth, who was R-B’s only previous head cross country coach in school history. The Rockets should be right there in the BNC again this fall with most of their lineup returning.
East Suburban Catholic
Coach: Amy Beattie (first season).
Last year's conference finish: Sixth in Suburban Christian Conference.
Top returning runners: Abigail Jones, so.; Emma Baumert, sr.; Olivia Dineen, sr.; Marisa Monbrod, sr.; Morgan Litterer, so.; Monica Juarez, jr.
Top new runners: Shelby Truckenbrod, fr.; Grace Knudsen, fr.
Worth noting: The Hurricanes have a solid, healthy core to start the season, led by Abby Jones, whose mother Laura Witek won seven state medals in her standout career at Marian in the 1990s. Marian will have to find out what the other teams are like in the East Suburban Catholic Conference after previously running in the Suburban Christian Conference.
– Compiled by Joe Stevenson, the Northwest Herald