Two things are clear: the NCISAA is strong and deep in boys' runners this year, and NC has a lot of 5K-first runners right now.
Nobody can ever predict what will happen over the summer, and every cross country season brings surprises (some good and some bad). So, perhaps it is best to think of these rankings as representing "Pre-Summer" rather than "Pre-Season." The list below was assembled using returning times from 2011 with consideration for improvement during spring track. As with the team rankings, the runners are divided into tiers, although in this case the third tier is huge and was impossible to separate; really, the runners from 10 to well beyond 25 could be assembled in nearly any order and it would make sense. With so many unknowns (some of the runners below could well be injured right now), these rankings should be taken with a grain of salt. They are simply interesting to look at until we have some real 2012 results to work with!
1. Trevor Sleight (Carolina Day)
Top returning 5K and 3200 runner; has a chance to break the 15 minute mark, almost certainly sub-15:10.
2. Ben Fiedler (Asheville School)
Seems to get better the longer the race; great competition in the NCISAA this year could push him to new heights.
3. Jimmy Hollingsworth (Northern Guilford)
Strong fall season followed by less-impressive spring; could have been injuries, or could be better at 5K; may be dominant in 3A.
4. Colin Godwin (Cary Academy)
Injured early last year; if he is healthy and had a strong summer, he could push for #1; defeated Fiedler in the 3200 this spring.
5. Sam Miner (East Chapel Hill)
Followed strong cross country season with 4:18 for 1600 this spring; definitely a contender for individual 4A title.
6. Wyatt Maxey (Providence)
Had a great fall and followed with strong winter season, but seemed to tail off during spring; huge leap forward last fall indicates good summer training.
7. Ben Huffman (Providence Day)
One of the biggest improvers in the state last summer, but then hit plateau during fall season; 3200 PR this spring shows he is back on track.
8. Bakri Abushouk (Cary)
Nagging injury history keeps him from being higher; ran 8:42 for 3000 in March (converts to 9:20 for 3200); best speed in the top 10.
9. Chris Reeder (Chapel Hill)
Had a very strong track season to springboard him into summer training, which could be a signal of a big individual season.
10. Peter Vandenberg (Watauga)
Conservative ranking here due to lost spring season (injury); if healthy in time for strong summer, he goes into Tier 2.
11. William Roberson (Broughton)
Some may have missed his dramatic improvement last year in the shadow of his big brother; sub-9:30 for 3200 says he's ready to make his own mark.
12. A.J. Tucker (Cedar Ridge)
Set to defend his 2A individual title; if he improves even half as much this fall as he did in 2011, will be a force.
13. Josh Anderson (Watauga)
Grades out as the best returning #2 runner in the state, which makes the Pioneers formidable; solid track season to build on.
14. Paul Jordan (Asheville School)
Tremendous improvement during track season (9:36 for full 2 miles) shows he has sub-16 potential this fall.
15. Philip Hall (Terry Sanford)
Top soph on the list; have to take his 5K PR with a grain of salt, but his track times show he is ready to be a legit CC runner.
16. Clayton Wilson (Greensboro Day)
Will have great competition to push his times down, but will his long summer track season affect his 5K training? My guess is no.
17. Clifford Buck (Jay M. Robinson)
Good 3200 times this spring, but 1600 times show possible lack of closing speed; already made his big leap, but should improve steadily.
18. Josh Thornburg (Asheville Christian)
May have learned a thing or two from his big sister; needs a strong summer to continue rapid improvement from last year,
19. David Bradley (Durham Academy)
Tough to place because he did not run track; would love to begin bringing his school back to the forefront after a bit of a lull.
20. David Hager (Woodlawn School)
Put himself on the radar with 1-minute improvement from 2010 to 2011; continued with strong track season, showing good speed.
21. Hunter Roark (Weddington)
Focused on the 800 in the spring, making improvement hard to judge; inconsistent 2011 fall season showed eye-popping improvement from 2010.
22. Dylan Johnson (Hayesville)
Doesn't put up big track numbers, but improves steadily from fall to fall; hilly training area leads to good races in postseason.
23. Ryan Brady (East Chapel Hill)
Emerged from minimal-racing track season with 9:48 3200; has had best race of the season at the regional 3 times in his career.
24. Abel Tecle (Cary)
Massive 9:33 PR for 3200 (plus 5th-place finish at 4A state meet) says he is ready to join the upper echelon of NC runners.
25. John Dalton Rohr (Broughton)
Could spark a 2-5 group that all threaten the 16:00 mark for the Caps; his closing speed (4:22 for 1600) gives him an edge.
Athletes to Watch:
Collin Loy (Southern Alamance)
Tanner Glackin (Weddington)
Nick Owens (South View)
Oskar Marszalek (Chapel Hill)
John Crossley (West Carteret)
Alec Lane (Marvin Ridge)
Asher Smith-Rose (Broughton)
Allen Lawrence (Broughton)
Mihret Coulter (Holly Springs)
Parker Lee (Fuquay-Varina)
Corbin Boyles (Maiden)
Nikolaus Kreiling (Jordan)
Peter Millsaps (Broughton)