Crescenta Valley Coach Mark Evans, for one, is leaning toward rebounding, as the bulk of his team returns, including reigning All-Area Girls' Runner of the Year Claudia Pham, whose absence at the end of the season last year due to injury largely made the league finals interesting and the CIF postseason brief.
"Ultimately, CIF finals and see if we can get in the top seven and get to state, that's what we want to do," said Evans, who returns Pham, Brooke Moultrie, Cali King, Anneke Kakebeen and perhaps an injured Ali Johnson, all of which were top-five runners at one time or another last season. "My feeling is that if we stay healthy and run like we're capable, I think we'll be right there in the mix in Division I."
As for an eighth-straight league title, it's likely Arcadia, led by league champion Catrina McAlister, will once more be the Falcons' top challenger.
"I know they're coming after us," Evans said. "We have to keep as many people as possible between Catrina and their No. 2."
For both Prep and Sacred Heart, uphill battles loom ahead with state heavyweights leading their leagues.
Sacred Heart is likely to have most of its top runners back, including juniors Stephanie Vargas and Amanda Aguilar.
However, reigning league champion Harvard-Westlake returns six of its top seven runners, including state individual champion Cami Chapus, from a team that won the Southern Section and state Division IV titles. Thus, for the Tologs, a repeat as the No. 2 team in the Mission League is a safe prediction.
Prep, which took third in the Prep League last season, must contend with Chadwick and Jaye Buchbinder, who won league and Southern Section Division V crowns as a team and individually before second-place marks at state.