For the first time since 2004, there will be new Big Schools individual champions Saturday when the DODDS-Europe cross country championships conclude on the sandy, four-loop, 5-kilometer course in Schwetzingen, Germany.

The past two years, Greg Billington of Lakenheath and Colleen Smith of Kaiserslautern, have run away from the pack.

This year, there figures to be a challenge or two in the boys field, although the girls race might again be a one-runner show.

“I don’t think anyone can stay with Maggie Redmond from Patch,” Ramstein coach Dennis Edwards wrote Wednesday in an e-mail.

Redmond, second here last year behind Smith, set four course records this season.

She should have her team in the hunt for the Big Schools team title, too, Edwards said. His runners, led by Stephanie Polzer and Krystal Webb; Bitburg, paced by defending bronze medalist Sandra Davidson, newcomer Jade Thrasher and Rachel Poock; and Heidelberg, with Julie Caldwell and Lauren Brousseau, should also be in the race.

“It is a toss-up,” Edwards said of the Division I-II girls race, scheduled to begin at 1:45 p.m. “It’s incredibly close.”

Equally up for grabs is the girls Division III-IV race, scheduled for 12:30 p.m.

“From what I’ve seen,” Menwith Hill coach Larry Bell said Thursday by telephone, “Milan and the other Italian teams should be good.”

The individuals’ field is jumbled at the top in the boys Division I-II race, scheduled to get started at 2:15 p.m., according to Edwards, whose own newcomer, junior Kelis Secrest, should vie with John Markman of Naples.

“Markman is the man to watch,” Edwards said of the Wildcat ace who finished fourth last year as a sophomore.

Also in the running, he said, are 2006 bronze medalist Baudoin Fort of International School of Brussels, Kevin Edwards of Ramstein (10th last year), Ryan Poock of Bitburg and Blake Langford and John Rynecki of Heidelberg.

“It will be very close,” Edwards predicted.

Less close will be the boys Big Schools team race. Ramstein’s deep squad is expected to collect an eighth-straight crown on the deceptively challenging course.

“When they walk the course, they say, it’s flat,” Edwards said. “But it’s rolling, and there’s a lot of sand. In the physics of running, you don’t get the energy return you expect on sand. It wears you out.”

In the boys Small Schools race at 1 p.m., Jimmy Russell of Brussels is the heir apparent to his former teammate, 2006 champ Nathan Malinski, according to his coach, Chris Vahrenhorst.

“He’s running in the 17s,” Vahrenhorst said by telephone about Russell. “Seventeen thirty-five won it last year.”

Vahrenhorst said Würzburg, Alconbury, AFNORTH and Brussels are the boys teams to watch in the Small Schools division.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up