Boys cross country: Scouting Lake County
NORTH SUBURBAN LAKELake ZurichCoach: J.B. Hanson (10th season)
Last year's record: 16th in Class 3A, regional champions, first in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Justin Shim (University of Illinois), Mark Spatz (OSU)
Top returning competitors: juniors Matt Pereira (third in Class 3A, first in NSC), Brian Griffith (ninth in NSC), Kyle Griffith (11th in NSC); sophomore Patrick Burns (eighth in NSC)
Key newcomers: sophomore Jacob Bieniek
Outlook: With four of their top five runners back from their NSC championship team last fall, including elite No. 1 runner Pereira, the Bears look poised to capture their seventh conference title in eight years. Not only is Pereira the top returning runner in the state this season (ahead of Buffalo Grove senior Kevin Salvano, who placed fifth in Class 3A), but Pereira is considered one of the top distance runners in the nation with two full years ahead of him to grow and improve. Coach Hanson said that the Griffith brothers are ready to make the jump to the state's elite in 2015 while Burns is already battle-tested at the varsity level giving Lake Zurich four outstanding runners in the front of its pack. If all of the pieces fall into place, the Bears could be a huge factor when the historic 70th Annual IHSA state meet is held Nov. 7 in Peoria.
LibertyvilleCoach: Stuart Mendelsohn (first season)
Last year's record: fifth in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Nick Seneczko, Alex Zoellick, Max Roberts
Top returning competitors: seniors Will Johnson, Gabe Alesna; juniors Stephen Richardson (17th in NSC), Joe Gasick; sophomores Alex Tam (21st in NSC), Nate Sweitzer, Albert Su
Key newcomers: seniors Brayden Monson, Derek Nedland; freshmen Ethan Robbins, Max Sauers
Outlook: The Wildcats will be without the guidance of former coach Mark Buesing (14 years at the helm), who will be replaced by new head coach Stuart Mendelsohn for the 2015 campaign. Libertyville does have the luxury of two all-conference runners in Richardson and Tam leading its pack. But the Wildcats' relatively young squad will need to prove that it can perform in the pressure-packed meets with only Johnson and Alesna providing some senior leadership back from last year's competitive fifth-place NSC team.
MundeleinCoach: Kurt Rutz (third season)
Last year's record: seventh in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Bryce Richards (Kansas University), Chris Palacios, Mickey Cardenas
Top returning competitors: seniors Uly Hagedorn (36th in NSC), Mitchell Alberts (37th in NSC); junior Ben Krauss
Key newcomers: freshmen Robert St. Clair, Dario Carillo, Michael Parduhn
Outlook: Losing two all-conference runners in Cardenas and Palacios to graduation will certainly be a daunting task for the Mustangs to recover from as their young squad enters into the new campaign. Hagedorn, and Krauss are heading into the season in great shape as they have both put in nearly 1000 miles of training over the summer. Alberts is coming off of a stress fracture during the track season. But coach Rutz said that he is rounding into shape. Mundelein will be inexperienced, but the Mustangs' team has three freshmen who all ran 1600 meters in under five minutes in eighth grade.
StevensonCoach: Scott Sommers (eighth season)
Last year's record: third in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Sam Oh (sixth in Class 3A, Harvard University), Paul Halliday
Top returning competitors: seniors Jared Borowsky (fifth in NSC), Adam Butler, Jakob Bloomfield, Daniel Engel; juniors Paul Udoni (18th in NSC), Jordan Eng, Adam Kody, Joe Axelson, Kevin McCoy
Key newcomers: juniors Caleb Oh, Michael Szura; sophomores Brett Lucas, Nikita Smyrnov, Jacob Sparreo
Outlook: Despite losing top runner Oh to graduation, the Patriots have a lot to be optimistic about this season as Borowsky should provide some great senior leadership after making a strong bid for the state meet as an individual in 2014. After placing third in the NSC last fall, coach Sommers hopes his squad can move up the league standings even higher with their sights set on perennial power Lake Zurich and Vernon Hills as potential obstacles to overcome as the new campaign unfolds. Sommers also said there will be a lot of competition within the team as they battle it out for the top seven spots all season long.
