Team Outlook

Calvert: The boys team is strong and deep once again, guided by the senior threesome of Justin Wilkinson, GW Chew and Andrew Graham, as well as junior Ryan Beasley. Junior Megan Darr leads the girls team, with junior Julie Hall and sophomores Maya Breitburg-Smith and Camille French hoping to help the squad build on last season's 6-5 record.

Chopticon: Junior Adrian Hill should be the Braves' top male runner, and he will be competitive individually in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference. Seniors Kevin Eagan, Dave Vermierme and T.W. Buckler add experience. The girls team consists of six runners and will be anchored by seniors Tina Faye George and Crystal Lewis and junior Rachel Hawes.

Great Mills: Junior William Christian has developed into one of the best runners in the SMAC. Christian, senior Chris Harlan, junior Kenny Roof and sophomore Anthony Anello combine to form a formidable top four. If the Hornets can find a consistent No. 5 runner, they could be a very competitive squad. Sophomores Diane Dixon and Nicole Grant will compete for the top spot on the girls team, while senior Candace Hardesty and sophomore Angelica Abuan give the Hornets a decent chance to be competitive in the SMAC.

La Plata: Senior Wes Valcarcel and juniors Jesse Stump and David Ervin will battle for the top boys spot all season. Sophomores Ed May and Chris Baumler, along with freshman Tim Wells, give La Plata a talented, deep team. Sophomore Tracy Warring is the top girls runner, with juniors Jessica Dunston and Lauren Wanzer and seniors Tonya Baumler and Jenna Holcombe rounding out the top five.

Lackey: Seniors Jake Theil and Tommy Sellers, along with junior Aaron Posey, are expected to lead the boys team. Senior Linda Cotrufo, 15th in the 1998 SMAC championships, is the top girls runner. Few others girls have come out for the team, however, and Lackey may not be able to field a squad this season.

Leonardtown: The boys do not have a superstar, but are still a top SMAC team. Junior Elijah Friess, senior Joe Krafty, junior Kevin Ripple, senior Chris Hart, senior Mike Stewart, junior Matt Hoffman and senior Josh Goss are some of the top runners on a deep boys team. The girls squad also will be extremely competitive, paced by juniors Heidi Faller and Kathleen Dunscomb.

McDonough: Senior Danny Bowes and junior Robbie Stine logged a lot of miles this summer and are battling for the boys team's top spot. Senior Josh Trice and juniors Danny Roland and John Morris round out the top five. Sophomore Brooke Gerhardt and juniors Christy Spellacy, Erin Camp and Zara Nunziata will contribute for the eight-runner girls squad.

Northern: Senior Jesse Ratliff is the Patriots' clear No. 1 runner after placing third at the SMAC boys championships last fall. Seniors John Petralia, Joey Brook-Allen, Adam Leach and sophomore Nick Baldo also will contribute. The Patriot girls have a dominant top two in seniors Alexis Wieroniey and Amber Ellis.

Patuxent: The girls team will have a good chance to defend its SMAC title with junior Lillian Ricardo, senior Jessica Adams and sophomore Jane Hendrick returning. The boys team has been bolstered by two newcomers: senior Shane Dillingham, a transfer from Illinois, and sophomore Raphael Simpson, a first-time cross-country runner. Seniors James Cox and Doug Ostazeski also will help keep Patuxent competitive.

St. Mary's Ryken: Four boys--junior Joe Dowgiallo, senior Ryan Torguson, sophomore Ryan Einboden and junior Phil McCollum--usually finish within 33 seconds of one another. Junior Ellen Parker, junior Patricia Parker (no relation), junior Andrea Bervard and sophomore Molly Mitchell lead the returning girls. Three newcomers will help, as well: junior Kaitlin Farrell, junior Aidan Brennan and freshman Meghan Weaver.

Thomas Stone: Neither Cougars team had a full squad last year, but Coach Nancy Burch has recruited enough runners to change that. Seniors Daniel Keffer and Derek Williams and freshmen Tony Cornish and Billy Iriate lead the eight-member boys team. Senior Jewel Clark is expected to be one of the top female runners in the SMAC and junior Amelia Casey and senior Ainsley McGray will anchor the seven-runner girls squad.

Westlake: Seniors Carlos Hunt and Jose Dory return to lead the defending SMAC boys champions. Junior Ryan Keane also returns, but he, Hunt and Dory are the only experienced runners on the 20-member squad. The girls had problems fielding a team last year but have six runners this season: freshmen Catherine Estevez and LaTia Walton, sophomores Jessie Tarlton and Roshanda Holland, junior Lindsay Holley and senior Melanie Dade.

Top Runners

Boys

Senior Wes Valcarcel and junior Jesse Stump, La Plata: Coach Richard Williams believes both are self-motivated, dependable runners. Valcarcel had an excellent indoor and outdoor season.

Seniors Justin Wilkinson and GW Chew, Calvert: These two will battle all season for the team's No. 1 spot. Chew is a natural sprinter with a dangerous kick at the end of races, while Wilkinson--who placed sixth at the SMAC championships last fall--is a pure distance runner, according to Coach Donna Wallmark.

Senior Carlos Hunt, Westlake: He went undefeated last season in SMAC competition, and hasn't lost a conference race since being outrun in 1997 by then-St. Mary's Ryken standout Brad Einboden.

Junior William Christian, Great Mills: "I know he is one of the top runners in the SMAC, and I would not be surprised if he is one of the best runners in the state by the end of the season," Coach Jack Lovett said of Christian, who placed second in the SMAC championships last fall.

Girls

Junior Megan Darr, Calvert: Placed fourth at the SMAC championships last fall and is the captain of this year's girls squad. Darr has "a natural talent" for cross-country, according to Coach Donna Wallmark.

Junior Lillian Ricardo, Patuxent: Ricardo placed sixth in the SMAC championships last fall, and Coach Prasad Gerard describes her as hard-working, consistent and disciplined.

Senior Alexis Wieroniey, Northern: Wieroniey won the SMAC and regional girls titles the past two seasons. She also placed sixth at states.

Senior Amber Ellis, Northern: Ellis finished third in the SMAC championships and the Maryland 3A South regionals last fall. She was 16th at states.