The track season began with new qualifying standards, which should lead to a more competitive state meet, and a lot of unknowns.
What is clear is that Desert Vista will remain a state title contender, while Mountain Pointe and Horizon Honors have enough individual talent to make a push to the top 10.
"It's hard to say what is going to happen," Mountain Pointe coach Jeff Griffin said of the new division set-up that was implemented this school year for all individual sports. "We know if our returning (state placers) can cut time or add distance we should be OK. We can only control our performances and everything else will fall in place."
The Thunder is one of the state's standard-setting programs that enters each season expecting to compete for a banner for their gym.
Or, better yet, an individual or relay team will break a team or state record and get their name displayed on the big display boards at the track stadium.
"It's two-fold," Thunder coach Chris Hanson said about having the records prominently displayed. "It's a motivator for our team, gives our kids something to shoot for and it lets opposing teams know what they are in for and what they need to do to beat us."
The boys teams finished first or second in state from 2005 to 2009 before finishing third last season in Class 5A or 5A Division I.
The Thunder, reclassified into Division I, should be right there in the mix again as seniors Michael Ingrassia (300 hurdles, high jumps and relays), Edmond Baker (high jump), Ryan Maack (distance) and Ryan Dysktra (distance) have all placed at state before, including Ingrassia's state title as sophomore in the hurdles.
Spencer Schumacher (throws), Riley Pendergast (throws), Eric Hernandez (hurdler) and Nolan Powers (sprints) have high expectations this year along with Matt Smith (sprints), hurdles and Jared Hilgers (long jump and sprints).
"You look at what we have coming back and we should be in a good place by the end of the season," Hanson said. "We have a lot of potential points out there."
The girls have finished in the top three at state 10 times since 1999, including championships in 2004 and 1999.
This year should be no different with the amount of talent coming back.
Sydnee Freeman (sprinter), Prasanna Polite (sprinter), Julia Kline (hurdles), Yasmine Yacut (state champ in 800) lead the way, along with Kylie Harmon (pole vault). All performed well at state last season.
Other competitors expected to make an impression this season are Merritt Ten Hope (pole vault), Tinisha Toussaint (high jump), Mackenzie Neumayr (high jump), Megan Neumayr (triple jump), Alisha Maxwell (long jump), Kadie McNamara (throws), Brittney Tretbar (distance) and Natalie Kraft (distance).
The Mountain Pointe program doesn't have the same amount of depth as the Thunder but can have some quality talent in the starting blocks.
"We know we have talented athletes," Griffin said. "It is a matter of getting them in the right event and excelling at the right time."
For the boys Martin Moriel (400), Connor Donnelly (400, 800) and Ben Trotter (sprinter) will be the leaders.
On the girls team Katelin Warren (800), Kevina Godfrey (relays) and Jamie Gonzalez (relays) are expected to be a few of the Pride's top individuals.
At Horizon Honors the boys team has three senior state qualifiers coming back in Brad Fullman (distance), Charles Smyers (300 hurdles) and Nathan Miller (400), while the girls have sophomore Shelia Homan (distance) back in the fold as the program moves to Division IV.
"We have a great group of returning athletes already moving in the right direction, setting goals and striving for excellence," coach Lura Beets said. "The old school records are not safe. I am looking forward to an improved team over last year with the addition of several first-time talented athletes coming from other sports programs."