WarrenCoach: Bill Dawson (34th season)
Last year's record: fourth in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Jakob Martinez, Nate Campbell, Jeff Abbott (Elmhurst College), Will Kellerhals
Top returning competitors: senior Dustin Macuiba (17th in Class 3A, fourth in NSC), Alex Delgado (16th in NSC), Brady Roegner; juniors Julian Ruiz, Ray Sorge-Young
Key newcomers: juniors Andrew Miller, Nathan Oommen, Raees Ahmad, Jason Carrington; sophomores Fernando Delgado, Keyante Howard
Outlook: The Blue Devils have the ninth-ranked returning runner in the state back in Macuiba ready to lead their pack along with Delgado, who was a member of two state-qualifying relay teams in track last spring. Roegner and Ruiz bring some experience to the table with them while Sorge-Young is looking good after making the jump from tennis last fall to cross country in 2015. Coach Dawson pointed to Lake Zurich as the team to beat in the NSC with tough competition also expected from Stevenson, Libertyville, Lake Forest, and Vernon Hills.
NORTH SUBURBAN PRAIRIEAntiochCoach: Chris Bailey (seventh season)
Last year's record: ninth in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Danny Ressler (UW-Stout), Zach Besson, Bogdan Anghel, Tommy Castino
Top returning competitors: senior Tyler Glassman; juniors Kevin Vettese, Pat Schoenfelder
Key newcomers: sophomores Max Barton, Alex Besson, Joe Sculuca
Outlook: After losing four of their top six runners to graduation, the Sequoits will need some of their younger runners to step up and contribute to the team scoring at the varsity level this fall. Coach Bailey expects Vettese, Schoenfelder, and Glassman to battle back and forth for the top spot on the squad as Antioch will hope to peak when the state series is held.
GrantCoach: Jeff Durlak (ninth season)
Last year's record: eighth in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Frank Cardy (Xavier), Jeffrey Brundidge (CLC), Rigo Mejia, Sam Axelsson, John Escritor, Michael Jones
Top returning competitors: seniors Matt Kling, Jordan Festin; juniors Omid Navidzadeh, John Schmidt, Kyle Kowalski; sophomore Cody Zajac
Key newcomers: sophomore Nathan Ehrenhofer
Outlook: Losing eight of their top nine runners to graduation is certainly going to have a huge impact on the Bulldogs' program as they head into the new season. Kling is a four-year runner who has missed significant time in the lineup the past two seasons due to injuries. Coach Durlak expects Navidzadeh to be one of Grant's front-runners this fall while he pointed to Ehrenhofer as a newcomer who should make an impact at the varsity level by the end of the season.
LakesCoach: Travis Shepherd (second season)
Last year's record: 12th in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Daniel Miller, Alex DiGiammarino
Top returning competitors: seniors Robert Kuhlmann, Jacob Hubbard, Kellen Moczynski, Jeffrey Meverden, Brandon Thiel, Jacob LeBaron; sophomores Kael Moran, Wil Blanchard
Key newcomers: junior Jeremy Wallace; freshmen Max Borzick, Jack Erwin, Charlie Halberg, Owen Wenberg, Ethan Schommer
Outlook: After going through some growing pains last year, the Eagles only lost two of their top seven runners to graduation. A staple of the team in 2014 was pack running, and coach Shepherd hopes that will be a strong area of emphasis for the team to fall back on once again this season. Wallace should be a huge addition to the team as a first-year cross country runner, and Kulmann's recent emergence should make a big difference in improving Lakes' pack even more in 2015. Shepherd believes his squad has the potential to qualify for the Class 2A state meet for the first time in school history if all goes according to plan.
Round LakeCoach: Kevin Brady (11th season)
Last year's record: 11th in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Andrew Maskevich, Rosendo Acosta, Morgan Fields
Top returning competitors: seniors Carlos Rosas (32nd in NSC), Vidal Ortega, Emanuel Sanchez; juniors Moises Acosta, Brian Ortega
Key newcomers: senior Oscar Arteaga; junior Francisco Villanueva, Edson Delarosa; sophomores Nathan Etherington, Sam Ruiz
Outlook: After losing three of their top five runners to graduation, the Panthers will look to retool this season. Round Lake does return 2014 MVP Rosas to set the pace for its pack. But it will need veteran teammates like Vidal Ortega, Acosta, Sanchez, and Brian Ortega to step into much bigger roles if the team is to remain competitive in 2015. After just missing the top-30 cut off for all-conference last fall, Rosas should have a good shot at reaching that goal this fall.
