With all due respect to Warren Buzzard and Matt Neumann -- two of the best runners to ever lace up a pair of shoes for Plymouth's cross country program -- the Wildcats may be even better in the wake of their graduation.
Buzzard, who is currently competing for the University of Michigan, and Neumann were extraordinary performers for head coach Jon Mikosz, but their leaving did not leave the Wildcats' cupboard bare.
The return of seniors Joe Porcari and Justin Heck; and junior Derek Gielarowski give Mikosz ample reason to expect big things this fall.
"This team has the potential to be better than last year's team," said Mikosz. "Any time you lose guys like Warren Buzzard and Matt Neumann, it always hurts, but we have a good group of young guys and a few freshmen who have been impressive so far in practices.
"We are looking to repeat as the KLAA South Division champions and to contend for a conference championship. We should also be able to contend for a Regional title and should qualify for the state meet as a team if everything goes right."
Porcari, Gielarowski and Heck offer a solid nucleus of top-flight competitors. Porcari was an All-State runner as a junior, finishing 24th at the state meet.
Gielarowski is coming off a stellar track-and-field season, having finished third in the two-mile at the Division 1 Regional meet with a 9:52 clocking.
And Heck was a member of the Wildcat track-and-field team's All-State 3,200-meter relay team.
"Joe should be one of the top-five runners in the state," said Mikosz. "He is looking strong and more determined than I have ever seen him. He could end up being the best runner in school history if he can keep up this level of training.
"I think Derek is going to have a break-out year. He showed in track that he can compete with the top guys in the area and now, as a junior, I think he will be at the top level by the end of the season.
"Justin has been working more in the off-season than he has his whole high school career, so I am hoping that translates to better times."
Among those who Mikosz considers front-runners to break into the varsity line-up are juniors Jimmy Maciag and Garrett Neumann; and sophomore Brandon Dalton.
"All three of these guys have come a long way from last cross country season. Jimmy was our fifth guy most of the season last year, so we are looking for him to step up this season," Mikosz said. "Dalton broke five minutes in the mile during track season and for a freshman that's pretty impressive.
Garrett is kind of a wild card. He has had some injury problems in the past that have kept him from reaching his full potential, but he seems to be firing on all cylinders and comes from a family of good runners, so we are going to be looking for him to set up and contribute this season."
Porcari, Heck and senior Dylan Noble were named captains.
Other runners who will compete for a varsity spot are Stephen Balaze, Nick Eiben, Evan Johnson, Liam Cardenas and Max Rogowoski.
Ed Wright can be reached at (734) 453-1980 or email@example.com.