Reaching the Class 4A state cross country meet will be tougher this year.
There are two more 4A schools: newcomer Sunrise Mountain in the Sunrise Region and Faith Lutheran, moving up from 3A, in the Sunset.
And because the meet is in Reno, only two teams qualify from each region instead of three.
Here is a breakdown of teams:
This should come down to a battle of Northwest League titans: Centennial, Shadow Ridge, Palo Verde and Arbor View, with Durango from the Southwest having an outside chance.
Centennial, the defending state champion, returns four of its top five runners and five of its top seven. Sophomore Nick Hartle, who was seventh at state in 2008, is the top returning runner in Southern Nevada.
Also returning are seniors Scott Albright, Devon Dane, Drew McDonald, Travis McDonough and junior Billy Gravley. Albright and Gravely both finished in the top 25 at state.
Shadow Ridge is most likely to join Centennial at state. Coach Patrick Fitzgerald has a veteran trio of seniors in Sam Mahar, Jon Clark and Nick Springston, who led the Mustangs to a sixth-place finish at state.
Three other teams that also should be in the battle to go to state, but with longer odds, are Palo Verde, Arbor View and Durango.
Palo Verde is led by two seniors, Sebastian Karbowniczek and Andrew Lowman, and junior Tom Johnson.
Palo Verde was hit hard by graduation, losing its top two runners, but is a program deep in numbers.
Arbor View was fourth in the Sunset in 2008, but graduation hit the Aggies hard. Senior Kyler Wilson and juniors Greg Marchik and Conor Gallagher are expected to lead the way.
Durango could be a sleeper. The Trailblazers’ top returning runners are junior Matt Shelton, who qualified for state as an individual in 2008, and senior Patrick Manley.
Individually, Clark senior Jacob Naylor — who was 18th at state in 2008 — is expected to have a big season.
This region belongs to Henderson.
In the past seven years, no Las Vegas team from the Sunrise — boys or girls — except Tech has qualified for state.
Green Valley is a heavy favorite.
The Gators were the Sunrise champs and finished fifth at state in 2008. Coach Blaine Thompson returns his top five from a year ago.
All are now seniors: Julius Kim, Jason Ferraro, Matt Campa-Moreno, D.J. Padilla-Montello and Cagen Combs.
The second spot at state likely will go to Foothill, Tech or Coronado.
Foothill, the Sunrise runner-up in 2008, will be counting on senior Brian Arvizu and juniors Carl Greene and Kyle Harris.
Tech also reached state last season. But the Roadrunners graduated their top three runners this spring and return only three of the seven who went to state: seniors Dominique Douglas, Miguel Maldonado and Scott Cline.
Coronado, fourth in the Sunrise in 2008, will be led by sophomore Austin Parker, who qualified for state as an individual in 2008, and seniors Gariet O’Dell and Nick Berry.
The top returning individual from the Sunrise will Liberty senior Al Galan, who was 14th at state in 2008. Colin Smith, a junior from Del Sol, also qualified for state as an individual.
As with the boys, teams from the Northwest look to dominate. Clark looks like the favorite in the Southwest.
Shadow Ridge appears to be the team to beat this year. A year ago the Mustangs made it to state, finishing fifth, without their No. 1 runner, Michelle Schenck, who was injured late in the season.
Schenck, now a senior, is back and running well. Joining her will be a bevy of experienced runners. Seniors Elaina Vlassopoulos, Palolo Prince, Megan Castro and Leanna Morrison, as well as juniors Mallory Reese and Caity Richards, all ran at state a year ago.
Centennial, the Sunset champ which was fourth at state last season, was hit harder by graduation and transfers than Shadow Ridge but still will be formidable, returning four of its top seven who went to state a year ago.
Also on the short list for one of those two spots at state will be Arbor View, Palo Verde and Clark.
Arbor View made it last year as the third team from the Sunset but this year, with only two spots open, might be on the outside looking in.
Arbor View’s top runner from a year ago, Katie Carrell, graduated, but the Aggies return five of their top seven, including senior Taylor Ingram, juniors Kourtney Willey and Ashley Mecham and sophomores Andrea Gonzalez and Kaitie Branton.
Palo Verde was fourth in the Sunset a year ago. The Panthers should be in the hunt this year as well, returning six of their top seven: Kelsi Koch, Kimberly Combs, Nicole Vanderstelt, Mackenzy Keller, Kristen Martinez and Victoria Moran.
Clark, thanks to Elisa Vazquez, could contend. The Chargers’ chances will depend on finding a supporting cast for Vazquez, a senior and the top Sunset finisher in 2008.
Two more individuals to watch are Bishop Gorman’s Brielle Crovetti and Cheyenne’s Alexa Ayala. Both qualified for state as freshmen in 2008.
Coronado, Foothill and Green Valley are the top three contenders for the two spots at state. No other Sunrise teams appear to have the depth — or the strikers — to match them.
Coronado, the Sunrise champs and runner-up at state in 2008, should be at least as strong a team in 2009.
Despite the graduation of Michaelanne Laurent, who was third at state last year, everyone else is back.
Lauren Lucas is expected to lead the Cougars. She is the lone senior among the likely top seven and finished 12th at state in 2008.
Foothill could give Coronado a challenge. Like Coronado, Foothill graduated its leader — Leah Leedy, state runner-up — but returns five of its top seven.
The Falcons’ top runner from a year ago, after Leedy, was Sage Long, now a sophomore.
Foothill also will be counting on juniors Miranda Halliday, Laura Weedman, Alyse Nelson and sophomore Jessica Dougherty. Also in the mix could be Cheyanne Jones, a sophomore, who didn’t run cross country last spring but had an outstanding track season and is out for cross country this fall.
Green Valley was the third-best team in the Sunrise in 2008 and looks to be again.
The Gators will be led by seniors Renee Moser, Morgan Oswald and Clarke Knight, along with juniors Alison Leedham and Marley Delgado.
Four other individuals who should be among the leaders are Canyon Springs senior Heather Hollinger, Liberty senior Joslyn Evans, Eldorado senior Claudia Gonzalez and Tech senior Claudia Perez. All were in the top 11 in the Sunrise in 2008.