NORTH SUBURBAN LAKE Lake Zurich Coach: J.B. Hanson (ninth season)
Last year's record: 20th in Class 3A, second in NSC, second in Class 3A regionals
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Top graduated seniors: Dave Brown (62nd in Class 3A), Will Llanos, Austin Kuehr
Top returning competitors: seniors Justin Shim (203rd in Class 3A, 31st in NSC), Mark Spatz; junior Matt Milner; sophomore Matt Pereira (69th in Class 3A, second in NSC)
Key newcomers: sophomores Brian Griffith, Patrick Burns
Outlook: The Bears squad may be pretty young, but they are very talented with elite runner Pereira expected to make a huge jump up the state-meet ladder if he can continue to show great improvement. Coach Hanson has been extremely happy with the senior leadership that Shim and Spatz have shown throughout the summer and that should pay big dividends when the regular season gets underway. After taking second to upstart squad Vernon Hills last year, the Bears will try to win their sixth NSC title in seven years this fall.
Libertyville Coach: Mark Buesing (14th season)
Last year's record: fourth in NSC, second in Class 3A regionals
Top graduated seniors: Pat Humen (46th in Class 3A), Atticus Rush, Nello Bardina, Scott Post
Top returning competitors: seniors Alex Zoellick (23rd in NSC), Max Roberts (30th in NSC), Nick Seneczko (32nd in NSC), Rob Seneczko; juniors Will Johnson, Gabe Alesna; sophomore Stephen Richardson
Key newcomers: freshman Alex Tam
Outlook: The Wildcats did lose some key seniors to graduation, including state qualifier Pat Humen, but they still have a solid nucleus of seniors back this season to help lead their pack. Libertyville's team has put in "a ton" of miles during the off-season and they are ready to put together some great times this fall while expecting to be very competitive in the NSC.
Mundelein Coach: Kurt Rutz (second season)
Last year's record: ninth in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Liam Mellon (DePaul), Greg Proper
Top returning competitors: seniors Bryce Richards (14th in NSC), Mickey Cardenas (24th in NSC), Chris Palacios; juniors Uly Hagedorn, Joseph Clow, Mitchell Alberts
Key newcomers: senior Enkh-Orgil Enkhbayar; sophomores Ben Krauss, Steven Van Belleghem, Sean Naughton
Outlook: The Mustangs' team should be greatly improved this season as they have a really good 1-2 punch in all-conference seniors Richards and Cardenas returning to lead their pack. Mundelein has plenty of varsity experience to fall back on in 2014 as Palacios, Clow, and Hagedorn all ran in the conference meet last year.
Stevenson Coach: Scott Sommers (seventh season)
Last year's record: fifth in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Jeremy Bloomfield (22nd in NSC), Alex Mazursky
Top returning competitors: seniors Sam Oh (fourth in NSC), Malcolm Fits, Paul Halliday, Josh McMullen; junior Jared Borowsky (third in NSC)
Key newcomers: senior Jakob Bloomfield; junior Adam Butler; sophomores Paul Udoni, Kevin McCoy, Adam Kody, Jordan Eng
Outlook: With two of the top three returning runners in the NSC in Borowsky and Oh to build around, the Patriots should definitely be one of the teams to keep an eye on this season in Lake County. Stevenson did lose some pretty key seniors to graduation last year. But if the Patriots can put together a solid pack behind their elite duo then they should be able to move up even further in the conference standings and they will be making a push for the top three in the NSC.
Warren Coach: Bill Dawson (33rd season)
Last year's record: third in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Adam Shurson (Kansas, 16th in NSC), Patrick Kreis (20th in NSC), Michael Kleine, Marcus Shamberg
Top returning competitors: senior Jakob Martinez (19th in NSC), Will Kellerhals, Jeff Abbott, Nate Campbell; junior Dustin Macuiba (141st in Class 3A, ninth in NSC), Alex Delgado, Brady Roegner
Key newcomers: seniors Charlie Nudelman, Joe Mannino; junior Carl Flemming III; sophomores Julian Ruiz, Raess Ahmad
Outlook: The Blue Devils did lose four important seniors from their third-place NSC squad last fall to graduation, but like Stevenson they have an excellent duo to build around in state qualifier Macuiba and all-conference runner Martinez. If Warren can manage to get some of its young runners to step up into bigger roles as the season progresses, it should still be very competitive when the state series rolls around. Kellerhals missed track last spring with a stress fracture, but he finished in the top 30 in his age group this summer at the national sprint triathlons championships.
