SPSL NORTH

CROSS COUNTRY: AT A GLANCE

CROSS COUNTRY: AT A GLANCE

• FAVORITES (boys): Tahoma, Auburn Riverside.

• CONTENDERS/SLEEPERS (boys): The favorites appear to be well out in front.

• FAVORITE (girls): Tahoma.

• WATCH OUT FOR (girls): Auburn Riverside, Jefferson.

• OUTLOOK (boys): It’s not every year that a league has two division champions in it. But that’s the case with the North boys this fall. Tahoma is coming off an undefeated campaign that won the division title in 2007, and Auburn Riverside put together its own unbeaten season to win the SPSL 3A dual-meet championship last fall before moving back up to 4A and rejoining the North. Only one of them has a chance for perfecto this year, and it just might come down to the Oct. 15 regular-season finale on Tahoma’s home course at Lake Wilderness Park.

• OUTLOOK (girls): Tahoma has lost just one meet — to Jefferson, back in 2006 — since joining the SPSL in 1997. The Bears aren’t likely to lose any this year, either. With five of its seven state runners back from last year, including the top group of junior Hannah Mittelstaedt, senior Molli Bahlenhorst, and sophomore Lauren Clawson, Tahoma looks solid enough to go well beyond another division title. This team could find itself well up the state meet ladder — not necessarily on the top rung, but high enough to bring home a nice piece of hardware for the display case. Auburn Riverside, led by senior Kalee Cipra, might not have been on anyone’s preseason radar, but the Ravens certainly will be now after beating Jefferson in the regular-season opener on Wednesday, 25-31. Individually, the phrase “wide-open” comes to mind. Cipra, TJ senior Vanessa Bennum, or anyone from Tahoma’s trio of Bahlenhorst, Mittelstaedt and Clawson all are capable of winning on any particular race day.

• CIRCLE THE CALENDAR: Oct. 4 — Sunfair. The Yakima meet often attracts the best of the best — from in state and elsewhere. Oct. 8 — Kentlake and Tahoma at Jefferson. For the past few seasons, TJ-Tahoma is the girls meet that everyone anticipates. Oct. 15 — Auburn and Auburn Riverside at Tahoma. If the Bears and Ravens are still unbeaten on the boys side, this regular-season finale will decide the title. Nov. 1 — West Central District at American Lake Golf Course (Tacoma). The last step to state. Nov. 8 — State meet at Sun Willows Golf Course, Pasco. Apple Cup Saturday? Final Four semifinal Saturday? Kentucky Derby Saturday? Forget it. If you’re a cross country fan, this is the best Saturday of the year.

— Mark Moschetti/For the Reporter