The Triangle could be in for a big season in boys cross country. State champions N.C. School of Science and Math (2A) and Cary Academy (N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A) return near the top of their fields as do runners-up Broughton (4A) and Chapel Hill (3A).
Runner-up Research Triangle (1A) and defending champ Cary Christian (NCISAA 2A) lose many of their top runners but will still be tough competition in their conferences.
Cap-8 4A Powerhouse Broughton returns four of the Cap-8’s top 10 runners in Ryan Brown, Andrew Brooks, Stuart Holmes and Lanier Derbyshire (eighth in 4A). ... Cap-8 runner-up Leesville Road has Nathan Gamble, who can compete for the individual league crown with Broughton’s quartet plus Millbrook’s Tucker Cera and Luke Gostling.
Greater Neuse River 4A Conference champ Rolesville returns its top two runners in Stephen Strong and Matthew Mims, while Harnett Central’s Laderique McNeill was last year’s GNRC runner-up.
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PAC-6 4A Cardinal Gibbons, third in 4A last year, will push for a state title behind the return of state runner-up Connor Lane and added depth from Sam Grelck and Connor Stephens. ... East Chapel Hill, sixth in 4A, was the PAC-6 champ. Jordan could be one of the state’s most improved teams with almost everyone back, including seniors Matthew Staehle and Quinton Meyer.
Southwest Wake Athletic 4A Returning conference champ Apex is led by senior Ben Savino (fourth in 4A) and junior David Cart. ... Green Hope, led by Peyton Barish and Nick Veilleux, has state title hopes after returning almost everyone. Holly Springs’ Gavin Kinkead could compete for a league title. ... Six SWAC teams are ranked in the state’s preseason top 20, including Panther Creek, Cary and Apex Friendship.
Eastern Carolina 4A/3A Reigning conference champ C.B. Aycock will be led by Deshawn Owens, seventh in the league last year. Individual champ Jonathan Timothy is back for J.H. Rose. Southern Wayne will be improved with the return of Cole Atwood and Bless Thomas.
More 4A Colin Alexander, Tremaris Hailey and Nick Klug are back for Pinecrest, which won the Southeastern Conference and was runner-up in the East regional.
Big 8 3A Chapel Hill has state-title aspirations after finishing runner-up last year, the third time in the last five years. Eric Vanderford, Ryan Combs, Nat Romaine, Ben Campbell and Silas Buckner will head up the Tigers’ charge for their first state title since 2011. ... Cedar Ridge senior Ian Elliott is the reigning individual conference champ. Runner-up Orange graduated its top five runners.
Big East 3A Northern Nash, led by junior Daniel Belton (sixth in 3A), is the favorite to repeat as conference champion but runner-up Rocky Mount brings back its top four including Jackson Lavely, Maliek Small and Kevin Pham.
Two Rivers 3A The top 13 runners from last year’s league are back. Conference champ Cleveland returns Gable and Wyatt Dershem and they will be pushed by Corinth Holders, led by Austin Carroll. ... South Johnston senior Jacob Gonzalez (fifth in 3A), the individual conference champ, has state title hopes.
More 3A Union Pines is the defending Cape Fear Valley champ and brings back six of its top eight runners, including Anthony Munoz (14th in 3A) and Ben Verchick (16th).
Eastern Plains 2A Defending champ North Pitt is led by sophomore Trevon Hardee.
Northern Carolina 2A N.C. School of Science and Math will turn to seniors Skanda Sastry and Lawton Ives to lead this year’s group to a potential 2A repeat. Durham School of the Arts’ Ben Kearsley is the league’s top returning individual.
More 2A Carrboro will try to dethrone NCSSM as regional champ behind Klaas van Kempen and Zakari Crites Videman.
North Central Athletic 1A Research Triangle is rebuilding after an incredible three-year run as state runner-up. Only one of the Raptors’ top-seven runners return. ... Raleigh Charter will contend for a 1A title with its depth, led by junior Thomas Moore, seniors Timmy O’Neill and Yates McConnell and junior Calvin Koonce. ... Voyager Academy’s Luke Bennett is back as NCAC champ.
More 1A Princeton’s Austin Sullivan is the reigning Carolina 1A Conference champ. ... Chatham Central won the Central Tar Heel 1A behind runner-up Caleb Johnson and third-place Rondell McKoy.
NCISAA Cary Academy has three of the top-10 NCISAA 3A runners back in juniors Coleman Mitchell (state champ) and Chase Coley (fifth) and senior Tommy Bright (eighth). ... Durham Academy’s Neil Mosca, Will Hopkins and Mark Alkins will help the Cavaliers, runners-up last year, compete for the 3A crown. ... Cary Christian, which only brings back two of last year’s top five, won last year’s 2A title by a point over Grace Christian Raleigh, which returns fourth-place Will Sossaman. ... St. David’s senior Sam Markoff was ninth overall.