NORTH SUBURBAN PRAIRIE Antioch Coach: Chris Bailey (sixth season)
Last year's record: 10th in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Tyler Thorn, A.J. Marsiglio, Lucas Winters, Robert Herman, Troy Mayer
Top returning competitors: seniors Danny Ressler (25th in NSC), Zach Besson, Bogdan Anghel
Key newcomers: senior Andre Rivera; junior Tyler Schoenfelder; sophomore Pat Schoenfelder
Outlook: The Sequoits may not have the same amount of depth to rely on this season at the varsity level as they did last year, but they do have their top two runners from the conference meet returning in Ressler and Besson. Antioch will probably go through some growing pains in the early stages of the new campaign, but hopefully the Sequoits can develop a solid pack of young runners as they head into the later part of the season. Bailey will be doing double-duty this season as he takes over as head boys coach in place of Dave Judson, who retired after 19 seasons at the helm.
Grant Coach: Jeff Durlak (eighth season)
Last year's record: eighth in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Dalyn Romig (eighth in NSC), Kyle Hatton (Illinois State), Jorge Costilla,
Top returning competitors: seniors Frank Cardy (28th in NSC), Jeffrey Brundidge (37th in NSC), Rigo Meija, John Escritor; juniors Sam Axelsson, Matt Kling; sophomores John Schmidt, Omid Navidzadeh, Kyle Kowalski
Key newcomers: senior Michael Jones; freshman Cody Zajac
Outlook: The Bulldogs have the unenviable task of trying to replace three of their top five runners at the varsity level this season.Cardy and Brundidge give Grant an experienced pair of front-runners to set the tone and there is a lot of competition within the team to help fill out the lineup behind them. Kling and Schmidt both missed the entire campaign last year with injuries and they are poised to have great seasons in 2014.
Lakes Coach: Travis Shepherd (first season)
Last year's record: 11th in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Jimmy Burchard (Iowa State), Jacob Groenwald, Hitarth Patel (Illinois), Danny Burchard (Penn State)
Top returning competitors: seniors Alex DiGiammarino, Daniel Miller; juniors Kellen Moczynski, Jake Scheuring
Key newcomers: juniors Jabob Hubbard, Robert Kuhlmann, Jeffrey Meverden, Brandon Thiel; freshman Kael Moran
Outlook: The Eagles might have lost half of their varsity team to graduation, but they are still very optimistic heading into the new season as the trio of Miller, Moczynski, and Hubbard give first-year coach Shepherd a solid nucleus to build around. The key to Lakes' success will be determined by how well its pack runs and whether or not the newcomers will be able to maintain contact with the Eagles' front pack.
Round Lake Coach: Kevin Brady (10th season)
Last year's record: 13th in NSC
Top graduated seniors: David Munguia
Top returning competitors: seniors Andrew Maskevich, Morgan Fields, Rosendo Acosta, Alex Munoz; juniors Emmanuel Sanchez, Carlos Rosas, Vidal Ortega, Luis Nunez, Arturo Nunez; sophomore Moises Acosta
Key newcomers: sophomore Brian Ortega
Outlook: The Panthers are hoping that their "strength in numbers" approach pays off this fall as they have an abundance of experience returning at the varsity level. Round Lake still faces the ominous task of trying to compete with the likes of Vernon Hills in the NSC Prairie Division, but so far the Panthers' pack has been looking pretty good in the early stages of the new season.
