TEAMS TO WATCH
Heritage: The Lady Generals return the bulk of their lineup from last season's fifth-place Georgia Class AAA team.
Chattanooga Christian: The Lady Chargers return everybody from last season's Class A/AA fifth-place team.
Baylor: The Lady Red Raiders return only two of their top six runners, but feel they have the talent to fill in the slots and make an attempt at a four-peat in the Division II-AA meet.
Bradley Central: The Bears have four runners who will be expected to run times in the 18s at least.
McCallie: The Blue Tornado return half their lineup from last season's third-place state team.
Signal Mountain: The Eagles finished fifth in last season's Class A/AA state meet and expect to be even better in 2011.
RUNNERS TO WATCH
Madalyn Garland, Rhea County: Garland came on strong in her first season of cross country, taking Class AAA all-state honors after an 11th-place finish in the state meet.
Ruthie Townsend, Baylor: Townsend finished ninth in the Division II-AA state meet last season and will be looked upon as a leader in 2011.
Mallory Edwards, Heritage: The sophomore placed ninth in the Georgia Class AAA state meet a season ago.
Paul Patterson, Bradley Central: The junior comes into the season as a two-time Region 3-AAA champion.
Simon Holden, Baylor: The junior was the Best of Preps runner of the year after winning three league races as well as the Front Runner City Championships.
Robert Bridges, Red Bank: He won two league races in 2010 and expects even more success as a senior in 2011.
CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Most cross country coaches drool over the outlook of a season when they have one exceptional runner and other solid contributors, so pardon Bradley Central High School coach Larry Cotton when he looks at his lineup and sees two championship-caliber guys: junior Paul Patterson and sophomore Harold Smith.
Patterson won the 2009 Region 3-AAA championship as a freshman and repeated the feat last season, when Smith was the runner-up. The Bears were second to Cookeville in the region in 2010 but expect even bigger things this upcoming season.
"I'm proud to be able to say I have a couple of good runners," Cotton said. "Harold was sensational as a freshman, and I expect him to be big-time as a sophomore. I've been on him and expect him to be ready when the dust settles.
"Now Paul? He's ready."
Patterson, who was plagued by hip ailments last season, appreciates having a teammate capable of pushing him to be even better.
"We're able to learn a lot off of each other," said Patterson, who earned a couple of medals in the recent AAU nationals. "I think we're going to be good this season. Our top four guys are running in the 18s [minutes for 5 kilometers] or even lower."
Smith agrees that the bar is even higher this season.
"I think we're capable of repeating what we had last season," he said. "Personally, I want to consistently beat 17:30."
Although they finished 1-2 in the region meet, the duo's best times came at the Jesse Owens Invitational in Oakville, Ala. Patterson ran a 16:10 while Smith ran 17:00.
Duplicating last season's region-meet success might be difficult, as White County is hosting the 2011 meet on a course neither has run. Even so, the Bears feel they have the team to make noise this season.
"The thing with running is that you're on top today but you're the goat tomorrow," Cotton said. "These guys have paid their dues to be one of the top teams. They get up and run every morning at 6 a.m. -- that commitment makes it easy for me. We have guys that have the juice to be in the top 10 in the state if they keep working and plugging away; we'll just have to let the chips fall where they may."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/gh3sports.