2016 team champions: Lockport (A), East Aurora (B), Newfane (C), Maple Grove (D). Monsignor Martin: Nardin.
2016 underclassmen individual Section VI champions: Class B -- Molly McLaughlin-11 (East Aurora), Class C -- Sonya Krezmien-9 (Springville), Class D -- Abby Gostomski-11 (Cattaragus/Little Valley).
2016 All-WNY first-team underclassmen: Gostomski, McLaughlin, Sydney Nowicki-8 (Lockport).
It doesn't get boring: East Aurora and Maple Grove are used to success, and there is no reason to suspect that much will change this season. The two perennial powerhouses have a target on their back.
Molly McLaughlin will miss graduating teammates Tori Klimowicz and Maisy Webster, but there is plenty of talent in the pipeline. Megan McLaughlin will be in eighth grade this year, and she was a second-team All-WNY pick in 2016. Then there's Karis Ertel, a sophomore who was honorable mention last year. The Blue Devils will be just fine this year.
Williamsville South will be chasing East Aurora. The Billies have senior Amberlee Robertson leading the way.
Meanwhile, Maple Grove was very young and very good last year. Grace Auer, now a senior, teams up with Ava Christ (freshman) and Christiana Peppy (freshman). All three were on the second team of the All-WNY team. But there's more after that - Carling Lockwood, Riley Caskey, Bryn Mozzi and Kristin Kelemen are all back this year, and they'll all be back next year too. With some breaks and good health, Maple Grove is one of the favorite to win a state championship.
Other classes: The Class A title might be the most competitive in the region this year. West Seneca West certainly figures to be a favorite. The Indians have four returning members from the ECIC Division I All-Stars: Anna Rybczynski, Emma Larkman, Sarah Mruk and Allison Stainsby. Lockport has Nowicki and Morgan Rippe back. Clarence, led by sophomore Makenzie Marfurt, is capable of making a little noise.
In Class C, Newfane looks ready to repeat. The Panthers are led by Kimberly Goerss who was named the top sophomore runner in Western New York last season. She has plenty of company - Nina Burkard, Vanessa Burkard and Lydia Chunco were all first-team Niagara-Orleans picks last year, and none are seniors. In fact, none of Newfane's top eight runners are seniors.
At the other end of the region, Clymer/Sherman/Panama is poised to do well. Sophomore Kylee Odell was an all-league pick in the CCAA last year.
Missing you: Danielle and Gabrielle Orie have finished spectacular careers at Nardin, and are off to the Ivy League. Call them gone but not forgotten.
"I wish they could return," said Nardin coach Rich Skrabucha, who did squeeze in one last run with the twin sisters in early August.
Skrabucha knows that graduations happen in high school sports, so he has to move on. The loss of the Ories means that Nardin returns to the Monsignor Martin pack a bit. It also means that there's no clear favorite. Mount St. Mary and Sacred Heart look like top contenders, but Nardin shouldn't be overlooked either.
It doesn't help to look at last year's All-Catholic team. The four returning first-teamers are from four different schools: Libby Benzer of St. Mary's, Zoe Knauss of Buffalo Seminary, Elizabeth Strott of Mount St. Mary, and Grace Harrington of Mount Mercy. We'll see who will emerge as the best in the league. Nardin's top returning runner is Grace Van Vessem, a junior who was second team all-league last year.
In the city: City Honors looks like an early favorite. The Centaurs had five runners on the Buffalo Public Schools first team in 2016, and four are back: Cece Favorito, Hannah Murphy, Ryan James and Sarah Brown.
Preseason rankings: Tullyrunners.com has compiled a list of the top teams in the state by class entering the season. Here are the local teams that cracked the list:
Class A - West Seneca West (No. 20); Class B - East Aurora (No. 1), Williamsville South (No. 12), Sweet Home (No. 20). Class C - Newfane (No. 1); Class D - Maple Grove (No. 2), Clymer-Sherman-Panama (No. 14).
Save the date: The McQuaid Invitational draws the best around the region, and is the first clue about how teams match up on a regional basis. It will be held on Sept. 30 this year.
Championship time: Section VI Championships at Bemus Point Golf Club on Nov. 3; State Cross Country Meet on Nov. 11 at Wayne High School (Section V); New York State Federation Meet on Nov. 18 at Bowdoin State Park in Wappingers Falls. The All-Catholic meet is Nov. 5 at the Knox Farm in East Aurora.
Who will be the Prep Talk Player of the Year? Molly McLaughlin and Nowicki seem like favorites. If you want a sleeper, Naomi Wistner of Williamsville North is a great pick. She's been injured for more than a year.
Story topics: Clarence/ Clymer-Sherman-Panama/ east aurora/ Lockport/ Maple Grove/ Mount Mercy/ Mount St. Mary/ Nardin/ Newfane/ Sacred Heart/ Springville/ St. Mary's/ Sweet Home/ West Seneca West/ Williamsville North/ williamsville south