County cross country watchers may experience a feeling of deja vu this year.
Two defending state champion teams and two individual state champions return. All four appear ready for repeat performances.
Those four include the Oakland Mills boys team in Class 3A, the Atholton girls team in Class 2A, Centennial's Pat Rodrigues in boys Class 3A and Centennial's Amanda Cox in girls Class 3A.
The Oakland Mills boys team guns for the state title with a state-record six consecutive titles in hand. Only one other sports team has ever won seven straight state titles -- Central of Prince Georges County's indoor track team.
Oakland Mills is a heavy favorite to repeat. The Scorpions' top seven runners are all seniors, and they lost just two of their top seven from last year.
Their top runner, Joe Drissel, returns to take another shot at beating his nemesis -- Rodrigues.
Drissel finished second in the county and regional meets and third in the state -- all behind Rodrigues. At the county meet, Drissel lost to Rodrigues by a lean at the tape.
Oakland Mills has had only one county individual champion during its six-year reign as state champs. That was Patrick Hayden in 1987, Rodrigues' freshman year.
Paul Schoeney is No. 2 for the Scorpions based on last year's results. Schoeney finished fifth in the county, sixth in the region and eighth in the state.
Bill Dye is No. 3. He finished seventh in the county and region and 17th in the state.
The other four starters appear to be Brandon Hart, Ken Plasse, Brian Lopez and Matt Bond. Bond was the junior varsity county champion last year.
In addition, these seven will be pushed by junior Tim Brenza, who was second in the junior varsity county championship race.
Juniors Mike Van Ghel and Joe Salinas also have tremendous potential, says Coach Steve Carnahan.
If that's not enough, an especially strong group of freshmen are running with the team.
"This is a bumper crop of freshmen," Carnahan said. "But the jury is still out on them."
And while Carnahan doesn't want to appear overly confident -- and will make no predictions -- he calls the group the best he's ever coached.
The real battle appears to be for second place at the county meet as far as the rest of the boys teams are concerned.
Centennial, Atholton, Mount Hebron and Glenelg all seem to have a shot at that spot with Class 3A Centennial having a slight edge.
Anyone who coaches a quality runner like Pat Rodrigues has reason for optimism. And Eagles coach Al Dodds sees his team finishing second in the county this year.
Rodrigues, who ran only four races last season because of an injury, should be the individual favorite this year.
The senior has won two straight state titles. Last year he set course records at the county meet at Howard Community College (16:01) and the regional meet at Centennial High (15:44).
Dodds also is enthusiastic about two new runners, sophomores Chris Bosely and Nate Bucks, who will try to replace Don Augustin (2nd state) and John Ciccarello (4th state).
Seniors Dave Trout and Andy Younkin and junior Ben Younkin round out Centennial's top runners at this point.
Since Atholton, Glenelg and Mount Hebron all are Class 2A and not in Oakland Mills' and Centennial's more competitive 3A class, they will have improved chances at regional and state titles.
Atholton has five solid runners, and since only the top five score points, that may be enough to win a regional title.
Senior Phil Harries tops that list. He was 19th in the state, and coach Eal Lauer thinks he could move into the top 10 statewide.
Junior Scott Woods is running second. Sophomore Brian Townsend and juniors Mark Stahl and Rob Reese round out the top five.
Glenelg has three runners who are sure starters, but the fourth and fifth spots are still uncertain, Coach Roger Volrath said last week.
Junior Gerard Hogan leads the team and has excellent potential to become a top runner this season.
Senior Rob Fersch and junior Joe Rankin are the other two veterans.
Two potential starters are sophomore Mike Goldberg and first-year senior Dave Turnau.
Glenelg won a 2A boys state title in 1983, when Oakland Mills was still a 2A school.
The Mount Hebron boys are led right now by returning seniors Don Choate and Shane Igoe. Junior Kirk Seese is a third-year varsity runner.
The Vikings have three newcomers with promise, including senior Jess Grim, junior Taj Moore and freshman Andy Farrell.
The Vikings are missing two of their top five runners because of academics. They could return to the lineup in October.
Fourth-year coach Martin Goode has directed the team to four straight fourth-place finishes in the state meet. He's hoping for another strong finish this year.
* In girls competition, everything points to Atholton as the team to beat, and to Cox as the runner to beat, although Cox could have some tough competition.
Atholton has four seniors and a junior among its top five runners.