Head Coach: Coach Sheila West
Last year's finish: UIL Region 4-6A 7th
Key returners: Mauro Avizo (Sr), Andy Hamilton (Jr), Noah Hamilton (Jr), Connor Austin (Sr)
Projected top 7: Mauro Avizo (Sr), Andy Hamilton (Jr), Noah Hamilton (Jr), Connor Austin (Sr), Jared Austin (Sr), Cody Stone (So), Chris Williams (Jr)
Will's Outlook: Coach West has turned out elite runners in the past and this year, she has an experienced group that she will try to get back to the UIL 6A state meet. They finished 7th at the Region 4-6A meet last year, but keep an eye to see if this group can get Canyon HS back on the saddle.
Head Coach: Coach Capeau
Last year's finish: UIL Region 1-6A 5th place
Key returners: Myles Richter (Sr), Ross McKee (Jr), Dylan Lowe (Sr), Grant Goodrich (Sr)
Projected top 7: Myles Richter (Sr), Ross McKee (Jr), Dylan Lowe (Sr), Grant Goodrich (Sr), D'let Habtemarian (Jr), Miguel Garcia (Jr), Austin Lorenzo (Sr),
Will's Outlook: Hebron comes into the 2018 season with a fairly quiet but impressive 2017 resume. They graduated #1 and All-State runner Adam Dayani (UIL 6A 11th place), but they return the rest of their top seven runners who ran to a fifth place team finish at the "Region of Doom" (Region 1-6A). Things surely won't get any easier for them in a quest for a team birth at state, but their shot is just as optimistic. Richter will assume the #1 duties and he is quite capable as he is a 15:40 5K type of guy. With another year coach Capeau Kool-Aid who know's what this season will hold for both Richter and Hebron altogether. This team will be dangerous and will end the season higher than this #15 preseason rank.
Head Coach: Coach Michael Gibson
Last year's finish: UIL 6A State 11th place
Will's Outlook: Coach Gibson's squad took a hit with some big time impactful seniors graduating. However, it's not like they didn't know it was going to happen. They return four guys from their state meet line up and who all were present when the team went to NXN in 2016. Look for Brawner and Swartley to take the lead and keep the tradition going at CP. The guys no doubt know what Gibson expects and how he trains them to run. Robinson and the Blacks were all young sophomores last season and were in the mid 16s for 5K. Now as juniors, they could take the next step in progression and get even faster. If that happens, they'll be very good and the returning 16:10 team average and 34 second split could potentially get better as the season goes.
12. Plano West
Head Coach: Coach Sean Fairchild
Last year's finish: UIL Region 1-6A 10th
Key returners: Pete Johnson (Sr), Preston Wilschetz (Sr), Cole Wilschetz (Sr), Carson Wright (Sr), Brian Mckeown (So)
Projected top 7: Pete Johnson (Sr), Preston Wilschetz (Sr), Cole Wilschetz (Sr), Carson Wright (Sr), Brian Mckeown (So), George Shupe (Sr), Sharan Venkateshwar (Sr),
Will's Outlook: Last year's finish for Plano West was a disappointing one. Their #1 runner Johnson finished with a DNF with the inability to finish the last 10-20m of the race. That drastically affected the team's status. Losing their low stick meant they had to take on the score of their 7th runner which equaled 110 pts contributing to their 283 pts and 10th place finish. If you take away 100 pts (Johnson was en route to finish in top 10) then they would have had a respectable 183 pts and a 6th place finish.
All of that to say this...BEWARE of Plano West! Johnson's DNF and the 183 pt is old news. The "Region of Doom" did it's damage on PW last year, but don't expect that to happen two times in a row. I'm riding with my boy Pete Johnson and he will be ready to dominate in 2018, but this isn't a one man wolf pack. This team is loaded with seniors plus a talented sophomore McKeown. The Wolves will be well coached and they ought to be ready to show what they can actually do. They graduated one from the top seven and they enter the season with a returning average of 16:09.49, so if they can get their 4-7 down and lower their split, then I'm calling it for them, It'll be Hello Round Rock.
11. San Elizario
Head Coach: Coach Cesar Morales
Last year's finish: UIL 4A State 1st
Key returners: Edwin Gomez (So), Tony Diaz (), Rene Arambula (), Seth Rodriguez (), Martin Pargas ()
Projected top 7: Edwin Gomez (So), Tony Diaz (Sr), Rene Arambula (Jr), Seth Rodriguez (Jr), Martin Pargas (Sr)
Will's Outlook: Coach Morales has a dynasty on his hands. San Elizario had been one of most consistent programs for years, but what they've been able to do the past four years is nothing short of remarkable. If it wasn't for the current Luling crazy streak, we'd be talking about San Ellie pushing for the record of consecutive state titles. They've won four straight and this year will push for fives straight and they have the ability. They graduate two seniors from their top seven, but they return key pieces including their #1 and #2 with Gomez and Arambula. These two guys have extra motivation as Gomez who won the individual title as a freshman last year could have a shot at four XC individual titles by time he graduates. For Arambula, he'll be able to have family bragging rights if he can collect more team titles than his older brother who starred for San Elizario.
Depth would be the only weakness to try to find a weakness for this squad. However, their 4A competition will have to reorganize themselves if they want to take down San Ellie. Progresso, the 2017 team runners-up gave San Ellie all they wanted last year, but graduate their top two runners. Then third place team finishers Kaufman moves up to the 5A ranks.
Irregardless of classification, This team is one of the top teams in the state as they return with a 16:08.96 team average and a 60 second split. They are for real!
