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A nearly all-new cast assumes lead roles Saturday when the curtain rises on the longest-running current winning streak in DODDS-Europe sports.

The Ramstein boys are seeking their 10th straight Division I cross-country title without many of the dominant runners who have led them the past few years.

"For both men and women, it’ll be pretty wide open for both teams and individuals," Ramstein coach Dennis Edwards said earlier this week.

Individually, Edwards saw his three runners who finished in last year’s D-I top five depart — including overall champ Kellis Secrest, who came in at 16 minutes, 25.53 seconds in the 5k finals, and No. 4 Will Barnes, who was clocked in 16:59.62.

Taking Secrest’s place as Ramstein No. 1 is senior Dillon Wadsack, an all-around athlete who finished eighth in D-I in last year’s finale with a time of 17:32.14. He’ll be supported by D-I No. 9 Thomas Amrine, who ran 17:42.38 last year.

Wadsack, an All-Europe guard for the Royals’ champion basketball team, might replace Secrest as Ramstein’s No. 1, but Europewide, Edwards thinks that role goes to Baudoin Fort of the International School of Brussels, who finished second overall to Secrest in last year’s European championships in 16:31.58.

"He ran shoulder-to-shoulder with Kell Secrest until the last 600 meters," Edwards recalled. "He has to be the favorite."

He’ll be a favorite with company, however. Another of last year’s top finishers likely will be there to challenge him when the European championships return to Tompkins Barracks in Schwetzingen on Oct. 31: Wiesbaden sophomore Dan Parker, who added the European 800-meter title to his résumé last May, ran 16:50.25 in winning the 2008 D-II championship.

Heidelberg’s girls are the defending D-I champs, and return six of seven from last year’s team, according to Lions coach Sharon Brady. Leading that list are D-I No. 7 Maggie Cutler (21:12.77) and D-I No. 10 Lindsey Duckworth (21:21.37)

Brady sees challenges, however.

"Patch and Ramstein will be tough as always," she said.

Especially Ramstein. With the decision by 2008 girls overall winner Veronica Siversten of SHAPE, who finished in 20:26.96, to play club soccer, Ramstein’s Elizabeth Doe, the D-I No. 2 in 20:45.57, or her teammate Felicia Gonzalez (21:20.28) are poised to move up, perhaps pulling the Lady Royals with them.

And although Patch placed no runners among last year’s top 10, Wiesbaden coach James Engle had this to say about Tom Manuel’s Lady Panthers. "Manny’ always comes up with something."

As is the case with Europe’s other fall sports, cross country is to be contested in just three divisions this season. Wiesbaden returns to Division I; most of the other D-II teams are joined by last year’s D-III squads in an expanded D-II; and most of last season’s D-IV teams, by default, are now classified D-III.

The season begins Saturday morning with meets scheduled for Aviano, Lakenheath, Naples, Ramstein, Vilseck and Wiesbaden.

Divisional lineups

Division I—Frankfurt International School, Heidelberg, International School of Brussels, Kaiserslautern, Lakenheath, Patch, Vilseck, WiesbadenDivision II—AFNORTH, American Overseas School of Rome, Ansbach, Aviano, Bahrain, Bamberg, Baumholder, Bitburg, Hohenfels, Mannheim, Marymount, Milan, Naples, SHAPE, Sigonella, St. John’s, VicenzaDivision III—Alconbury, Brussels, Incirlik, International School of Florence, Lajes, Menwith Hill, RotaQualifying standardsGirls—23 minutes; Boys—19 minutesEuropean championships Oct. 31 at Tompkins Barracks, Schwetzingen

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