Cary’s boys and Apex’s girls have had a strong grip on the conference now known as the Southwest Wake Athletic over the past four seasons. The two teams both won the league and then finished second in the 4A Mideast regional.
But the Cary boys will be challenged by the last team, other than themselves, to win the league. Apex, which came up 15 points short of Cary last season, returns seven state qualifiers from a year ago while Cary brings back only two.
The Imps lose a lot of points with boys running MVP Bakri Abushouk now graduated but return senior Josh Barrett and regional pole vault champ Kevin Schmidt. Dean Abushouk will be counted on in the distance events.
Apex, meanwhile, returns field MVP Reyho Tshiama, a senior, and the top three pole vaulters from the indoor season. Senior Joe Devries has two pole vault state titles to his credit, and junior Michael Utecht qualified for last year’s state meet.
The Cougars also return juniors Tyler Cook, Ryan Johnson and Chase Oliver as well as senior Tim Darcelien.
Green Hope was fifth in the league last year and brings back three seniors who competed in the 4-by-800 relay at last year’s state championship – Jonathan Bakley, William Jordan and Brad Pehr.
Holly Springs was sixth in the league last year thanks almost entirely to its success in the relay events but should be improved if Lamar Nobles, the 2010 boys field MVP at Athens Drive, competes. Nobles spent last year at Word of God Christian Academy and excels in long and triple jumps.
Fuquay-Varina, eighth in last year’s conference, returns one of the best boys distance runners in the state in Parker Lee.
Panther Creek was third in the league last year, while Middle Creek was fourth and Athens Drive was seventh.
The Apex girls return four state qualifiers from last year, including junior Katie Mazanec and regional high jump champ Caitlin Muddiman.
The Cougars also have junior Anna Eaton, fresh off an indoor state title in the pole vault, and last year’s conference running MVP Sydnei Murphy, a junior who recently won the state indoor title in the long jump, set a new conference meet record in the 400 last year and also won the 100.
Green Hope was runner-up in last year’s conference and will have six athletes who qualified for states last year – senior high jumper Pauline Schwerbrock and distance runners Theresa Enright, Kayla Hall, Katie Tomasi, Sheridan Wood and Elly Henes.
Cary’s girls could also challenge for the league title. Sophomore Charminique Hackney and junior Layla White are coming off indoor state titles and will join a strong core of returning runners in Lydia Averette, Julia Brown, Sarah Hoffert, Katherine Patetta and Desi Rowell.
Middle Creek, fourth in the league last year, returns conference triple jump champ Vaniah Russell, a junior.
Holly Springs, fifth in last year’s league, brings back three members of a 4-by-400 relay team that broke the conference record last year: junior Ashley Cawthon, sophomore Ryan Billingsley and junior Alexis Lee.
Panther Creek returns one of the top distance runners in the state in junior Rebekah Greengrass.
Athens Drive was seventh in last year’s league, and Fuquay-Varina was ninth.
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps