Mackenzie Scordato

Mackenzie Scordato of Citrus races to the title at the Citrus County Championships last fall at Warrior Park in Lecanto. The sophomore leads a strong group of returning Hurricane runners looking to qualify for the state meet for a fourth year in a row.

Some of the county’s top cross country runners from last season are gone and new coaches take over several programs, but one thing hasn’t changed — there will be talented individuals and teams battling to reach the state meet November in Tallahassee.

Here is a look at what to expect this fall.

CITRUS

The girls’ program in Inverness has reached the state meet the past three seasons and welcomes back county and district champion MacKenzie Scordato, along with Taylor Koon, Jalena Alexander, Carleigh Steel, Kendall Gibson and Morgan Sowell. The Hurricanes do need to replace last year’s team leader, Nicole Ervin.

"With most of the team returning, we hope to build on last year’s success," coach Roselle Lattin said. "Last year, we earned our third district title and advanced to the state meet for the third year in a row. We hope to improve on our rankings and drop individual times. The team is working hard to stay competitive in a deep district and region."

The boys’ program will be without three-time county champ and 2018 state medalist Jacob Hensley. Returnees Thomas Tyler, Cody Bishir, Branden Southard and Tristan Woods will be joined by several promising newcomers for the Hurricanes.

"CHS cross country will be missing the presence of key runners Jacob Hensley and Bryan Fisher, as they both now attend USF," coach Karen Tyler said. "The team has added some new athletes who are making great additions to the team. Hoping to continue to go to districts and regionals as in the past. Excited for a new season."

CRYSTAL RIVER

There are three new coaches for the Pirates this season, but there are plenty of familiar names running, especially on the boys’ side.

Chris Thompson, Patrick Grady and Viodelda Page take over the reins of the Pirate program this fall.

Seniors Cody Thompson and Steven Thompson, juniors Trevor Reid and Jason Stukes and sophomore Ian Buckingham return for the boys’ squad. Junior Phoebe Weiss and sophomore Karilynn Willoughby are back for the girls.

"On the boys side we have an experienced team returning with only one loss from last year and we are looking to have a very successful season," Coach Thompson said. "The girls team is young, with many newcomers who this is their first year running and are eager to jump into the season.

"I feel that the added training that a majority of our runners did offseason and over the summer has given them the confidence and strength to set the bar high."

LECANTO

The Panthers welcome in new coaches, but also welcome back some talented runners in Aiden Weber and Chase Wilson on the boys side and Jordan Prinner, Sam Prinner and Elise Leturno for the girls.

The Panther boys qualified for state last season, so Wilson and Weber bring back state running experience.

Several outstanding runners must be replaced, including senior leaders Sean Murray and Ellen Farnsworth.

"It will be a rebuilding year this year after losing most of our varsity runners from last year because of graduation or to other commitments," coach Benjamin Simmons said. "However, we have many new promising runners like Brandon Rydzewski, who ran as a part of our track team at the state meet in the 4x800, and Celine D’Anna, who was voted the (Chronicle) girls track athlete of the year for her work in the hurdles.

"There are also quite a few new faces this year that I’m excited to see the improvements they will make throughout the season. There are a lot of new promising runners that by the end of the season will be sure to make our team very competitive."

SEVEN RIVERS CHRISTIAN

Many of last year’s top runners for both Warrior teams return this fall and both squads also welcome in some promising newcomers who are leading the way early this season.

For the girls, Rachel Saint, Jean Cobb, Lexi Underwood and Madison Welter are back from a regional-qualifying team. Added into the mix are talented new runners Mia McDougal, Maeve Mcougal and Hannah Vann.

Much like the girls, the boys squad returns the bulk of last year’s team. Returnees include Josh Vissicchio, Colin Kearse, Hunter Anderson and Zach Saint. Caden Kearse led the team at last weekend’s Lecanto Inviatational, so he looks to be a very welcome addition.

CITRUS HURRICANES

Boys

Coach: Karen Tyler

Key returners: Thomas Tyler, Cody Bishir, Branden Southard and Tristan Woods

Key newcomers: Jack Gardner, Austin Hooker, Randall Luke, Caden Luyett and Jon Schenk

Key losses: Jacob Hensley and Bryan Fisher

Girls

Coach: Roselle Lattin

Key returners: MacKenzie Scordato, Taylor Koon, Jalena Alexander, Carleigh Steel, Kendall Gibson and Morgan Sowell

Key newcomers: Kaley Kjos, Lauren Walker and Aubrey Mueller

Key losses: Nicole Ervin

CRYSTAL RIVER PIRATES

Boys

Coaches: Chris Thompson, Patrick Grady and Viodelda Page

Key returners: Cody Thompson, Steven Thompson, Trevor Reid, Ian Buckingham and Jason Stukes

Key newcomers: Gabriel Cairone

Key losses: Gabriel Romero

Girls

Coaches: Chris Thompson, Patrick Grady and Viodelda Page.

Key returners: Karilynn Willoughby and Phoebe Weiss

Key newcomers: Alyssa

Aguero-Cruz, Isabelle Spiddle, Jordan Martynoski and Juliana Chavarria

Key losses: Brailey Spiddle and Sierra Grantham

LECANTO PANTHERS

Boys

Coach: Nate Cueller

Key returners: Aiden Weber and Chase Wilson

Key newcomers: Brandon Rydzewski and Robert Fowler

Key losses: Sean Murray and Vance Ruiz

Girls

Coach: Benjamin Simmons

Key returners: Jordan Prinner, Sam Prinner, Elise Leturno

Key newcomers: Celine D’Anna and Noella Balderas

Key losses: Ellen Farnsworth and Bethany Knight

SEVEN RIVERS CHRISTIAN WARRIORS

Boys

Coach: Lisa Carter

Key returners: Josh Vissicchio, Colin Kearse, Hunter Anderson and Zach Saint

Key newcomers: Caden Kearse

Key losses: N/A

Girls

Coach: Lisa Carter

Key returners: Rachel Saint, Jean Cobb, Lexi Underwood and Madison Welter

Key newcomers: Mia McDougal, Maeve McDougal and Hannah Vann

Key losses: Katie Johnson

Prep Zone

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Contact Chronicle Sports Editor Matt Pfiffner at 352-564-2989 or mpfiffner@chronicleonline.com.

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