The move to the Suburban League last year threw a bit of a change in the Stow-Munroe Falls cross country teams' schedule.
The Suburban League Super Duals, which determines part of the overall league title, became Stow's first meet of the season -- as it will again this year.
Bulldogs coach John Roseman, however, did not change his priorities.
"It's a type of sport that you've got to work towards the end of the season," Roseman said. "We'll be putting stuff together all year. We should be running our best at the end."
Entering his 24th year in charge of the Bulldogs, Roseman believes both his teams have the potential for big years, though that might not show in the early going.
Last year, Stow's boys finished fourth overall in the Suburban League National Conference, while the girls finished fifth.
Stow's boys lost some talent to graduation, including top runner David Hall, Roman Lovell, Luke Gidorkis, Joe Masar from its varsity squad. The Bulldog girls lost Jessie Stout -- now playing basketball at Notre Dame College -- and Mackenzie Bowers from their varsity squad.
Roseman said the pattern of recent years is "starting to reverse," as the boys team will be inexperienced and young while the girls team will be mostly veterans.
"To be honest coming in, I thought the girls were going to be pretty good and the guys were a year away," Roseman said. "For the boys, they're looking pretty strong right now. On the girls' side, if we do anything, it will be at the end of the year. The girls, I think, we can have a real run at the state meet, if we run what they're capable of running."
One X-factor this year is the fact the Division I regional meet at Boardman will send more qualifiers to states. Eight teams and 32 individuals will reach states from the Northeast regional.
"I always prefer a larger race, even if they bring in better teams," Roseman said. "I don't think it's going to be any easier, but when you take eight teams as opposed to four, it's more fair."
Depth won't be a problem as Stow has 30 boys and 40 girls in the program.
Long-time assistant coach Aaron Morris remains with the program.
Regarding the National Conference, Roseman sees another tough field.
"I don't see any reason Wadsworth [boys] isn't at the top of it," Roseman said. "I'll know better when we do super duals. Twinsburg's girls and Nordonia's girls were good, but I think they're starting to graduate some kids. Brecksville's always solid."
For the boys team, Roseman believes senior Jonathan Holtz is ready to be Stow's No. 1.
"He struggled a little bit in track. He was dinged up a bit," Roseman said. "He's done some work in the offseason. I would look for him to be sub 17 [minutes] or close to it from the start."
Behind Holtz, a trio of young runners is vying for the No. 2 spot.
Junior Connor Jenkins has come on strong in the preseason, while sophomore Cole Shawala saw some varsity time last season and sophomore Jason Anzaldi has "a lot of potential," if he can stay healthy.
"Those three are pretty close right now," Roseman said.
Sophomore Patrick Bunnell, a returning varsity runner, could fill out the final scoring spot, but Roseman notes junior Matthew Rhode is coming on strong.
Junior Andrew Decker, freshman Patrick Kline and freshman Matt Duffy all are in the running for varsity slots.
"I figure our five, six and seven guys are probably going to switch around a lot," Roseman said.
On the girls' side, junior Tessa Pitcovich is back after missing a berth at states by one place last year at Boardman. However, Pitcovich may start the season a bit slow, as she is recovering from a stress fracture.
"She ran all track season on it and never complained about it," Roseman said "They shut her down. She raced a [preseason race] and she didn't look that back. She's a racer. That's what I love about her."
If Pitcovich starts slow, Roseman said junior Sophia Perez will be a capable No. 1. A consistent runner, Roseman said Perez is gaining confidence ahead of the season.
Roseman said he had hoped sophomore Mackenzie Cassidy also could push for the No. 1 slot, but got off to a slow start during training season.
Senior Annaleigh Koch is back in the varsity lineup, while senior Kayla Valente has "really been coming," according to Roseman.
Junior Shelby Gluth will push for varsity time, while freshmen Jocelyn Shatraw and Emily Wisniewski also will be in the mix.
Stow will open the 2016 season by running at the Suburban Leauge Super Duals Sept. 3. This year's duals will take place at the new cross country course at Silver Creek Metro Park in Norton. First race is set for 9 a.m.