Vernon Hills Coach: Mark Whitney (third season)
Last year's record: third in Class 2A, sectional champions, regional champions, first in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Kyle Whitney (Loyola), Nick Webber (Creighton), Ben Mohrdieck (Purdue), Eric Doerhoefer
Top returning competitors: seniors Tyler Smith (42nd in Class 2A, sixth in NSC), Rob Williams (40th in Class 2A, 18th in NSC); juniors Trevor Moyers, Caleb Ju, Sam Laneman, Bryan Castellanos; sophomores Shane Williamson (27th in Class 2A, seventh in NSC), Tim Krashevsky
Key newcomers: none
Outlook: After getting edged by Illiana Christian by just two points for the Class 2A runner-up trophy last season, the Cougars are very optimistic about putting together another great campaign with three of their top five runners back in the lineup. The youthful Williamson has proven to be a huge difference-maker for Vernon Hills and he has great support from impressive senior teammates Smith and Williams. The Cougars knocked off five-time defending NSC champion Lake Zurich in 2013 to raise the first-place conference trophy before rolling to the Burlington Central regional crown and the Belvidere sectional title.
Wauconda Coach: Al Willhoit (36th season)
Last year's record: 12th in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Kevin Vaughan
Top returning competitors: seniors Ricky Sidlowski, Adrian Zambrano, Joe Petralia, Brandon Haye
Key newcomers: none
Outlook: Sidlowski is a returning sectional qualifier for the Bulldogs in Class 2A, but Wauconda will be hard-pressed to compete effectively against some of the top Class 3A teams in the NSC this fall due to a lack of depth. Coach Willhoit will focus more on the regional competition this season in hopes of getting as many individuals as possible into the sectional meet.
EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLIC CONFERENCE Carmel Catholic Coach: Jim Halford (28th season)
Last year's record: third in ESCC
Top graduated seniors: Anthony Gattusso, Dillon Novak, Ian O'Connor
Top returning competitors: seniors Patrick Pastika, Patrick Hogan, Austin Truesdale; junior Michael Cusack; sophomore Stephen Lacke
Key newcomers: junior John Caffarelli; freshman Jack Teehan
Outlook: The Corsairs' main goal heading into the new season is to win the ESCC North Division championship and to challenge for the overall ESCC crown. In addition to those lofty goals, Coach Halford is hoping to return to the sectional meet as a team and finish in the top eight in that powerful meet.
FOX VALLEY CONFERENCE / FOX DIVISION Grayslake Central Coach: Jimmy Centella (sixth season)
Last year's record: 17th in Class 2A, regional champions, fourth in FVC
Top graduated seniors: Kevin Orozco, Ben Shwaiko, Steven Anderson
Top returning competitors: seniors Max Brunk (77th in Class 2A), Suneed Ahmed (132nd in Class 2A); juniors Jack Battaglia (53rd in Class 2A), Danny Vincent (145th in Class 2A), John Girmschied, Eli Straus; sophomore Noah Boelens
Key newcomers: sophomore Jack Aho; freshmen Eli Minsky, Luke Reblin
Outlook: The Rams qualified for the Class 2A state meet last year with an incredible 181-181 fifth-place tie with Prairie Ridge coming out of the powerful Belvidere sectional. And while Grayslake Central did lose three seniors from that experienced squad to graduation, the Rams still have four returning runners back with state meet experience, including top runner Battaglia. Coach Centella believes this could be the strongest and deepest team in Grayslake Central history with a great combination of veteran leaders and talented newcomers hoping to improve on their state meet finish last year.
Grayslake North Coach: Brandon Boyd (10th season)
Last year's record: third in Class 2A regionals
Top graduated seniors: Ryan Bruder, Jeremy Fisher, Nick Wipperfurth
Top returning competitors: seniors Brannon Morris, Alex Kendzior, John McShane; junior Dylan Ponomar; sophomore Camryn Cowperthwaite
Key newcomers: sophomore Liam O'Connell; freshman Marcus Sandroni
Outlook: The Knights will have some big shoes to fill this season with the loss of No. 1-runner Ryan Bruder to graduation. So it looks like Grayslake North will be in a rebuilding situation in 2014 despite having a very promising new front-runner in Ponomar taking over in the front of the Knights' pack this year. Grayslake North will be hoping to make a return trip to sectionals as a team despite expecting some really tough competition.