With the graduation of Burroughs High boys' cross-country standout Anthony Monroy, the title of top local male runner is up for grabs this season.
Runners will have the chance to claim that title today at the 22nd annual Burbank All-City Meet at Griffith Park.
On the girls' side, a new city champion will also be crowned, as last year's winner, Christina Shamirian of Burbank, graduated as well.
Here is a closer look at how the teams are shaping up.
The Bulldogs boys' team enters the season with a potent lineup and valuable experience gained during the 2011 season.
Burbank is coming off one of the most successful seasons in school history after a seventh-place finish in CIF Southern Section Division I Finals and an 11th place finish at the Division I CIF-State Cross-Country Championships. The team, ranked No. 5 in the CIF Southern Section Division I poll, returns five of its seven runners from that decorated team along with a sub-4:30 miler who was injured during last year's run to the State Meet.
The team is led by seniors Sergio Fraire, Bernie Corea, Chris Huezo, Mustafa Nguyen and Derek Itagaki, along with juniors Isaiah Amos, Arsen Mkrtchyan, Elliot Choe and Ethan Moskowitz. Those nine, along with sophomore Jake Miller, will battle for the coveted seven spots.
"This team has high expectations and has set tremendously high goals, but it's most important to remember that nobody is going to give us anything," said Burbank Coach Trevor Marca, last year's All-Area Coach of the Year. "If we are going to win anything at the end of the year, it's going to be because we want it more than the rest. We need to show up to practice day in and day out with this mentality."
The Bulldogs placed second in the Pacific League last season behind powerhouse Arcadia, which won a Southern Section Division I title and placed second in state in 2011.
For the Burbank girls' team, which placed third in league, the Bulldogs return a deep pack of runners, who Marca feels are primed for their best finish in history in league and in CIF.
"The girls' team has so much depth it's impossible to say who will make varsity," Marca said. "Every day a different girl stands out and shows she has what it takes to make it. I foresee a different order of finishers from race to race. It's this type of tight pack and competition from within that should push them to great heights."
Burbank should be paced up front by Arlette Movsession, along with junior teammates Daisy Ignacio, Stephanie Solomon, and newcomer Taryn Stevenson. In addition to the pack of juniors are seniors Victoria Sanchez and Kayla Martil, who will look to chip in along with vastly improving sophomores Lynn Park and Marla Dimetrios. The Bulldogs could also get a boost from freshman Candela Fernandez.
The Indians boys' team lost a solid performer in Monroy, a two-time State Meet qualifier. Last season, he placed 31st in the Division I final in a time of 15 minutes 50 seconds.
Monroy was only the third Burroughs runner to advance to state competition and just the second to earn back-to-back invitations. Sadee Martinez qualified for the State Meet in girls' competition in 2006 and '07 and Western Nelson made it to the boys' race in 2008.
But Monroy was just one of a group of runners Burroughs lost to graduation after a third-place showing in the Pacific League a year ago. The team also advanced to the CIF Division I Finals.
"Since we lost our top nine from last year's CIF Finals team, we are young this year but we will be gaining lots of valuable experience as we work to become the best we can be both this season and in years to come,"¿ Indians Coach John Peebles said.
With no seniors, Burroughs has a crop of juniors in Luis Celaya, Jarrett Duran, Ricky Mendez and Everth Vargas to go along with sophomores Garrett Boulais, Elias Hoxsie and Jack Howe. Freshmen who could add to the mix are Andrew Barrando and Diego Sanchez.
On the girls' side, the Indians have some returners from a group that took the fourth spot in league.