Girls cross country: Scouting Lake County
NORTH SUBURBAN CONFERENCELake ZurichCoach: Ian Silverman (18th season)
Last year's record: sixth in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Caitlin Shepard (ninth in Class 3A, NSC champion,University of Kentucky), Kristie Houghton
Top returning competitors: junior Carley Peldiak; sophomore Emily Burns (42nd in NSC)
Outlook: The Bears are looking to rebuild and reset after losing their top two front-runners in Shepard and Houghton from the past few seasons. In the newly-aligned NSC, a top-three finish would be pretty good for Lake Zurich and it expects to advance through the regional meet. After that, the Bears will focus on the racing competitively in sectional competition, developing their pack, and working towards the times they will need to have a chance at qualifying for the 2016 state meet.
LibertyvilleCoach: Bill Etnyre (fifth season)
Last year's record: seventh in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Sarah Pirih, Mia Bertaud
Top returning competitors: seniors Audrey Paglia (38th in NSC), Sami Campbell; juniors Melissa Manetsch (32nd in Class 3A, seventh in NSC), Jenna Ocheltree (23rd in NSC), Nora Tucker (32nd in NSC), Sarah Townsend, Maggie Shutts, Sarah Toohey; sophomores Alex Houser, Sydney Donovan
Key newcomers: freshman Margaret Buchert
Outlook: With a strong front-runner in Manetsch ready to lead the Wildcats' pack, Libertyville is hoping to make great strides in the new-look NSC this season. As usual, coach Etnyre will be grooming his squad to focus on running at their best at the end of the season in hopes of being in the mix for a potential berth to the 38th Annual IHSA state meet Nov. 5 in Peoria.
MundeleinCoach: Adam Pauley (second season)
Last year's record: 10th in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Abby Grein, Crystal Arroyo
Top returning competitors: senior Marissa Richards; sophomores Clarissa Wienckowski (33rd in NSC), Andrea Cordova
Key newcomers: freshman Jeanelle Jimenez
Outlook: The Mustangs' squad will be all about pack running this season so coach Pauley is looking forward to seeing his team working together in groups on a variety of 3-mile courses. Mundelein has a very strong freshman and sophomore class that has been lighting it up in workouts, and the varsity squad is rebuilding and looking strong in the very early stages of the 2016 campaign.
StevensonCoach: Maureen LeVanti (fourth season)
Last year's record: 13th in Class 3A, third in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Jessica Philipp
Top returning competitors: seniors Claire Sullivan (41st in NSC), Amy Eckardt; juniors Isabelle Sparreo (10th in Class 3A, second in NSC), Natalie Sparreo (99th in Class 3A, 16th in NSC), Shea Kirby (35th in NSC),Gabriela Jagielo (28th in NSC), Lauren Appell; sophomores Kendall Roberts (37th in NSC), Taylor Yen
Key newcomers: freshman Caimin Xi
Outlook: The Patriots broke a long drought of not reaching the state meet as a team last fall. And they definitely have the potential to make back-to-back trips to Peoria this season with six of their top seven runners returning from that 13th-place downstate squad in 2015. Isabelle Sparreo really shined for Stevenson at state with a 10th-place finish as a sophomore. And coach LeVanti has very high expectations for the 2016 squad as they plan to keep a positive attitude throughout the season despite the peaks and valleys they may be facing.
WarrenCoach: Brett Heimstead (sixth season)
Last year's record: ninth in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Emily Jahn, Maureen Strong, Brynn Santos
Top returning competitors: seniors Elizabeth Abundes, Jackie Bobadilla, Maddie Best, Ciara Ward; juniors Jessica DePalma, Jensen Bernard; sophomore Ashley Kachurik
Key newcomers: juniors Catalina Romero, Alex Garner; freshman Morgan Liebau
Outlook: After a great summer of training, the Blue Devils are transitioning into the regular season nicely. Warren will be without the services of graduated all-conference performer Jahn in 2016, but the Blue Devils should still have enough experience and depth to be competitive in the newly-aligned North Suburban Conference this fall.
