Top area teams: Wheaton Warrenville South, Glenbard West, Naperville North, Lake Park, Montini, Downers Grove North, Benet, York, Downers Grove South, Hinsdale Central.
Top athletes: Addison Trail: Carli Cinquegrani, sr., Miranda Gentry, sr., Ingrid Gonzalez, sr., Jennifer Hurtado, soph., Clorisa Mayer, sr.; Benet: Audrey Blazek, sr., Elaine Cleary, sr., Rachel Mann, jr., Alexis Mayfield, soph., Kate Zimmerman, sr.; Downers Grove North: Meghan Bonfield, jr., Gabbie Hesslau, sr., Jill Kothanek, sr., Rachel Krusenoski, soph., Micah Pfotenhauer, jr.; Downers Grove South: Hayley Albers, jr., Jordyn Baylark-Rasul, sr., Amy Rotuno, sr., Katie Strelau, sr., Amanda Thate, soph.; Fenton: Karina Decasas, sr., Gissel Garcia, sr., Diana Morales, jr., Mireille Valois, soph., Alissa Whyte, jr.; Glenbard East: Amanda Chlebek, fr., Lisa Laurenzana, sr., Kelly Kevil, sr., Vianey Serrano, fr., Yoselin Toledo, fr.; Glenbard North: Allison Anderson, fr., Simone Carr, jr., Michaela Cortez, fr., Jaclyn Dziewior, soph., Ellie Schwetz, sr.; Glenbard South: Monica Byrne, sr., Shannon Cadigan, sr., Elizabeth Niedert, jr., Jayme Schlenker, soph., Becca Sippel, soph.; Glenbard West: Lisa Luczak, soph., Kate Majewski, sr., Cynthia Mote, sr., Madeline Perez, jr., Emma Reifel,sr.; Hinsdale Central: Sarah Brennan, soph., Jill Hardies, sr., Becca Marcotte, jr., Becky Ventura, sr., Hinsdale South: Megan Bruckhauser, jr., Anisha Chinwalla, sr., Sarah Leganski, soph.; Immaculate Conception: Rachel Hill, jr., Kelly Kremske, sr., Brenna Langan, sr., Amy Ridder, sr.; Lake Park: Kaylee Flanagan, sr., Rachel Garippo, sr., Ruth Garippo, sr.; Sam Montalbano, sr., Brianna Murphy, sr.; Lisle: Angie Ngo, sr., Christina Yau, jr., Christine Young, sr., Ashleigh Zurek, sr.; Metea Valley: Kathleen Adolf, sr., Kendall Cast, jr., Analise Carmona, jr., Rachel Dorencz, sr. Montini: Theresa Connelly, sr., Brittany Fisher, jr., Gianna Gentile, sr., Catherine Kitz, sr., Claire Smego, sr.; Naperville Central: Katie Hoffman, soph., Nikki Hoffman, soph., Rachel Hoffman, soph., Nicole Latronica, sr., Emily White, jr.; Naperville North: Elly DeTurris, soph., Maria McDaniel, sr., Kimber Meyer, sr., Alex Moxon, jr., Abby Sikorcin, jr.; Neuqua Valley: Catriona Barr, sr., Claire Costello, jr., Lauren Penkala, soph.,; St. Francis: Jenna DiValerio, sr., Meghan McShea, jr., Kate Roback, sr., Amanda Schmitt, sr.; Timothy Christian: Anna Burch, sr., Abby Dykema, jr.; Waubonsie Valley: Ashley Bruner, sr., Kristina Chapman, sr., Elizabeth Sapoznik, sr., Allison Schenone, soph.; West Chicago: Julia Caithamer, sr., Mae Elizabeth Gimre, soph., Lindsey Sayner, jr.; Wheaton Academy: Shelby Fritz, soph., Danielle Kaufman, jr., Annika Pearson, soph., Jackie Smith, sr.; Wheaton North: Anne Denz, sr., Alison Farnsworth, jr., Mikayla Hartel, sr., Sarah Santinzo, jr., Kate Shikany, jr.; Wheaton Warrenville South: Victoria Adomshick, soph., Kayla Kightlinger, sr., McKenna Kiple, sr., Katie Popejoy, soph., Hope Schmelzle, sr.; Willowbrook: Taylor Burton, jr., Katherine Garcia, jr., Britannia Horn, jr., Ashley Krause, jr., Molly Krawczykowski, jr., Danielle Valasquez, fr.; York: Caitlin Blume, jr., Emma Fisher, sr., Dayle Mueller, soph., Kristin O'Malley, sr., Kathryn Schlemmel, sr., Allison Smith, sr.
Scouting report: The girls cross country season opens in earnest this Labor Day weekend, and all indications are the talent-rich area will once again be well-represented at the state finals in Peoria the first Saturday in November. Nearly half of the 28 DuPage County girls programs made the state cut in the two largest divisions of the three-class state tournament; the county individuals, many of whom are also coming off banner seasons in track and field last spring, look to create more magic this fall.
