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Fans who savor replays will love the 2008 high school cross country season, which steps out Saturday at six sites across the continent.

In the Big Schools boys’ races, last season’s top three finishers — overall and D-I champ Kel Secrest of Ramstein (16:21.96 for the 5,000-meter finals layout), D-II champ John Markman of Naples (16:31.00) and overall third-place finisher Baudoin Fort of International School of Brussels (16:44.25) — all are returning this season.

The field of returning placers thins out, however, in the Big Schools girls’ division. Overall champ Maggie Redmond of Patch graduated, but Division I champion Shelby Whatley of Lakenheath returns and should be a factor in the European finale. It’s scheduled for Oct. 25 at Tompkins Barracks in the Heidelberg suburb of Schwetzingen.

The déjà-vu aspect of the new season is strongest in the D-I team race, in which the Ramstein boys have won an astounding nine straight titles.

"Some of those years, it was a DODDS-Europe championship, and some years it was a Division I championship," Ramstein coach Dennis Edwards wrote in reply to an e-mail from Stars and Stripes, "but for nine years the Ramstein boys have won the highest championship available…"

In chasing No. 10, Ramstein will lean on Secrest, seniors Will Barnes, ninth overall last year, and Laz Ramos, 21st last time, and juniors Matt Lein, 11th overall, and Dillon Wadsack, 12th in 2007. Secrest, Barnes, Lein and Wadsack were All-Europe choices in 2007, prompting Edwards to hazard a replay-like prediction.

"It will probably come down to another exciting race between Kel and John Markman from Naples," he wrote.

But don’t count on it, Edwards added in a cautionary note, citing the example of Wiesbaden freshman Kyle Murray. Murray returned to the States over the summer with a European 3,000-meter title in his suitcase.

"… the great thing about cross country is that kids move in or kids train hard over the summer. … All of a sudden a kid who wasn’t on the radar … at the beginning of the season is a contender for the championship."

Edwards’ girls, behind the 2007 D-I bronze medalist, sophomore Elizabeth Doe, will be trying to make it two straight. The D-II champ Patch boys and girls are in Division I this season, bereft both of any returning All-Europeans and longtime coach and program-builder Larry Bahn. Bahn retired in June.

Greg Mead’s Aviano girls, led by 2007’s fifth-place runner, All-European Shelby Yoakum, figure to contend for Patch’s vacated D-II title; his boys also boast a returning All-Europe selection in Daniel Slade.

Würzburg’s boys won D-III in the school’s final year, and Zane Kennedy from that team will be wearing Vilseck colors this time around for new coach Kevin Anglim. All-European Amber Core will anchor Anglim’s girls as the Falcons move up to D-I.

AOSR’s girls, the D-III champs, will be chasing a repeat, as will the Brussels boys and Sigonella girls, behind Jennifer Patron and Katie Hancock, in D-IV. The Lady Jaguars, according to their coach, Gene Rinaldi, have won three of the last five D-IV crowns, and a replay of 2007 would suit them, along with Secrest and his Royals’ teammates, just fine.

2007 team champions

BoysD-I—RamsteinD-II—PatchD-III—WürzburgD-IV—Brussels

GirlsD-I—RamsteinD-II—BitburgD-III—AOSRD-IV—Sigonella

Returning All-Europe selectionsBoys—Kel Secrest, Will Barnes, Matt Lein and Dillon Wadsack, Ramstein; John Markman, Naples; Baudoin Fort, International School of Brussels; Daniel Slade, AvianoGirls—Shelby Whatley, Lakenheath; Shelby Yoakum, Aviano; Elizabeth Doe, Ramstein; Amber Core, Vilseck

Saturday’s meets(All events are 5,000 meters)At AFNORTH: Baumholder, Bitburg, Brussels, International School of Brussels, SHAPE and AFNORTHAt Lakenheath: Alconbury, Menwith Hill and LakenheathAt Naples: American Overseas School of Rome, Marymount International School of Rome, Sigonella and NaplesAt Patch: Ansbach, Bamberg, Hohenfels, Bitburg and PatchAt Vicenza: Aviano, Florence, Milan and VicenzaAt Wiesbaden: Frankfurt International School, Heidelberg, Kaiserslautern, Mannheim, Ramstein and Wiesbaden


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