Here is a capsule preview of the boys cross country teams in the Portage Trail Conference for the 2013 season, compiled by Record-Courier correspondent Eric Clutter.
CRESTWOOD RED DEVILS
Head coach: Jim Schweickert
2012 Metro Division overall finish: 1st
Top returners: Jeremiah Fitzgerald (11), Jake Ondash (10), Michael Hand (10), George Lesnak (11).
Top newcomers: Colson Faust (10), Hayden Shugarts (9).
Coach's view: "We have a solid team this year," said Schweickert. "We only have 11 runners so we don't have great depth, but four of our top five from last year are back. We only have one senior this year, also. We need to stay healthy due to lack of depth. It will be difficult to win PTC again, but possible if everyone reaches potential. Not sure about district and beyond until we see other teams."
Metro outlook: "Field should be the team to beat," said Schweickert. "They are loaded this year, only lost from last year's team. They have a chance to go farther this postseason as well. Crestwood looks like a solid second with an outside chance at first, as Norton and Kent lost a top returner in the league and don't know what their freshmen will be like. Not sure what other Metro teams will be getting from middle schools also, but I don't believe enough to contend."
Head coach: Ed Conroy
2012 Metro Division overall finish: 2nd
Top returners: Nate Conroy (12), Jimmy Kubitza (12), Adam Salberg (12), Ian Tuel (12), Harrison Lewis (11), Jacob Miterko (11), Clark Bookman (10), Ryan Conroy (10).
Top newcomers: Mitch Bezik (9), Brett Lowden (9), Sam Moody (9), Jess Roberts (9), Ryan Rohr (9), Vinny Ruscitti (9), Sumner Wilson (9).
Coach's view: "The Falcons lost only one top-seven runner from last year's team," said Conroy, "and are very experienced with four top-seven runners being seniors. We are also excited about the depth of the team, having three strong juniors and two strong sophomores all competing for top-seven positions. The team finished with a dual record of 10-1, first at the PTC dual meet, fifth at districts last year.
"We are ready for a great season and have very high expectations for the year. We have two great captains that have the boys hungry for success -- seniors Nate Conroy and Adam Salberg. If we continue to work hard and stay healthy, we might surprise some people by the end of the season."
Metro outlook: "I believe the boys are going to be hungry for the league championship and ready to regain the title as PTC champions," said Conroy. "I realize that Crestwood and Kent are two very strong programs, however, the Falcons are determined to bring the title back to Field. The boys have been working harder than ever and are looking forward to the challenges placed before us."
KENT ROOSEVELT ROUGH RIDERS
Head coach: Julie Healy
2012 Metro Division overall finish: 3rd
Top returners: Grant Wang, Pallev Kumar, Andrew Murray, Nathaniel Bailey, Isaac Pritt.
Top newcomers: Holden Goodrich.
Coach's view: "The boys' team is pretty solid," said Healy. "Nathaniel Bailey, Andrew Murray and Pallav Kumar have worked hard and are much stronger than a year ago. Grant Wang is a talented senior. We will have good competition to fill our fifth, sixth and seventh varsity spots. Isaac Pritt will provide depth."
Metro outlook: "Field, Crestwood and Kent should battle for the title," said Healy.
Head coach: Phil Starks
2012 Metro Division overall finish: 7th
Top returners: Thomas Hayden (12), Mitch Lohr (12), Matt Signorelli (11), Aaron Cline (10), Ethan Ritenour (10).
Top newcomers: James Compeli (9), Brandon Williams (9), John Morgan (9), Caleb Smith (9).
Coach's view: "I feel that our experienced runners will need to lead by example for the younger runners and create a real close relationship with them during the season," said Starks.
Metro outlook: "We are looking to build confidence in our program and making it grow," said Starks. "I look for the league to be really competitive for all teams in our division."
Head coach: John Bennett
2012 County Division overall finish: 5th
Top returners: Scott Stanley (10), Andy Lininger (12), Kyle Angermeier (12), Sam Buganski (12).
