Northeast Indiana has recently enjoyed its fair share of success in distance running, from Carroll's 2016 state cross country title to the 3,200-meter run at this spring's boys state meet, where Snider's Jesse Hamlin claimed the state title, Concordia's Reece Gibson claimed third place and Homestead's Ryan Ruppert was fourth. Hamlin and Ruppert have since graduated, but the Fort Wayne area will still be represented at the front of the pack as another cross country season begins.
Reece Gibson, Concordia: The senior came in eighth at last year's state meet, with only one other underclassmen (Gabriel Sanchez of Lowell) finishing ahead of him. An individual state title is not out of the question for Gibson, who has run varsity for the Cadets in each of his four high school seasons.
Wilson Wicker, Concordia: Another senior, Wicker finished 24th at the state meet.
Keagan Stuckey, Homestead: After a 15th-place finish at the semistate meet in 2018, Stuckey came up big with a 34th-place finish at the state meet to help the Spartans to a top 10 finish as a team.
Izaiah Steury, Angola: The sophomore qualified for the state meet as an individual during his freshman season, running a 16:32.1 to finish 38th overall. He just missed out on a trip to the track and field state meet this spring, finishing fourth in the 1,600-meter run at the sectional meet in Marion with a time of 4:24.99.
Kobe Milledge, Snider: Milledge, just a sophomore in 2018, finished 19th at the West Noble regional to advance as an individual for the semistate meet, where he also finished 19th overall. He will be the Panthers' top returning runner.
Concordia: It's not just Gibson – the Cadets finished fourth at the 2018 state meet as Wicker and Drake Kropf also finished in the top 100. And all seven of Concordia's runners at the state meet were underclassmen. Indiana Runner ranked the Cadets as the top team in the state heading into the season.
Homestead: The Spartans lost Ruppert, but their next four runners from their 10th-place finish at state are back. If Jarred Neff, who missed last postseason, carries over his form from track season, the Spartans could get a podium finish at state.
West Noble: The Chargers have made 13 trips to the state meet, including a 20th-place finish last season. That team included four juniors and a sophomore who will want to meet or improve upon their showing from last year.
Snider: The Panthers have lost one of the top runners in school history, but they have one runner who qualified for the semistate meet as an individual last season in Milledge and three other returners from last season.
Bellmont: The Braves sailed through the first two rounds of postseason, winning their home sectional and then taking second at the Marion regional before finishing 12th at semistate.
Carroll: The Chargers have been the powerhouse program in Northeast Indiana in recent years, finishing as state runners-up in 2008 and 2012 and winning Fort Wayne's only boys cross country title in the last half century in 2016. But the Chargers fell off last season, finishing seventh at semistate and not even qualifying for the state meet. Will that slip be a wake-up call or a sign of things to come for Carroll?
Colten Cripe: He was West Noble's top runner at last year's state meet but was severely injured in a car crash just a week later. He was not healthy enough to run during track season but plans on coming back and competing for the Chargers once more this fall.
Surviving semistate: Four of Indiana Runner's top five preseason teams (Concordia, Fishers, Westview and Homestead) will all compete in the New Haven semistate, presuming they advance that far. Penn and West Noble (ranked 18th and 20th, respectively) will also be contenders for the six tickets to the state meet.
State glory: If Gibson or another area runner pulls it off this season, it will be the first time since a runner from Northeast Indiana won a state title since West Noble's Phil Wyson won back in 1970, when the race was still 2 miles.
What's Bruin? Keith Scott was named the new boys head coach for Northrop the week before practice officially started. Northrop has 19 regional titles, third most in state history, but none since 2006.