There are several storylines worth keeping an eye on this cross-country season, but perhaps the one most notable is that of McCracken County's Maggie Aydt.
Last November, she finished third in Class 3A in the state meet at the Kentucky Horse Park.
This year, all indications are the junior -- who was also third in Class 3A in the 3200-meter run during track season -- could finish the season nearer to 19 minutes than her 19:19.75 as a sophomore.
Madison Central freshman Ciera O'Shea stands as the favorite, after a blistering 18:41.90 in last year's state meet.
"She will definitely be in the hunt for bringing home an individual state title come November," McCracken girls' coach Maria Grogan said of Aydt.
Still, Aydt isn't the only Lady Mustang worth mentioning.
Senior Maggie Dowdy -- the other of the "McCracken Maggies," as the pair has been coined -- is looking to improve on her 20:36.52, which was 25th in the state last season.
"Being a senior, I am looking for her to be a motivator and leader for our team," Grogan said.
Fellow senior Autumn Knight and juniors Emma Newton, Samantha Becker, Sarah Baker and Abbie Farmer are all expected to have strong seasons, too, Grogan said. Each ran for personal records during track season.
"Any one of them, if they put their mind to it, could have a breakout cross-country season," Grogan said.
Rebuild complete, McCracken boys
For the last two seasons, McCracken County's boys were, as Mustangs coach Barry Knight described it, rebuilding.
That's complete, now.
Senior Wes Grogan, he said, could likely be in contention for a First Region individual title in Class 3A. He's shown improvement from a 44th-place finish at the state meet in 2018, running a 17:13.35.
Junior Carew Ellington is also on the way up, after a strong track season. He cracked the top-100 (86th) last season, but should be well above that at season's end.
"(He's) continually made strides of improvement," Knight said. "I expect him to be a top finisher in the region this year."
In addition, Knight said he expects to see improvement from Jeremiah Grogan, Michael Helmich and Ethan Smith, and that he expects a top-three finish at the regional meet and a top 15 finish at state.
Cosners, Marshals could finish well
Marshall County boys' coach Chris Kerrick said it's his hope that the Marshals finally crack the top-two in the First Region this year.
He's got the talent for it, too.
Juniors Mason and Christian Cosner -- seasoned veterans in both track and cross-country -- as well as Ethan McCarty, Samuel Lanham and Knox Sandlin provide experience from the last two years at the varsity level.
In addition, Cade Flatt -- whose success has come largely in the middle-distance and distance level during track season -- is expected to add another level of leadership for Marshall County.
"We are working for that boys' team to finally bring home a trophy from the regional meet," Kerrick said. "Several first-year runners will also make us a stronger boys' team."
For the Lady Marshals, Gabi Lovett, Alexia Minter, Kaycee Kemp, Leah Vincek and Zoie Swope return with experience that will hopefully, Kerrick said, bring success at the regional level.
"The girls are working for a top-four finish at the regional meet, which would advance both teams to state," he said.
It will be interesting to see how Paducah Tilghman replaces graduated senior twin sisters Addie and Kate Rogers, who ushered in much of the success in Class 2A for the Lady Tornado in recent seasons.Likewise, Hickman County standout Nick Coffey and Fulton County standouts Isaac Madding and Camden Aldridge have both graduated, leaving big voids for their respective teams in Class 1A.
Capsules of teams from the coverage area (Note: Some teams from the coverage area did not respond to requests for information by press time)
Coach: Frank Harris
Runners to watch: Girls: Ashleigh Hamilton, Sarah Rogers
Outlook: "(Our) team is young and inexperienced. Expect us to improve as the season progresses. We may see development of some seventh-graders who have potential runs at the high-school level before the season ends." -- Harris
Coach: Jamie Madding
Runners to watch: Boys: Chade Everett, Wesley Brown; Girls: Marlena Sipes, Emma Madding
Outlook: "At Fulton County, our answer is always the same … regional championship. We definitely lost some key guys in Ike (Isaac Madding) and Cam (Camden Aldridge), but we have plenty of hard working speed in the cupboard and some youth with bright futures. We'll have some opposition this year, but by the end of the season, I expect us to be right there in the mix. For the first season in several, we expect to have a girls' team that really excites me. That said, our region will have some strong opposition, but I believe we have the runners to claim a regional title, as well. Both teams have a way to go to get there, but I like my teams." -- Madding
Coach: Thomas Dodson
Runners to watch: Boys: Sam Dodson, Jake Dodson, Elijah Goodman; Girls: Emma Harris
Outlook: "Season outlook is good. (We have a) young team with lots of potential." -- Dodson
Coach: Dara Miller
Runners to watch: Boys: Isaac Lockwood, Scott Svoboda; Girls: Stella Mapes
Outlook: "This season is very promising. During the conditioning period, our runners have shown to be very focused and riven with many goals in mind -- namely, state." -- Miller
Coach: Chris Kerrick
Runners to watch: Boys: Mason Cosner, Christian Cosner, Ethan McCarty, Jackson Miller, Samuel Lanham, Knox Sandlin, Cade Flatt; Girls: Gabi Lovett, Alexia Minter, Kaycee Kemp, Leah Vincek, Zoie Swoope, Taylor Bailey, Chloe Newton
Coach: Barry Knight (Boys), Maria Grogan (Girls)
Runners to watch: Boys: Wes Grogan, Carew Ellington; Girls: Maggie Aydt, Maggie Dowdy, Abbie Farmer