Coolidge cross country Coach Adrian Dixon's worst nightmare came true this summer. He lost his top runner, Wanda Bell, who transferred to the District's School Without Walls for academic reasons.

Bell was undefeated in dual meets last year and easily won top individual honors in the Interhigh League. This season, she will be the only member of her new school's cross country team, but that was not a consideration when she decided to transfer.

"I thought the School Without Walls had a better academic program," said Bell. "I really miss everything at Coolidge, but I like the school that I'm at now. I feel that it's a good experience for me."

Bell had brought instant credibilty to the Interhigh's cross country program. She had transferred to Coolidge from Georgetown Visitation, where she earned All-Met honors. Bell was the only Interhigh girls runner last year who could compete with runners from suburban schools.

With Bell, Coolidge would have easily won the Interhigh title this fall. Without her, the Colts drop from favorite to become another team in the pack. Dixon will now depend on Kwanza Jones to lead the Colts.

In the boys division, most Interhigh coaches think Spingarn and H.D. Woodson will be the teams to beat, but several runners could contend for top individual honors.

Among the girls, Jones, who is the student representative on the D.C. School Board, is the preseason favorite to win top individual honors. Her sister Kito is also on the squad. Dixon's team will also have sophomore Fajr Chesnut.

"The newcomers will have to perform up to the caliber of the young ladies from last year," said Dixon, whose team won the championship the last two years.

With Bell gone, Ballou is the overwhelming favorite to win the Interhigh girls title. The Knights' Menuel Jones could challenge for top individual honors.

"Those two {Menuel and Kwanza Jones} could vie for the {individual} championship," said Ballou Coach Phillip Faxio.

Faxio also has Tasha Whitted, Tonique Washington and Ronnya McIver returning. LaBoria Boyd, who did not run cross country last year, came out this fall and could be the key member filling out Ballou's top five.

"With the addition of Boyd, we should vie for the championship," Faxio said.

Wilson could challenge both Ballou and Coolidge for the team title. The Tigers, who didn't fare well last year in cross country, should show improvement from a full summer of age-group track under their belts.

"I expect some big things from them," said Eastern Coach Gary Butler, who coached the Wilson runners during the summer. The Tigers will be led by Jeanne Langley and Tanya Smith.

This is the first time in three years that McKinley will field a cross country team. Coach Dorsey Bobo has some good athletes from Taft Junior High coming into his program, but they haven't run cross country before.

Among those with great potential is Tasha Garris, who was a freshmen at McKinley last year. She finished second in the 800 meters and fifth in the 1,500 meters at the 21st annual Youth Games at Gallaudet University this summer. Teresa Rush is the other returning veteran for the Trainers.

From Taft, Bobo has excellent athletes in Shirletta Glover and Riquita Quarterman. Glover was the junior high sprint champion during the outdoor season and participated in the Hershey national track and field meet in the 400-meter relay. From Browne Junior High, he has April Holmes running cross country this fall.

Eastern has no veterans returning from last year, but the Ramblers have 35 youngsters interested in cross country this season.

"I have some promising young people who I expect to do well," Butler said.

H.D. Woodson Coach Lionell Russell will depend on Diane Hughes to provide leadership for the Warriors. Besides Hughes, the team will have Tia Lundy, Tanya Grant, Tia Moore, Vegia Russell and twin sisters Marcella and Marella Canada.

"Hopefully, we will battle Ballou and Coolidge for the championship," said Russell.

Dunbar will have only Pamela Brandon and Renee Johnson returning with no outstanding newcomers. And Spingarn will field a girls team this year with new Coach Sharon Gray, who will depend on veterans Helen Andrews and Tanya Eggleston.

Theodore Roosevelt will depend on veterans Heather Bernard and Sharon Verner this fall. The Rough Riders will have newcomers Yvonne Anderson, Shelly Black and Carla Williams.

"We expect to be in the hunt for the West title," said Roosevelt Coach Harry Stanton. The Interhigh's top sprinter, Michelle Palmer, will be on the team, but will only be running for conditioning purposes.

Among the boys, the top runners are Woodson's Eric Jackson, Anthony Mims and Stacy Smith; Spingarn's Kevin McKinley; Eastern's Nathaniel Ingram, and Coolidge's Andre Speediberg.

Ingram, who plays basketball for the Ramblers, hasn't run cross country before. Butler, however, thinks he can finish among the top five.

"I am going out on the limb and say that if he trains properly, he can go for the Interhigh championship," said Butler. "It is just a matter of how much he wants it."

Russell says he lost all of his half-milers this season, but is pleased with the return of Smith, who hasn't run cross country in two years.

Spingarn Coach Bruce Williams is hoping the Green Wave can come in second or third. McKinley is the only key returning veteran for the Green Wave.

Besides Speediberg, Coolidge will have veteran Ricky Ponton returning. Sean Myers will be the key newcomer for the Colts.

Besides Ingram, Eastern will be led by Thomas Austin and Antonio Johnson Cardozo has only Kevin Coble and Masuda Hosein returning. Alonzo Oates is the top runner for McKinley.