NORTHERN LAKE COUNTY CONFERENCEAntiochCoach: Chris Bailey (eighth season)
Last year's record: eighth in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Natalie Nielsen
Top returning competitors: seniors Tessa Furlong, Rylie Mercer; juniors Jessica Lamberty (53rd in NSC), Allison Morris (54th in NSC); sophomore Natalie Hill (25th in NSC)
Key newcomers: freshman Natalie Svarc
Outlook: The Sequoits have a young standout in Hill back and ready to lead their pack while Mercer has shown great improvement heading into the new campaign. Antioch is counting on Furlong, Morris, and Lamberty to have solid seasons while key newcomer Svarc is expected to contribute right away at the varsity level.
GrantCoach: Jeff Durlak (10th season)
Last year's record: 11th in Class 3A, second in sectionals, fourth in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Madison Romig (14th in Class 3A, Weber State), Stephanie Zimbru
Top returning competitors: seniors Rachael Temple (21st in NSC), Lauren Troemel, Brooke Drabek, Shealyn Robinson; juniors Roxanne Temple (43rd in NSC), Savannah Barnes, Karleigh Bolton, Samantha Kaye; sophomores Danielle Osmon (12th in NSC), Eva Cardy (20th in NSC)
Key newcomers: sophomore Jana Nehila; freshmen Allie Johnson, Drue Polka
Outlook: The Bulldogs did lose all-stater Romig to graduation from their state qualifying squad last season. But Grant has all six of its other top seven runners returning with state-meet experience in hopes of earning another trip to Detweiller Park Nov. 5 in Peoria. After having injury-plagued sophomore and junior seasons, Troemel could be a real X-factor for the Bulldogs if she is able to be at 100 percent strength when the state series rolls around. Coach Durlak was very happy with how the off-season training went this summer, but he knows his squad will not sneak up on anyone this year after having so much success in 2015.
Grayslake CentralCoach: Jimmy Centella (eighth season)
Last year's record: ninth in Class 2A, fourth in regionals
Top graduated seniors: Lura Quandt (Wheaton College), Umaiyal Sridas, Sara O'Malley (Cornell)
Top returning competitors: seniors Megan Girmscheid (39th in Class 2A), Elizabeth Aho (80th in Class 2A), Riley Acthemeier (146th in Class 2A); juniors Amy Moore, Vanessa Olmos; sophomores Greta Ruhlmann (124th in Class 2A), Lauren Brunk
Key newcomers: freshmen Leah Minsky, Lilia Begin
Outlook: After finishing a school-best ninth place in the Class 2A state meet last season, the Rams have been motivated to work really hard over the past year. Grayslake Central's runners set numerous p.r.'s during the past track season and coach Centella said that his squad is already well ahead of where they were last year at the start of the season.
Grayslake NorthCoach: Brandon Boyd (12th season)
Last year's record: 13th in FVC, sixth in Fox Division
Top graduated seniors: None
Top returning competitors: seniors Jacque Garza, Cindy Alcala; sophomores Caroline Riss, Grace Kendzior, Katelyn Dameron
Key newcomers: freshmen Kelli Tosic, Gabriella Conceicao
Outlook: The Knights are looking forward to competing in their new conference and hoping to place better than they did last fall in the rugged FVC. Grayslake North does have the luxury of a solid front-runner to lead its pack as Riss was able to qualify for the sectional meet last year as a freshman.
LakesCoach: Keith West (13th season)
Last year's record: fifth in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Kortney Schardt (sixth in Class 2A, Belmont University- Nashville), Sarah Sprague
Top returning competitors: senior Alyssa Stromsland (40th in NSC); sophomores Megan Knuettel (18th in NSC), Rae Dwyer (19th in NSC), Simone Lippman (24th in NSC), Hannah Grant
Key newcomers: freshman Olivia Schmitt (IESA state champ in 1600-meter run)
Outlook: The Eagles lost a really great front-runner in Schardt (seventh in 2014, sixth in 2015) to graduation. But Lakes' young squad should still be pretty impressive in its new conference as the Eagles have a trio of returning all-conference sophomores ready to lead their pack. If Lakes can get some promising newcomers like Schmitt to add key depth and consistency, it should be a strong team when the state series rolls around in late October.
