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A fast look at the upcoming 2009 Metro Cross Country season raises a few questions - by John Nepolitan

Top returning individuals iN CT, NY, NJ

As the summer slowly starts to come to a close, it is time to start turning attention towards the upcoming cross country season.  With the season quickly approaching, it is only normal to start thinking of what we have to look forward to -- and a number of questions pop up. In no particular order, here are nine big questions -- a look at what fans have to look forward to--  in the Metro region for cross country ’09.

1Can Emily Lipari (Roslyn, NY) make it 3 in a row?  - Lipari (photo left by John Nepolitan) is a 2-time winner of the New York Federation Championship and 2-time qualifier for the Foot Locker Nationals.  Can she make it three in a row for both of these events?  There are runners who will definitely challenge her for the Federation title and a ticket to San Diego, but each time in the past, the Roslyn, NY runner has responded to the tests.  

2- Will Danbury continue to dominate the Connecticut boys cross country scene? – In recent years, when the discussion of Connecticut boys cross country comes up, the conversation will turn to Danbury and their domination.  Each of the past two years, the Hatters have faced serious graduation loses, but each year they have returned to take the State Open title.  Along with being the top team in Connecticut, Danbury has also earned trips to the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, which raises another question – can Danbury make another trip to Portland Meadows?

3Will Fayetteville Manlius continue to be the top team in the USA?  For the last three cross country seasons, the ladies of Fay Man have been the top dog in high school cross country, winning the last three editions of the Nike Cross Nationals.  With the core of the national championship team back again, it is safe to say that they will be in great position to not only win title #4, but to continue to lead the New York domination of the December event.

4Can Tyler Udland repeat? – After winning the New Jersey Meet of Champs title and qualifying second for the Foot Locker Nationals, Tyler Udland (Millburn, NJ) seemed to slip from the radar, part of that being due to injuries.  Udland (photo right by John Nepolitan) did run a swift 9:07 3200 at one point in the outdoor season, but was not in top form for the championships.  Now he is healthy, however, and ready to start defense of his state title -- but the Millburn senior will have to be running on all cylinders with the likes of the Rosa brothers, Pat Schellberg and a cast of others ready to step right in to the top spot, if Udland should falter.

5- Will Shenendehowa continue to rule New York?  Last year, Shen was the top boys team in New York, taking the NYSPHSAA, Federation and NXN NY Regional race.  Will they continue to be the team to beat or will another team take over the top spot?  On the surface it would look like Fay Man could be the team to take over as the top team in the Empire State - especially if Alex Hatz is able to come back and contribute near the top later in the season.

6Can WWPN repeat and will their team record time at Holmdel last more than 1 year?  No question West Windsor-Plainsboro North was the top team from New Jersey in 2008, running a team record at Holmdel and finishing 5th at the NXN Championships.  With the Rosa’s back, they may have the best 1-2 punch in the nation, but can they get runners to back them up?  Don Bosco Prep has made the trip to Portland two years in a row -- can they make it back again and reclaim the top spot in NJ?  CBA is always in the mix and there is no doubt they will be again in 2009, the question is can they get back to #1.  Haddonfield may have the best chance in claiming the top team honors, but no matter what happens, it is sure to once again be an exciting year in NJ boys xc

7Will John Raneri step up to the national stage?  John Raneri (New Fairfield) was the only underclassman in the top 5 at the CT State Open XC Champs last November, and later went on to win the State Open indoor 3200 crown, place 2nd in the outdoor championship 3200 behind Amity senior Adam Trofa, and finish 4th at the Nike Outdoor Nationals in the 5000.  Can Raneri (photo left by John Nepolitan ) step up to be the dominate runner in Connecticut and will he be able to make the jump to the national cross country stage either by qualifying for the Foot Locker Nationals or the Nike Cross Nationals?

8Will the move from Van Cortlandt Park to Long Island’s Sunken Meadow have an effect on the Footlocker Northeast Regional?  With a massive construction project in the works at Van Cortlandt Park, the Foot Locker Northeast Regional meet will be moved to Sunken Meadow on New York’s Long Island to accommodate the massive crowds that show up for this event every year.  Sunken Meadow is a well-established course, having hosted past New York Public School Championships and Federation Championships, and every year hosts a number of invitationals, as well as county and sectional competitions.  It is an additional 50+ miles east of New York City, however, so some may opt instead to go to the Nike Regionals.  It is also sure that some teams and individuals in the past went to meets like the Manhattan Invitational to get a chance to get on the Van Cortlandt Park course before the Northeast meet.  Will they now opt to go to one of the invitationals on Long Island and pass up the Manhattan meet?

9 - Will Alex Hatz be able to return to racing before the end of the cross country season?  At the end of the summer, Fay-Man star Alex Hatz was forced to undergo kidney surgery.  Everything looks good for a full recovery and the hope is that Hatz will be able to rejoin his team and race as they enter the championship season. 

All of these questions will be answered in the coming weeks – be sure to keep checking back in with Dyestatmetro for results, reports and updates throughout the season.