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YAIAA girls' cross country preview: Depth remains in Division II

Division II lost the most yet returns the most.

The YAIAA's most competitive division of girls' cross country sent two teams to the PIAA championships, where they finished in the top 13 last year at Hershey's Parkview course. A pair of freshmen from another Division II school also went for the Class AA meet.

Of the runners from York Suburban, Kennard-Dale and Eastern York, league champion Kayla White is the biggest name to graduate.

Seven of the top-10 finishers at last year's league championship were from Division II, and two more were from smaller Delone Catholic — which breaks any notion that bigger is better. Especially when comparing schools in this instance.

Eight of the top-10 finishers also are back this season, so expect the competition to rise.

Runners to watch

MADDIE FERNER, KENNARD-DALE, SR. >> After scoring a bronze medal during the Rams' top-three sweep of the YAIAA championships, Ferner finished sixth at the district meet and then helped Kennard-Dale to a 10th-place showing at the state championships in Class AA. This performance came after Ferner, a former soccer player, ran her first season of cross country. She also is a league distance champion in track.

OLIVIA GETTLE, YORK SUBURBAN, SR. >> Gettle has been Suburban's leading pack runner, which helped the Trojans' dominance in YAIAA Division II matches for the last three years. She missed the last three weeks of the 2014 postseason. Suburban did not lose a match with her healthy.

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PAIGE HARTMAN, CENTRAL YORK, SO. >> She finished Hershey's Parkview Cross Country Course in 20:51 to lead the Panthers at last year's district meet in Class AAA. She also finished ninth in the league meet in 20:49 — tops among Division I competitors.

EMMA LEIK, YORK SUBURBAN, SR. >> With Gettle out for the postseason, Leik anchored the Trojans' district title win. She also had their top individual finish a week later for the state meet.

MADDIE MCLAIN, EASTERN YORK, SO. >> McLain placed fifth at the league meet and kept up her pace all the way to a state championship appearance as a freshman.

KATE MOWREY, DELONE CATHOLIC, SR. >> Mowrey has finished in the top three of all three of her District 3 Class A races. She will look for a second gold.

CAITLIN SALOMON, KENNARD-DALE, SR. >> After a second-place finish at the league championship at John Rudy Park, where she ran a time of 19:34, consider Salomon and teammate Ferner the potential pace setters entering this season.

Important dates

YAIAA CHAMPIONSHIP >> Oct. 13 at Gettysburg

DISTRICT 3 CHAMPIONSHIP >> Oct. 20 at Big Spring

PIAA CHAMPIONSHIP >> Oct. 31 at Hershey

Division I breakdown

DEFENDING CHAMP >> Red Lion. Leading runner Julia Kendrick has graduated, but the rest return: seniors Tristan Schluderberg, Bryn Trout and Sarah Helt, plus sophomore Kate Gatchell. Schluderberg finished 13th at the league meet.

ASCENDING >> Central York, Dallastown. The Panthers lost only to Red Lion in the league and bring back three YAIAA medalists — Paige Hartman, senior Haley Pfefferkorn and sophomore Bridget Palm. Erin Wilson, a standout runner on the track team, also returns.

At Dallastown, the Wildcats bring back two sophomores, Isabella Wise and Sarah Groetz, who had their best two times at the district championships. They return most of their pack, except for the graduated Elizabeth Dibiase.

SHOES TO FILL >> Dover. After a third-place finish in the division and a 16-4 overall record, the Eagles graduated top runner Alysha Sweitzer, but do return a majority of their pack. Namely seniors Alyssa Lawton and Sarah Kistner.

Division II breakdown

DEFENDING CHAMP >> York Suburban. The Trojans won their second straight District 3 Class AA team title and will have most of their core back to attempt a three-peat. In addition to longtime runners Olivia Gettle and Emma Leik, coach Dan Vanhouwe's squad will have sophomore Cecilia Lantz — the Trojans' top performer in the district win — junior Lena Strong and sophomores Brooke Ruth and Zette Pflaum.

Their two losses to graduation are Danielle and Sarah Cardone.

ASCENDING >> Eastern York. Sophomores Maddie McLain and Madison Nalls return after PIAA appearances as individuals, which should help the Golden Knights improve after finishing in the middle of the division. They add Maddie's sister, freshman Olivia McLain to the mix. Elsewhere, Susquehannock returns seniors Rachel Banchiere and Courtney Rodgers, two of the Warriors' top three runners.

SHOES TO FILL >> Kennard-Dale. Kennard-Dale will be in position to cushion the blow of YAIAA champion Kayla White. Their other top runners, seniors Caitlin Salomon and Maddie Ferner, finished second and third at last year's league meet. They wound up helping the Rams finish 10th at the state meet, just ahead of 13th-place Suburban.

Division III breakdown

DEFENDING CHAMP >> Delone Catholic. The three-time defending district champ in Class A, the Squirettes have their top four runners back. Senior Kate Mowrey leads the way, but sophomore Leanne Sneeringer, senior Alyssa Alberghini and junior Abbey Sweeney are back, too.

Additionally, junior track runner Taylor Lescalleet will attempt to transition to the fall courses.

ASCENDING >> York Catholic, Bermudian Springs. A Class A squad, York Catholic brings back sophomore Katelyn MacDougall after a top-five performance in Hershey for the district championships. All but Amanda Falvey, who graduated, are back.

Bermudian Springs brings back top runner Makalyn Shupp. As a freshman, she was the Eagles' lone district qualifier.