Vernon HillsCoach: Mark Whitney (fourth season)
Last year's record: seventh in Class 2A, second in sectionals, second in regionals, second in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Tyler Smith (Brown University), Rob Williams (Augustana)
Top returning competitors: seniors Trevor Moyers (22nd in NSC), Caleb Ju (35th in NSC), Alex Geier, Bryan Castellanos, Tommy Millunchick; juniors Shane Williamson (third in Class 2A, third in NSC), Tim Krashevsky, Zak Baumann; sophomore Teddy Chen
Key newcomers: junior Nick Mohrdieck; sophomore Nikolay Kravtsev
Outlook: With a top-ranked returning runner like Williamson back and ready to lead their pack, the Cougars should have the talent, depth, and experience to compete at a very high level again this fall. After bringing home the third-place trophy in Class 2A in 2013, coach Whitney is confident that his 2015 squad can compete for a top-three trophy with a combination of some strong front-running and a narrow 1-5 split in less than 60 seconds. Like Lake Zurich's Pereira in Class 3A, Williamson has the ability to bring home the first-place medal in Class 2A if all goes well at historic Detweiller Park.
WaucondaCoach: Jeff Helberg (first season)
Last year's record: 13th in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Ricky Sidlowski, Adrian Zambrano, Brandon Haye, Matt Bulgarelli, Jarrett Schuetz
Top returning competitors: seniors James Barten, Collin McFadden; sophomore Adam Fox
Key newcomers: junior Eric Keller; sophomores Jared DeWyze, Mike Messacar; freshman Marcus Keller
Outlook: After 36 seasons under the guidance of former head coach Al Willhoit, the Bulldogs' program will have new coach Jeff Helberg helping to lead the way in 2015. Wauconda lost its top two runners to graduation, but Helberg believes that his squad should have a good mix of upperclassmen and underclassmen contributing to the team on the varsity level this fall. Barten and McFadden will be counted on to help bring the newcomers along while DeWyze, Messacar, and Marcus Keller look to make an immediate impact.
EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLIC CONFERENCECarmel CatholicCoach: Jim Halford (29th season)
Last year's record: 3rd in ESCC, sectional qualifiers
Top graduated seniors: Patrick Pastika, Patrick Hogan, Austin Truesdale
Top returning competitors: seniors Mike Cusack, John Caffarelli, Horatio Lopez, Cameron Dean; junior Stephen Lacke; sophomore Jack Teehan
Key newcomers: junior Zach Schneider; sophomore Scott Haseman; freshman Tino Alivia
Outlook: The Corsairs may have lost their top runner in Pastika to graduation, but they should still have more than enough depth and talent returning to stay at or near the top three in the ESCC this season. Carmel coach Halford hopes that his squad is able to move into the top 12 in their Class 2A sectional while making consistent improvement throughout the upcoming campaign with newcomers like Teehan and Alivia getting their feet wet at the varsity level.
FOX VALLEY CONFERENCE / FOX DIVISIONGrayslake CentralCoach: Jimmy Centella (seventh season)
Last year's record: sixth in Class 2A, third in sectionals, regional champs
Top graduated seniors: Max Brunk (UW-Eau Claire), Suneed Ahmed (Carthage College), Gavin Achtemeier
Top returning competitors: Seniors Jack Battaglia (37th in Class 2A), John Girmscheid (89th in Class 2A), Danny Vincent (113th in Class 2A), Alden Aaberg, Eli Straus; junior Jack Aho (11th in Class 2A); sophomore Eli Minsky (96th in Class 2A)
Key newcomers: junior Matt Aho (previously played soccer in fall)
Outlook: As the No. 2-ranked Class 2A team in the state in Dyestat's pre-season rankings, the Rams know that this is really the season they have been anticipating for a very long time. Grayslake Central has the potential to bring home one of the top three trophies when the state meet is held on Nov. 7, but it will have to be hitting on all cylinders to accomplish that very challenging task. "We're definitely more talented than last year because we bring five of our top seven back and Matt (Aho) ran a 9:39 in the 3200 meters in track which is a really strong time," said coach Centella.
Grayslake NorthCoach: Brandon Boyd (11th season)
Last year's record: sectional qualifiers, 12th in FVC
Top graduated seniors: Brannan Morris, Alex Kendzior, John McShane
Top returning competitors: senior Dylan Ponomar; juniors Liam O'Connell, Miguel Carrera, Cameron Detweiler
Key newcomers: senior Brandon Keaskowski; sophomore Andrew Keaskowski; freshman Ryan Schroeder
Outlook: After reaching the Class 2A sectionals last year, the Knights are expected to be in more of a rebuilding situation this season. But not all is lost for Grayslake North this fall as it still has all three of its top runners back from last year's fourth-place regional squad with O'Connell, Ponomar, and Detweiler expected to give the Knights an even stronger showing than 2014.