WW South rates a slight edge as the finest team in the county after not only finishing state runner-up to New Trier last year -- the third consecutive year in which the Tigers have captured a trophy -- but also returning the dynamic duo of Kiple and Schmelzle for their final campaign. The two senior standouts ran remarkable 800-meter legs in powering the Tigers' state-record 3,200 relay to gold last spring at the state track meet.
"I'm really excited for the season," said Kiple, the Tigers' top returning individual from last fall. "I think it's going to be an awesome year." Kightlinger and Popejoy are also state-hardened veterans for WW South, and coach Rob Harvey, notoriously tight-lipped about his never-bare incoming freshman class, has already indicated his current crop of ninth-graders will undoubtedly contribute this season.
"Experience and hunger are two good things to have," said Harvey, whose squad will also seek a fourth consecutive DuPage Valley Conference championship. "They have some pretty lofty goals. We will be ready to run at the end of the year."
After defeating WW South at both the regional and sectional, perennial power Naperville North had to settle for a tie for third with St. Charles East at the Class 3A state meet last year. The Huskies are actually predicted to be stronger than their longtime conference rival in preseason polls. McDaniel and Meyer are the Huskies' senior anchors this fall.
"We're going to see what we can do to close the gap (against WW South)," Naperville North coach Dan Iverson said.
Naperville Central has the intractable task of replacing defending state champion Amanda Fox (Illinois).
"It's a little different dynamic this year," Naperville Central coach Aislinn Hicks said. "We lost our front-runner."
In addition to the never-dull DVC race, the West Suburban Silver is another powerful league with grand ambitions this fall. "No one in our conference ever seems to rebuild," Glenbard West coach Paul Hass said. "They just reload." The Hilltoppers enter the season with unbounded optimism as Perez is being touted as a major force on the state scene. "She is the most driven athlete I have ever coached," Hass said of his junior star.
"Madeleine Perez is running out of her mind," said Reifel, who teamed with Perez last spring to also set a new state record in the 3,200 track relay, only to have sub-nine-minute WW South derail their state championship.
"Glenbard West is going to have an incredible team," York coach Annette Schulte said of her rival. But Hass is well-versed in the history of the seven-team Silver. "I think Downers North is a sleeping giant," Hass said.
The Trojans also have former track-relay state champions -- Hesslau and Kothanek -- dotting its formidable lineup. York also returns several athletes from its top-10 team at state last year, while the individual race for supremacy has a storyline of its own. In addition to Perez, Fisher and Hardies are fierce competitors; the conference coaches also agree that Lyons Twp. cannot be discounted.
In the West Suburban Gold, Downers South finished 12th at the state meet last November. The Mustangs seek a 14th consecutive conference championship this fall. "I think we can do at least as well as we did last year," Downers South coach Doug Plunkett said.
Willowbrook junior Krawczykowski is one of the many returning distance runners from the track state finals at 1,600 and 3,200 meters looking to break out in cross country.
The unquestioned favorite, however, to stand atop the individual podium in Class 3A is the indomitable Flanagan from Lake Park. The Lancers' senior, who dominated the field to win the 3,200 last spring in Charleston, is the top returning finisher after finishing third behind Fox and 2011 champion Ariel Michalek (Oswego East) last fall. "I think (winning the state championship) is her ultimate goal," Lake Park coach Lauren May said of Flanagan, whose older sister Lindsey was a two-time Class AA champion. But Flanagan also has greater goals in mind as the Lancers return several other members of their ninth-place team.
The three other members of the Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division are also looking for team trips to central Illinois come November. Neuqua Valley looks to improve upon its 23rd-place result, while Waubonsie Valley senior Bruner started the season in prime form with the Aurora City Championship last weekend. Metea Valley welcomes its first class of four-year seniors.
"We are picking up where we left off last year," first-year Metea Valley coach Eric Anerino said. "We were a few points away from qualifying as a team last year."
Benet, the last of the nine Class 3A team qualifiers from a year ago, should also be a factor. "We could be a late bloomer," Benet coach Scott Brooks predicted.
Montini captured its first state trophy in program history last year with its third-place finish in the middle division. The Broncos return five members, and coach Pete Connelly believes freshmen Emma Majowski and Gianna Soulzbrunn are potential difference-makers. "It will not be easy (to place even higher), but it's definitely possible," Connelly said. "We're probably a little stronger than we were at this time last year."
St. Francis and Glenbard South also have designs on return trips to the team state meet. "The girls had a really good summer," Glenbard South coach Brian Webb said.
"We think we can finish in the top five of the state finals," St. Francis' Scott Nelson said.
Key dates: Sept. 1, Fenton Early Bird; Sept. 1, Lyons Twp. Invite; Sept. 1, Hornet-Red Devil Invite; Sept. 8, Peoria Woodruff Invite; Sept. 14-15, Peoria Notre Dame Invite; Sept. 15, Downers Grove South Invitational; Sept. 21, Naperville Central Invite; Sept. 22, Palatine Invite; Sept. 29, Wheaton North Falcon Classic; Oct. 6, West Aurora Blackhawk Stampede; Oct. 12-13, Conference championships.
Predicted state champions: Class 1A: Decatur St. Teresa; Class 2A: Crystal Lake Central; Class 3A: New Trier.