The Bloomer Blackhawks cross country program has had no lack of top-tier talent in recent years.
Names like Ali Olson, John Vodacek, Clint Heinze and Cora Bruxvoort have been consistently near the front of a pack each time they race.
But the Blackhawks are looking to build some depth to go with their front-runners like Bruxvoort and have plenty of bodies to do it.
Bruxvoort returns after a breakout season last year in which she won sectionals and pretty much each race she ran in before finishing 48th overall at the WIAA Division 2 girls state cross country meet. She returns along with all-conference runners Alecia Warring and Sarah Heinze to give the Blackhawks girls a solid core to build on.
Sixth-year Bloomer coach Char Kelley said her team has plenty of new faces and anticipates the work the team put in during the summer will have a positive impact this fall as the Blackhawks look to remain a fixture near the top of the Heart O'North Conference.
"I think our team will do well this year," Kelley said. "We have a very young team so I feel as though this will be a year to build."
On the boys side, the Blackhawks return a pair of solid sectional finishers with Jake Anderson (16th last year) and Jake Malinowski (29th).
The Blackhawks lose two-time state qualifier Heinze as well as Elisabeth Anderson and Caroline Vodacek, two runners that were members of Bloomer's 2011 girls state qualifying team.
The Orioles bring back state experience for first-year coach Jaime Wade as they look for new faces to replace a large group of graduated runners.
Nathan Bauer is back and gunning for another trip to Wisconsin Rapids after taking 95th at the WIAA Division 3 state boys meet last year. He is a two-time all-conference runner and should anchor the Orioles this season.
Beyond that, the field is wide open for Stanley-Boyd. The Orioles are faced with the task of replacing an experienced group of graduated runners including Paige Arnold (two-time state qualifier), Ashley Lewallen (two-time all-conference runner) and Rita Post (member of 2011 state girls team) from the girls team. The boys lose veterans with the departure of Bryce Swartz (four-year runner), Justin Erickson (four-year runner), Brett Benson (three-year runner) and Michael Erickson (two-year runner).
"I'm excited to get our new runners passionate about running," Wade said. "I see our runners making huge personal improvements throughout the season."
The Knights look to have the talent to compete at the top of the Lakeland Conference for the girls while the boys will look to make their way up through the pack as the season moves on.
Lake Holcombe/Cornell has two runners with state meet experience returning with Kayla Vavra (2013) and Lexi Moussette (2012). They also bring back an all-conference runner with Thia Moreen and experience with Danielle Gygi and Elizabeth Sproul. The boys bring back a pair of experienced runners with Nathan Parkhurst and Brandon Bintz.
The Lake Holcombe/Cornell girls took seventh place at sectionals last year and have their eyes on moving up to contend for a state trip as a team.
The girls squad loses Anna Burlingame from last year's squad.
T.J Weiss enters his 14th year as head coach for the Hornets program and said his team has a mix of returners and new runners that will try to fill the gap from nine graduated runners.
The boys team brings back senior captain Luke Bell and junior Logan Freed while the girls bring back an all-conference honorable mention team selection with senior Samantha Rineck. The boys bring over Tyler Gillett and Brandon Pederson this year, two new runners that have been varsity athletes in other sports. The girls team looks for Kyra Nichols, Elizabeth Kyes, Bailey Nichols, Lakin Rykal and others to help as the team strives to move up the team ranks in the conference.
Note: No preview information was provided for New Auburn.