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se­nior Caro­line Wil­lard and ju­niors Claire Mack and Kim­mie Palace. Adding lift is a solid look­ing sopho­more group, led by Molly Con­nelly (eighth at Track and Trail), Carly Turner, Katie Nor­man and Olivia Ken­dall, and fresh­man Han­nah Claggett.

A ju­nior run­ning cross coun­try for the first time, Sanchez won last week’s season opener at Kent County, and placed fifth in the large school var­sity boys’ com­pe­ti­tion at Track and Trail. Stan­field (14th at Track and Trail), Ni­chols, who is ex­pected to re­turn from in­jury to­day, and sopho­mores Cade Donnelly and Shane Pe­ters should make the Buc­ca­neers a se­ri­ous con­tender for a sev­enth con­sec­u­tive con­fer­ence championship. There ap­pears to be plenty of sup­port from the likes of sopho­more Cur­tis

Perez, James Alexan­der, and ju­nior Ben Fer­rag­amo.

North Caro­line The Bull­dogs lost some ma­jor play­ers from last year’s ti­tle run, in­clud­ing Sturm, Sa­van­nah Her­bert, Emma Beaven and Sa­van­nah Bixler.

“My last year’s num­ber four is now num­ber one,” White­ley said of se­nior Me­gan Han­negan.

The Bull­dogs are not with­out tal­ent though. Sopho­more Emily Lewis, who had an out­stand­ing out­door track season in the hur­dles, is back and will look to push cur­rent No. 2 and 3 run­ners, fresh­men Sierra Reynolds and Ham­nia Jos­se­lyn. Se­nior Alana Reynolds, who ran the 4 x 800 re­lay as a fresh­man, could be among the group that pushes for the im­por­tant fifth spot, along with sopho­more Natalie Cal­loway, ju­nior

Katie Saathoff and fresh­man Hai­ley Gauck.

Ju­nior Troy Smith and se­nior Mitchell Kato lead the boys’ core group, which also in­cludes ju­nior Melvin Umana and se­nior Kyle Shurtz. How se­nior Seth Lay­ton, sopho­more Tony Gon­za­les and fresh­man Cody Groves progress could be piv­otal in whether Caro­line earns a trip to states. Queen Anne’s County Wilhelm re­turns four of his top five from last year’s girls’ team, which placed third at Bay­sides and again qual­i­fied for states.

Se­nior Mad­die Wil­son, ju­nior Tay­lor Peck and sopho­more Maisie Mee­han, who fin­ished sixth, eighth and 13th, re­spec­tively, in the 2A East, lead the way. Se­nior Emily Gates, who has run track and comes over from field hockey, could pro­vide a boost. Gates fin­ished sixth in last week’s opener at Kent County and medaled at Track and Trail.

Ju­nior Natalie Wil­son — Mad­die’s sis­ter — also comes over from field hockey. If she and sopho­mores Grace Swee­tak and Au­drey Weese con­tin­ued to im­prove, the Li­ons could chal­lenge for their first con­fer­ence ti­tle since 2007, and again be headed to Here­ford in Novem­ber.

“As long as we can stay healthy, our top four girls are pretty strong,” Wilhelm said.

The boys could be a lot like last year’s team, with run­ners switch­ing places from week to week, led by ju­nior Kevin Sch­midt.

“Hope­fully he’ll be run­ning in the 17s by the end of the season,” Wilhelm said of Sch­midt, his No. 1. “Ev­ery­one else is go­ing to be kind of bunched to­gether. It’s go­ing to be tough for them to fin­ish first or sec­ond in the Bay­side, but we should be able to fin­ish up high enough to hope­fully qual­ify for states again, which is al­ways our goal.” Saints Peter and Paul Sec­ond-year head coach Chris Thomp­son hopes to con­tinue de­vel­op­ing a team that has 13 boys and just two girls.

Se­nior Jack Sin­gel­stad and sopho­more Ryan Sum­mers lead the pack, though plac­ing high in the Mary­land In­ter­scholas­tic Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion cham­pi­onships could take some do­ing. Sopho­more Fred Brad­bury and fresh­man Aubrey Perry lead the sup­port group.

Se­nior Molly Martell and re­turn­ing ju­nior Melissa Wether­bee can reg­u­lar-season races and in­vi­ta­tion­als, but there is no Eastern Shore In­de­pen­dent Ath­letic Con­fer­ence championship.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Bil­l_Haufe. Email me at bhaufe@star­

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