Round LakeCoach: Kevin Brady (12th season)
Last year's record: eighth in Class 3A regionals
Top graduated seniors: Alondra Alvarez, Evelyn Torres
Top returning competitors: senior Lizeth Rogel; juniors Jessica Cuna, Yeni Aguirre
Key newcomers: freshmen Fatima Giron, Jennifer Martinez, Alejandra Cortes
Outlook: After being hit hard by graduation the past two seasons, the Panthers will have to rely on a mix of veterans and new runners to be competitive against some of their new foes. The front of Round Lake's pack will be pretty strong, but the Panthers will be searching for runners to fill out the fifth through seventh spots in their lineup.
WaucondaCoach: Jeff Helberg (second season)
Last year's record: 11th in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Vanessa Guerrero, Hannah Sundquist
Top returning competitors: senior Erin Levon; sophomores Lily Sanchez, Dakota Thompson
Key newcomers: freshmen Maddie Ryan, Morgan Thompson
Outlook: A lack of depth could be an issue for the Bulldogs this fall, but some strong top runners could surprise opposing teams as the new season unfolds. Led by three-time sectional qualifier Levon, and 2015 sectional qualifier Sanchez, Wauconda should be much stronger as Dakota Thompson is also poised to qualify for the sectional meet in late October. Morgan Thompson is looking strong after competing in the USATF Junior National meet in the 1,500 and 3,000-meter events.
CENTRAL SUBURBAN NORTHVernon HillsCoach: Suzanne Curry (12th season)
Last year's record: third in Class 2A, sectional champions, second in regionals, second in NSC
Top graduated seniors: Vivian Overbeck (fifth in Class 2A, NIU), Shannon Skeoch
Top returning competitors: juniors Lauren Katz (eighth in Class 2A, fifth in NSC); sophomores Payton Makowskyj (34th in Class 2A, 15th in NSC), Hannah Ray (62nd in Class 2A, 17th in NSC), Ryan Schofield (114th in Class 2A, 27th in NSC), Vivian Tsai (177th in Class 2A), Katelyn Dohler (46th in NSC)
Key newcomers: sophomores Leah Wilkowski, Katie Wilkowski; freshmen Carly Sear, Abby Kempf
Outlook: After capturing their second third-place trophy in three years last November, the Cougars are going to be looking for new leadership with the loss of mainstay front-runner Overbeck and No. 5-runner Skeoch to graduation. But with elite junior Katz leading the way, the still young Vernon Hills squad should be poised for another great season as they embark on a lot of new competition against their CSL North counterparts. Besides having five runners back with state meet experience, the Cougars should also benefit from key newcomer Sear, who is expected to make an immediate impact after sliding right into training with Vernon Hills' top group this summer
EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLICCarmel CatholicCoach: Jim Halford (30th season)
Last year's record: third in ESCC, third in Class 2A regionals
Top graduated seniors: Grace Duffy
Top returning competitors: senior Lauren Caffarelli; juniors Aileen Hull, Lauren Laughlin, Molly Machala; sophomores Zella Stockhausen, Gabby Terselic, Bella Day
Key newcomers: senior Estefania Marin; sophomores Eileen Arata, Luna Ventura; freshmen Ezzie Posner, Abigail Kudema,Mallory Machala
Outlook: With all seven of their top seven runners returning, the Corsairs' goal is to qualify for the Class 2A state meet in Peoria. With a very tough sectional meet awaiting them in late October that will be a very tall task, but coach Halford is hoping that Carmel can get some individuals downstate if the team does not qualify.