Top newcomers: Nick Downing (10), Will Janic (9), Travis Gibson (9), Christian Crawford (9).
Coach's view: "If we can stay healthy, we'll be much more competitive than in recent years," said Bennett. "We have a nice combination of youth and experience and our team attitude and approach to the season remains positive."
County outlook: "Woodridge," said Bennett. "Everyone thought they were going to be down last year and, well, we know the results."
Head coach: Tim Sullivan
2012 County Division overall finish: 7th
Top newcomers: Luke Morris
Coach's view: "We continue to grow in numbers and quality of runners," said Sullivan. "I'm looking for both the boys and girls to push up into the pack. I'm counting on our seniors to help the young runners continue to improve."
County outlook: "I feel that Woodridge will continue to win our league and set the standard," said Sullivan. "I'm hoping we as a team can push up into that four or five position this year."
Head coach: Larry Bailey
2012 County Division overall finish: 3rd
Top returners: William Morgan (12), Matt Colpo (12), Dillon Melby (11), Keith Begue (11).
Top newcomers: Brandon Rhodes (9), Jacob White (9), Padraig Stack (9).
Coach's view: "All four of our returners should be in the top 12 or so in the league," said Bailey, now 213-110 in his 31st season. "We have five solid kids (including Rhodes). With only seven runners, we can't get hurt or sick."
County outlook: "I think we'll be pretty decent, no worse than second (to Woodridge)," said Bailey.
Head coach: Hank Hoover
2012 County Division overall finish: 2nd
Top returners: Brandon McCullough (10), Nick Tarter (12), Devin Stephens (11), Corey Pastva (10), Jacob Durr (12), Aaron Bartholow (12).
County outlook: The Pirates graduated a lot of talent from last year's squad that finished second to Woodridge.
Head coach: Tyler Bunch
2012 Metro Division overall finish: 5th
Top returners: Jake Gould (11), Tyler Garman (11), Tomlin Burgess (11), Matt Kolke (12), Nik Jamroz (10).
Top newcomers: Jake Suttell (9), Jacob Fifik (9), Kenny Guzy (9), Hollis Wilson (9), Alec Bendus (9), Malik Todd (11).
Coach's view: Now back in the County Division after a two-year stint in the Metro Division, the Rockets are under the guidance of 2011 alum Tyler Bunch.
"Our whole team is close (in times)," said Bunch. "We don't have a No. 1 yet, but we have a really consistent team this year. All of the freshmen are fighting for the top spots. Four of the top seven are freshmen."
County outlook: "Woodridge -- heck of a team," said Bunch. "Second spot is wide open."
Head coach: Greg Drugan
2012 County Division overall finish: no team
Top newcomers: Nathan Franks (10), Ben Luli (9), Andrew Wise (9).
Coach's view: "After not having a team last year, we do have three boys on the team, all first-year runners," said Drugan. "We are looking for two more boys to join the team so we can have a team score."
County outlook: "Woodridge will be the favorites once again and will be a contender for another state title," said Drugan. "Rootstown has a real nice team and could make a run to Columbus in Division III."
Head coach: Jeff Howard
2012 County Division overall finish: 1st
Top returners: John Harry (12), Tim Faiken (12), Andrew Stewart (12), Noah Bullock (11).
Top newcomers: Gabe Boyd (12), Kyle Jarvis (11), Seth Conrad (10), Logan Stockton (11), Brian Jankowski (11).
Coach's view: "Depth will continue to be a strength as over 30 student-athletes are on our roster," said Howard, whose program has won six state titles in the past seven seasons. "The senior trio of Harry, Faiken and Stewart will need to use their 2012 state meet experience to lead a younger crew into the fall."
County outlook: "The boys, like the girls, have never lost a PTC meet and hope to keep their streak alive," said Howard. "Rootstown returns a strong group of runners and should contend. (We) are hoping to grab our 10th consecutive trip to Columbus and attempt another run at a state championship."
-- ERIC CLUTTER