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Veteran Woodridge cross country coach Jeff Howard should have both the boys and girls teams in the state title conversation this fall.
That's impressive when you consider Woodridge was sensational last year.
In the 2015, the Bulldogs went 14-0 in Portage Trail Conference action and went on to place in the Ohio Division II state meet. The boys were fourth and the Lady Bulldogs were sixth in Ohio.
"I think the 2016 boys' squad should be a good one," said Howard. "The Bulldogs are coming off of a regional championship and their 12th straight state meet appearance."
"Our guys finished fourth at the state meet behind the other four regional champions," Howard said.
Woodridge is loaded with returning experience.
"We should be led by state 3,200-meter runner up Noah Perrin [a junior]," said Howard. "Seniors Ryan Palm, Yousef Elkurd, and Max Starvaggi [who took fourth in the Division II state 800-meter race] return from our top group in 2015."
Freshman Micah Blair could make an immediate impact.
"Incoming freshman Micah Blair had a great summer and ran strong at our time trial," Howard said. "He should join our top group right away."
Howard also emphasized that experienced, but young runners like junior Leo Ramsey, junior Jack Willett, sophomore Greg Muha, sophomore Andy Muha, and sophomore Brayden Whited should all complete for top seven spots.
"Depth will continue to be a strength as we have 34 guys out and a nice balance among the classes," Howard said.
Other seniors include Tommy Muha, Steven Neveadomi, Alex Rechia and Eli Yoho. Juniors include Zach Conroy, Max Cook and Kevin Dickon.
In the PTC, Howard believes that Field will be in contention. He also thinks Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary will be a regional power to contend with.
For the Lady Bulldogs, the 2015 PTC season gives this year's crew something to strive for. Lodi Cloverleaf won the league championship in their debut campaign.
"Cloverleaf returns as the PTC Champions and should be the favorites again this fall as Riley Freeland is the returning champion and had a great state meet in the 1,600 last spring," said Howard.
For his 28-member girls squad, Woodridge is coming off of an 11th consecutive trip to states and the sixth-place finish.
"We could improve on that finish," said Howard, of the state meet. "St. V, CVCA, and Chagrin Falls are the top teams in the region this year."
Woodridge returns its top five from states last year and is building on its depth.
"Clare Willett should lead the squad again this fall as she was our 2015 MVP," noted Howard, of his senior leader.
"A committed trainer, Clare's strength continues to set her apart," added the mentor.
Senior Nicole Fleming, senior Natalie Fleming, junior Molly Howard and senior Katie Kearns round out the returning top five from the state meet in 2015.
Returning seniors Mary Kiley and Shaleen Ghosh look to make a push and are among a deep group of runners working to break into that top five cast.
These runners making a bid to make the top five, according to coach Howard, along freshman standout Libby Howard and sophomores Sarah Frederick and Jenna Kaiser.
"This group will add depth and could break into our scoring five," said the coach.
"Newcomer and track standout [junior] Adelle Tannous has also shown promise as have Hailey Evans (sophomore) and Izzie Dolciato (freshman)."
Senior Maddy Sterling adds depth while other juniors on the roster are Julianne Dryer, Aundreea Genovese, Kate Holland and Lana Norris.
"Like the boys, depth and staying healthy will be critical," he added.
Woodridge was set to open the season at the Billy Goat Invitational Aug. 27 at McDonald, but results were not availalbel at press time.
After taking Labor Day weekend off, the Bulldogs will return to action Sept. 10 at the Bruck Lerch Invitational at Brecksville-Broadview Heights.