10. El Paso Eastwood
Head Coach: Coach Mike McLain
Last year's finish: UIL 6A State 3rd/NXR South 3rd
Projected top 7: Elias Perez (Jr), Kayn Quinones (Sr), Juan Olmos (Jr), Eddie Gallegos (Sr), Sergio Leon Cuartas (So), Andres Marquez (Sr), Nathan Hernandez (So)
Will's Outlook: Eastwood had an unbelievable season last year. They won the Region of Doom, placed third at the UIL 6A state meet, and then 3rd at NXR South just missing a qualifying NXN spot. All of that was off the heels of graduating one of the best runners in school history with Daniel Bernal.
Well, they graduated even more impactful seniors from last year's team making it even harder to stay relevant. However, Eastwood isn't a team, they're a program and they will fill in the void. This season will go how junior Elias Perez leads it. He will have help however with fellow junior Olmos and seniors Quinones and Gallegos returning with leadership and experienced running. They make up the four returners from last year's squad.
The runners to watch will be the sophomores as they jump up to varsity. Cuartas had a very good track season and Hernandez had a very good NXR race.
Eastwood is in 5A now, so they will have to get used to an entirely new competition field, but all they have to do is what they know how to do and that is run. No doubt Coach McLain will have the guys ready and moving up the rankings!
Head Coach: Coach Juris Green
Last year's finish: UIL 6A 1st place
Key returners: Ethan Hammer (Jr), Ryan Cardinal
Projected top 7: Ethan Hammer (Jr), Ryan Cardinal (Jr), Matias Mononen (So), Aaron Soltmann (Jr), Liam McGovern (Sr), Ben Amundson (Jr), Ryan Tresaugue (So)
Will's Outlook: The list of guys we have listed is not a for sure top seven for TWHS. Nobody really knows who they'll have in the line up, one thing is for sure, whatever line up Coach Green rolls out you probably won't know the name, but you will know the name on the front of the singlet.
Whoever makes their varsity squad will certainly make sure the program is represented well. It will be surprising if Hammer, Cardinal, and Soltmann are not amongst the group. Hammer and Cardinal showed signs on the track that they are ready for the torch and Hammer is the lone returner from last year's top seven that won a state title. Now, Coach Green will give you a bunch of coach talk (very good insight btw), but trust me he will be working on both the physical and the mental fortitude of these guys to give it their best run at a fourth straight title and a push for NXN.
I know this year TWHS is very vulnerable, but the last time they were vulnerable and it looked like it was a wide open race for the top 6A spot was as recent as last year, and we all know how that ended up.
Head Coach: Coach Justin Leonard
Last year's finish: UIL 6A State 2nd
Key returners: Jack Myers (Sr), Vishnu Nair (Sr), Drew Bliss (Sr), Nate Lannen (Jr)
Projected top 7: Jack Myers (Sr), Vishnu Nair (Sr), Drew Bliss (Sr), Nate Lannen (Jr), Noah Castro (So), Lucas Levant (Jr)
Will's Outlook: Much like with TWHS, this is the group expected based on last year's data. However, it will depend on who had the better summers and comes in ready to roll. There are three returners from last year's state meet squad and NXN group. After that, it'll be like last year where a whole new group will have to step up. The good thing for Carroll is they had an exceptional freshman class last year and if need be they can probably jump right in.
This absolutely looks like another year of vulnerability for SLC. Last year was as well, but when a vulnerable season produces second place at state and a NXN automatic bid, then who really cares.
As we said about TWHS, the same goes for SLC. They will be there in the end because history shows it to be true. Over 97% of the boys top two trophy spots have gone to the two schools since 2005, so don't expect that to change so easily.
Head Coach: Coach Rick Miller
Last year's finish: UIL 5A state 2nd
Key returners: Bryce Cook (SR), Ryan Shumaker (Sr), Jack Neal (Sr), Kathan Shenoy (Sr), Christian Campbell (Sr), Jacob Hartsfield (Jr), Cody McCauley (Sr)
Projected top 7: Bryce Cook (SR), Ryan Shumaker (Sr), Jack Neal (Sr), Kathan Shenoy (Sr), Christian Campbell (Sr), Jacob Hartsfield (Jr), Cody McCauley (Sr)
Will's Outlook: Coach Miller's group was pretty good last year. They ran all of the way to the award stand at the state meet with their second place performance. They just so happen to have a couple of returners as well....make that all of the them. There is only one goal for this team and that is to win it all in 2018 and they have a good shot to make that happen.
They have what it takes to contend for a title with the experience, the talent (the top four are studs and should all be sub 16 guys), depth, and good coaching.
Oh yeah, and they even have a little bit of luck. An inside source divulged that Grapevine #1 Bryce Cook had some near fatal experiences with a flock of geese and an angry herd of goats.
Seriously, the 5A team battle will be worth watching and expect Grapevine to in the mix of things once again as they will be very good.
Head Coach: Coach Logan Kelly
Projected top 7: Brett Pedersen (Sr), Brady Laboret (Jr), Will Muirhead (Jr), Whitson Bedell (Jr), Trevor Malik (So), Chayden Dubois (Sr)
Will's Outlook: So, the two time defending UIL 5A state champions will return to defend their titles. The last time, Lovejoy didn't win 5A was in 2016 and that year, they still finished second. Lovejoy returns four of their top seven from 2017 and it is a strong core.
This year's group should be reminiscent to recent years as they return with a 16:07 average and a 58 second split, which will once again make them hard to beat.
Graduation does make them a littler vulnerable and there are some very good 5A teams looking to take them down. Expect coach Kelly to have the champs ready for a title defense, after all they're still the champs until someone takes that away.