Girls teams to watch
Assumption: Coach Alex Flores’ program won its first Class 3A state cross country title last fall. Individual state champion Julia Schumacher and track stalwart Joy Ripslinger are back. The Knights need a couple runners to emerge to offset the graduation of Mallory King and Sarah Adams, the team’s No. 3 and 4 finishers at state.
Bettendorf: The Bulldogs captured the conference title and placed third at the 4A state meet last fall. Coach Erin Flynn returns four runners from that squad in Trinity Borland, Ally Gallagher, Sydney Spranger and Tessa Wright. Seventh in the 4A preseason rankings, Flynn said Bulldogs need to develop depth and consistency with runners four through seven.
Muscatine: Larkin Chapman and Regan France graduated from last year’s MAC runner-up and sixth-place state finish, but coach Tim Armstrong has arguably the league’s best runner in Brina Kraft. The senior, who won Saturday’s 20-team Cedar Rapids Prairie Invitational, joins Moriah Morter, Danielle Roos and Nicole Garrido as the nucleus of Muscatine’s squad.
Pleasant Valley: Even though two-time individual state champion McKenzie Yanek has graduated, the Spartans bring back four runners — Mallory Lafever, Maddie Minard, Addie Swanson and Abby Riley — from last year’s Class 4A state runner-up finish and begin the year No. 1. Lafever and Minard broke 19 minutes in the 5K at state and finished inside the top 15.
Girls to watch elsewhere
Presley Case, fr., North Scott: Made her high school debut a mighty success with a 42-second win over teammate Sommer Clydesdale at the Saber Early Bird in DeWitt last week.
Maddie Kaczinski, sr., Northeast: Finished inside the top 50 at the Class 2A state meet and won her season-opening meet at the Clinton Quad.
Kenzie Mente, sr., Tipton: Placed inside the top 40 at the Class 2A state meet and begins the year ranked 25th.
Camryn Reeg, jr., Bellevue: Finished as Class 1A state runner-up to Durant’s Alyssa Williams last year and begins this fall ranked No. 1.
Boys teams to watch
Bettendorf: The Bulldogs have a new coach in Dave Terronez and he must replace the team’s top four runners from last season, including Brandon Cooley. Bettendorf has 14 juniors, nine sophomores and 12 freshmen to go with five seniors. Terronez said team could have three seniors and two juniors in top seven, but four of those didn’t run at MAC or districts last year.
Davenport Central: With its top three runners back, all seniors, Central has its eye on qualifying for state for the first time since 1999. Nate Trasowech, Jacob Green, Michael Smith and junior Andrew Thompson are the core of the Blue Devils’ lineup. The emergence of a fifth runner will be vital to Central’s success.
Muscatine: It has been 10 years since the Muskies have qualified for the state meet, but Chris Foxen’s club has the pieces to make a run at it this fall. Alex Bautista and Tyler Olson, individual state qualifiers last season, lead the way along with seniors Kyle Hoffman and Garrett Dolan. Foxen said he has several runners vying for that fifth spot.
Pleasant Valley: The Spartans just missed a trophy last year with a fourth-place finish at state, but return five of their top seven including MAC champion and seventh-place state finisher Nicholas Yanek. Coach Erik Belby’s team starts the season No. 1 and is aiming for an 11th conference title. Konnor Sommer, Mark Conway, Parker Huhn, Anthony Pena and Gavin Smith are among those likely to join Yanek in PV’s top six.
Boys to watch elsewhere
Matt Dibbern, so., Davenport North: Was the Wildcats’ top finisher at the Mount Vernon-Lisbon meet last week, taking 13th place in 17 minutes, 34 seconds.
Hunter Rickels, so., Calamus-Wheatland: Starts the season ranked 10th in Class 1A after finishing 16th at state meet in 17:15.
Wyatt Schmidt, jr., Northeast: Returning Class 2A state qualifier is ranked among state’s top 25 and won the Clinton Quad last week by 20 seconds.
Andrew Wright, jr., Davenport West: Broke 17 minutes at the state meet last fall as a sophomore. He’ll be at the forefront of what should be an improved West squad.
Sept. 3 — Spartan Challenge (girls/boys) at Crow Creek Park, 8:30 a.m.
Sept. 27 — Muscatine Invitational (girls/boys) at Municipal Golf Course, 4:30 p.m.
Oct. 13 — MAC meet (girls/boys) at Burlington, 4 p.m.; River Valley Conference meet (girls/boys) at Mid-Prairie, 4:30 p.m.
Oct. 20 — State-qualifying meet (girls/boys), 4 p.m.
Oct. 29 — Coed state meet at Fort Dodge, 11 a.m.
-- Compiled by Matt Coss