Farmington Harrison returns its top cross country runner and one of the state’s best in senior James Weekley.
He is the defending city champion and was 48th in the Division 1 state meet. He’s also is a two-time, all-Observer selection.
Weekley will be complemented by junior Dakota Kelly, another top returnee who had a great summer of training, according to coach John Reed.
“We are looking forward to a big year from both of them,” he said.
Sophomore Cameron Sayer has improved a lot since track season and was running in the No. 3 position in early practices, Reed added.
Three first-year runners – freshman Hauting Wong and juniors Russell Campbell and Malik Salaam – complete the team’s top six. The No. 7 spot was still to be determined.
The team’s other runners are senior Landon Tucker, juniors Noah Weingarden and Nick Snell and sophomore Josh Sam.
The Hawks lost much of their supporting cast to graduation, but they hope to make a run for a third consecutive city championship and the OAA Blue Division title.
“We’re looking forward to a productive year,” Reed said. “Our goal is to get better every day and show improvement throughout the year.”
While he makes no specific predictions, co-coach Charles Bridges is absolutely certain of one thing.
The Falcons, who didn’t have a full team in 2013 and were rebuilding last year, will be vastly improved.
Not only do they have enough runners to field a team, the Falcons even have experience, talent and depth now.
Sophomore Nick Trevisan has established himself as the team leader and was the overall winner Wednesday in the first OAA White Division jamboree.
Senior Maxx Merlino, who was seventh in the jamboree, is close on the heels of Trevisan, according to Bridges, who works in tandem with co-coach Jeremy Auer.
Farmington will be helped by the addition of senior and first-year runner Austin Pace, who does have experience in track.
Two other returning sophomores, Nick Johnson and Josh Saba, have established themselves as the team’s fourth and fifth runners.
Senior Kai Schiefer has shown terrific improvement, according to Bridges, and senior Ryan Stanek is another returning runner who could figure in the mix.
“We have a nice group of freshmen that I would say are pretty talented,” Bridges said.
“Sometimes, when you get to high school and add a little mileage, all of a sudden you get a lot better. Those guys are going to push into varsity roles.”
The Falcons finished a solid third in the jamboree with 66 points, trailing Bloomfield Hills (52) and host Royal Oak (61).
“The boys have some expectations this year,” Bridges said. “Last year they didn’t really have high expectations. They’re working and improving; they’re definitely headed in the right direction.
“We’re not going to make any bold predictions other than we will be better than we have been the last couple years. We’re excited to see where the boys get to this year.”
The Raiders had a lot of freshman and first-year runners last year, and coach Paul Welch hopes the added maturity and experience will make them a stronger team.
North has numbers on its side with 28 boys, including another large crop of freshmen, according to Welch.
The top runner is sophomore Robert Irwin, who was the runner-up Wednesday in the first OAA White Division jamboree at Royal Oak.
Irwin, who had been dealing with shin splints, showed no signs of being hampered by that issue as he ran a time of 17:18.
“We’re looking for pretty big things out of him this year,” Welch said. “He looks to be better than he was last year, and we’re hoping he’ll just continue to improve.”
Junior Ryan Darnell and senior Justin Weber will lead the team as captains and are expected to be in the group of top eight runners.
Returning sophomores Derek Abbott, who has established himself as the team’s No. 2 runner, Jacob Barth, Ben Plotnick and Nick Harb could be part of that group, too.
The same goes for first-year sophomore Rimaz Khan, who has shown a lot of promise, according to Welch.
Juniors Kyle Hammond, who was a varsity runner last year, and Anthony Szczepanik, sophomore Solomon Song and senior tri-captain Kevin Heslip also return and could push for a varsity spot.
Freshmen Justin Baker and Sean Montgomery made strong showings Wednesday and were among the team’s top runners.
Other newcomers include junior Ryad Midani, sophomores Brandon Porto and Harrison Bloom and freshmen Jeff Huang, Jonah Karson, Parker Kent, Riley Laycock, Noah Stern, Joseph Szczepanik, Brian Bolt and Mannanjeet Dhillon.
The Raiders finished fifth in the division last year and were runners-up to Harrison in the city meet.
“We’re still a very young team,” Welch said, adding North will be better this year. “We had all first-year guys for the most part running in varsity meets. The entire varsity is back.
“We’re hoping they did their homework over the summer and we start where we left off last year. I want to see them continue to improve from year to year.
“We have talent. It’s just a matter of how hard they want to work. If they work hard, we’ll show lots and lots of improvement. It’s up to them entirely; they have to want it.”