Boys teams to watch
Bettendorf: Bettendorf returns a pair of top-10 finishers from last year's conference meet in sophomore Chase Wakefield and junior Xavier Potts. Walter Blackman is another varsity starter from a year ago back for coach Dave Terronez's team. Jackson Stradt and Thomas Hughes ran well in preseason time trials and are vying for a spot in the top seven. Bettendorf starts the year ranked 19th in 4A and should be in contention for a top two or three finish at MAC.
Muscatine: Coach Chris Foxen's team, fourth at last year's conference meet, has experience at the top of the lineup with seniors Aidan Armstrong and Sam Gordon (eighth at last year's MAC meet) while freshman Colin Millage and sophomore Dylan Maresca have had strong summers and finished among the team's top five in Muscatine's first meet at Anamosa. Junior Shiloh Morter also is expected to be among the team's top five.
North Scott: The Lancers did graduate Owen West, the school's first individual state qualifier in 16 years last season, and a couple of other key starters from last year's third place conference squad. Still, coach Amy Knoche believes North Scott can maintain its place in the top three with seniors Luke Crawford, Cael Straley, Logan Soedt and Tyson Haedt.
Pleasant Valley: The Spartans were 12th at the 2020 state meet, the first time they had been outside the top seven since 2005. PV returns three varsity runners in Tarun Vedula, Luke Knepp and Jacob Mumey. They will try and lead the school to a 19th straight state meet, the longest active streak in Iowa. Coach Erik Belby said there are five runners pushing to be the team's fourth and fifth scorers. Junior Andrew Miller, in his first year of cross country, is among them.
Tipton: The Tigers were Class 2A state runner-up last year, but have graduated state champion and multiple-time all-stater Caleb Shumaker. Still, Eric Walsh's team has a strong foundation with junior Ty Nichols (15th at state), senior Cody Bohlmann (17th at state) and senior Troy Butler (36th at state). Tipton is third in the 2A preseason rankings behind Danville/New London and Western Christian.
Boys individuals to watch
Marcus Blount, jr., Clinton Prince of Peace: The team's top runner as a sophomore, he was Tri-Rivers Conference runner-up and 19th at Class 1A state meet (17:17). He's ranked seventh to start this season.
Andrew Butt, jr., Camanche: Earned a top-10 finish at the River Valley Conference meet (17:17) and 15th at districts last year to qualify for state. He'll be team's top runner after being behind Dylan Darsidan.
Ben Zimmer, so., Central DeWitt: Zimmer ran a season-best 17:48 last year and was 15th at conference meet. He's part of the Sabers' youth movement that will feature many freshmen and sophomores in the varsity lineup.
Girls teams to watch
Assumption: Coach Ryan Buchanan's team graduated its top runner in Laney Fitzpatrick, but the other six runners which competed on last year's ninth-place finish at the Class 3A state meet are back. Seniors Morgan Jennings, Adrienne Theisen and Skylar Hoffman have run sub-20 minutes for 5K while Nicole Carmona, Ally Kersten, Emerson Quick and Grace Turley return with varsity experience. The Knights are seventh in 3A to start the year.
Bettendorf: Eighth in the Class 4A preseason rankings, Bettendorf brings back a strong nucleus from last year's MAC runner-up and 11th place state squad. Two-time conference champion Hannah Beintema returns along with sophomores Emily See and Maya Williams. Sarah DeFauw and Izzy Appel, who ran at last year's state meet, also are back. "We expect to compete for top conference honors and a berth at the state meet," coach Erin Flynn said.
Davenport Central: The Blue Devils have the pieces to make a quantum leap in the MAC. They were fifth at last year's conference meet and didn't have an individual in the top 10, but coach Mike Trujillo said this will be his strongest team at Central if it can keep its top five healthy. Lily Tackett, Lois Blackman and Merin Crowder return and have all run 5Ks just over 20 minutes. Freshman Dylan Moeller is expected to make an immediate impact.
Pleasant Valley: The Spartans came on strong at the end of last season and claimed the conference title and qualified for the state meet. They return six varsity runners and have a strong incoming freshman class led by Grace Boleyn, Sophia Foad and Bria Martell. Bella D'Antico was the runner-up at last year's MAC meet and Lizzie McVey placed seventh. Coach Jane Wheeler's team begins the season ranked fifth in Class 4A.
Tipton: Last year's Class 2A state runner-up, Tipton returns six runners from that team. It is led by sophomores Alivia Edens, Rebecca Hinderaker and Addie Nerem along with senior Alyssa Mente. The Tigers open the season ranked fourth in 2A behind Mid-Prairie, Williamsburg and Jesup.
Girls individuals to watch
Bailey Boddicker, jr., North Scott: The Lancers return a good nucleus from last year's fourth place MAC team, led by Boddicker. She was top 10 at MAC and 10th at the state qualifier to reach the state meet.
Kylie Daily, so., Davenport West: It was a very successful freshman season for Daily, who broke her own school record on multiple occasions. She ran a school-best 19:42 at state to place 35th.
Camryn Sattler, so., Clinton: Third at last year's conference meet behind Beintema and D'Antico, Sattler is a returning state qualifier. She ran 20 minutes at the state meet.
— Compiled by Matt Coss