It's time for high school fall sports in Tennessee, with cross country, girls' soccer and volleyball programs allowed to hold their first contests starting Monday, according to the TSSAA calendar.
At McCallie, a senior-loaded group of runners abounds with talent and expects to compete for a Division II-AA state championship, as does Chattanooga Christian School.
McCallie's Samuel Ligon could battle stride for stride with Edimo Ninterestse, a fourth-year standout for CCS, as both look to break 16 minutes in the 5k. Local home-schooler Chase Faudi is the top boys' runner back in the Chattanooga area, with his time of 15 minutes, 54 seconds at last year's city championship making him runner-up to Red Bank's Cole Bullock, who is now an Ole Miss freshman.
"Getting back to school and cross country season is a blast," McCallie coach Mike Wood said. "We have a group of seniors who have been around each other for a very long time and hope to win a state title this year. They are so much fun to be around, and we hope to have three or four guys who run sub 16."
Cleveland's Ryan Lovelace and Baylor's Helen Webb were promising young runners last season. Lovelace placed among the top 50 in the Division I Large Class boys' state meet with a time of 17:14.63, and Webb placed third in the DII-AA girls' meet as an eighth-grader at 20:04.24.
Signal Mountain's girls look poised to repeat as Small Class state champions. They return sophomore Tara Jessen, who finished third at state, and five other runners who were in the top 25.
GPS runner Jane Eiselstein finished fifth in the DII-AA state meet and is a junior to watch, along with Notre Dame's Elisa Alvarado, who was eighth in DII-A.
In girls' soccer, GPS and Signal Mountain will try to repeat as state champions, a large senior class for Soddy-Daisy looks capable of a title run and Ooltewah is excited about its new playing field. East Hamilton returns a four-year starter and strong leader in defender Jessica Dunavant, who helped the Lady Hurricanes make a surprise run to the Class AA state tournament after starting 0-11-1 last year.
On the volleyball court, Baylor will have to replace a lot of standouts from last year's DII-AA state runner-up team, and Sale Creek hopes to win the first state championship in school history after finishing second in Class A last season to Loretto. The Lady Panthers have won 149 matches over the past four seasons and should flirt with 40 or more wins again.
First-year East Hamilton coach Kelsey Kelley takes over a team that went 31-4 in a run to the Class AA state tournament last fall.
"We have four very talented seniors and a team that is really fired up after last year's season," said Kelley, who played under Elaine Peigen at Ooltewah. "They are very enthusiastic and hard workers. We expect great things this season."
Also looking to build on stellar 2018 volleyball seasons are CCS, GPS, Hixson and Silverdale Baptist Academy.
Golf teams began competing in late July, and Baylor's boys returned their entire lineup from the 2018 state championship team, a group that is all seniors. The Red Raiders' Demi Di Matteo has committed to Furman and is the son of former Chelsea FC coach Roberto Di Matteo, who helped the storied English professional soccer club win its first UEFA Champions League title in 2012.
McCallie and Signal Mountain also have stellar teams to look out for, and Walker Valley returns a talented senior leader in Dalton Sutton.
Cleveland sophomore Hannah Nall aims to compete for an individual state title as a sophomore, and Baylor, Sale Creek and Soddy Daisy also have talented girls' teams.