Among the top contenders are Etowah and Woodstock in Class AAAAAA, and Sequoyah in Class AAAA.
Etowah returns a pair of all-county runners in senior Ross Gudger and sophomore Blake Beavers, both of whom have posted times under 17 minutes.
They will be joined by senior Garrett Metropol, juniors Brian Matthews, Mike Perona and Parker Wall and sophomore Sam Donley.
Woodstock will be without 2012 Cherokee Tribune Runner of the Year J.C. Cornett, who is now at Western Carolina, but coach Kirk Scharich believes the Wolverines have a more than suitable replacement in Owen Bailey.
“He has been under 16 minutes,” Scharich said of Bailey. “I think he is one of the fastest juniors in the whole state. He was second to J.C. all year.”
Bailey’s current personal record is 15 minutes, 57 seconds. He place second to Cornett at county last year and was sixth in the Region 5AAAAAA meet.
Others returning to Woodstock’s roster are sophomores Corey Champion and John Baumgarter, junior Andrew Maeen and seniors Tahir Savasir, Hayden Venable and Austin Otis.
“We should be a much better team this season, one through seven, despite losing J.C.,” Scharich said. “We will see what happens. It’s a long season.”
Sequoyah placed ninth at last year’s Class AAAAA state meet and could move up a few spots behind some solid returning runners.
The Chiefs are led by senior Christopher Costa, who placed third in the Region 7AAAAA meet and fourth at the county meet last year. He was 24th at the state meet.
Also back with the team are seniors Ryan McNeal and Zach Moore, juniors Blake Weis, Robert Carter, Rees Hatch, Tyler Gentile and Westley Wasielewski and sophomores Billy Chimenti and Mitchell Peters. New is freshman Dalton Trapnue.
Creekview also returns its top runner in junior Brennan Garriques, whose personal record of 16:51 was good enough for 11th in Region 7AAAAA last season. He placed sixth at the county meet and 43rd at state.
Grizzlies coach Tyrom Brown expects Garriques to place in the top 10 in the Class AAAAA state meet at the end of the season.
Also returning are seniors Frankarlo Figueroa, who is back for his fourth season with the team, and Chipper Bixby. Sophomores Grant Slater, Preston Burns and Nick Turano and juniors Elijah Cloy and Bert Sloan should also contribute.
The Grizzlies have added a few runners to the mix, including senior Zane Sisco, sophomore Brian Barrett, and freshmen Elliot Conrad and David Walters.
Cherokee will be led by seven seniors, including Steven Driscoll, but underclassmen will be key.
“We have quite a few underclassmen that will play a role in the success of the boys program,” coach Lane Whitley said.
Driscoll will get support from juniors Corey Parker, Sam Harp and Michael Deep.
Meanwhile, River Ridge will attempt to replace Region 7AAAA champion Joe Mayes, who graduated. Candidates to replace him include Nathan Trottier, Chris Roeder and Timothy Hooper.