At last season's Class 1A state cross country meet, Wilton was one of six schools that had two finishers in the top 40.

And the Beavers have the luxury of getting both back.

Although the girls side isn't quite as accomplished, they too will bring back key contributors from a season ago.

"We have several returning varsity runners on both girls and boys teams," head coach Nick Dohrmann said. "The boys return letter winners and two state qualifiers from last year."

The two state-qualifiers are Buddy Darting and Zach Hein. Darting finished 12th (after placing sixth as a sophomore in 2017) and Hein crossed the finish line in 37th.

For the girls, a trio of seniors will lead the charge in Abby Brown, Emmy Drake and Lindsey Randolph.

Drake finished 21st at last season's state qualifier, the best finish for the Beavers.

Wildcats have quality over quantity: The Durant boys team will have its hands full replacing the graduated duo of Jack Voss and Easton Botkins, the Wildcats' top-two place-finishers at last season's Class 1A state meet.

Attempting to do so will be a string of sophomore runners for the Wildcats, led by Nathan Moomey, whose personal best 19:25.6 was good for 35th at the 2018 state-qualifier. That's the best among returning runners for the Wildcat boys.

"There’s seven returning runners and one new runner," Durant boys head coach Andrew Hermiston said. "We have high hopes for the boys team and are looking forward to seeing how they progress throughout the season."

The girls team is a bit more experienced, but has just as much to prove.

However, both teams will have to overcome low numbers. The boys varsity roster has eight runners while the girls have seven.

"Even though we have low numbers, we are excited to see how the girls compete," Wildcat girls head coach Tracy Tappendorf said.

Durant's two returning senior girls are Heidi Wolf and Kyman Liske-Rochholz. Wolf placed 72nd at last year's state-qualifying meet with a time of 26:24.2 while Liske-Rochholz took 89th at 28:31.4.

The Wildcats are pretty high on some underclassmen.

"Carlie Jo Fusco ran on the junior high team last year and is now a freshman and she will definitely be one to watch this season," Tappendorf said.

Burroughs, Fierro seek to carry Comets: The West Liberty cross country teams come into the season with clear-cut No. 1 runners.

The success of West Liberty's season, in all likelihood, will come down to how the rest of the team falls in line.

Sophomore Ashton Burroughs leads the boys team. Senior Jimena Fierro paces the girls squad. 

Neither Burroughs nor Fierro made it to state last season. Burroughs finished 23rd with a time of 17:54.3 at the state qualifier. Fierro was 21st at 21:04.5.

However, both have gotten some big-meet experience since then.

Last track season, both Burroughs and Fierro made it to state in distance events.

Burroughs was 24th in the Class 2A 1,600 5:03.35. Fierro eeked into the top-20 in the 1,500, running a 5:18.63 race. She was 18th in the 3,000. 

"Jimena (and) Ashton (have) sights set on state after getting a taste (last track season)," first-year head coach Michael Hart said.

Even though the Comets have a new head coach, the familiarity is built-in. Hart has been with the West Liberty track program for a few years, but now takes over the cross country program with Melia Larson on the girls side.

The Comets have also gotten a little in-house competition from an unlikely place.

"Annmarie Erikson, who is a foreign exchange student from Norway ... has been able to push Jimena well so far," Hart said.

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