There has been some shuffling among the District 11 girls cross country ranks this season, and Tamaqua is hoping it works to its advantage.
Northwestern and Saucon Valley have topped the District Girls Class AA standings in recent seasons, but for this year's championships, to be held Thursday at Bethlehem Municipal Golf Course, both Colonial League teams have been shifted up to Class AAA.
That opens up the field in AA, and the Schuylkill League champion Lady Raiders are looking to move up into one of the top two spots that would earn them a team berth at the PIAA State Championships on Hershey's Parkview Course Saturday, Nov. 6.
The District Meet kicks off Thursday afternoon with the Girls AA race at 3 p.m. followed by the Girls AAA competition at 3:40 p.m., Boys AA at 4:10 p.m. and Boys AAA at 4:30 p.m.
Tamaqua junior Amber Carroll finished sixth in last year's District AA race after coming in as runner-up as a freshman. Carroll has earned two PIAA Top 25 medals and is hoping to keep that string intact, despite running with some soreness in her hip.
"Even at 90 percent, Amber can run through Districts and she'll be a force," said Tamaqua coach Tom Kanger. "She has the determination. She has grown so much from last year as far as running smart."
The Raiders were sixth at Districts last year, but senior Schuyler Schmidt, a former Schuylkill League champion, is back in the line-up, and besides Carroll, six other runners (Cecily Kohlmeir, Dana Ansbach, Colleen Rorke, Jessica Leiby, Juliana Lesniak and Emily Bumbulsky) all ran at Districts a year ago.
Kanger feels that Colonial League runner-up Notre Dame of Green Pond and Bethlehem Catholic will present challenges in the team race.
"We're confident," said Kanger. "We figure it's going to be close, maybe within five points, so it depends on whom has a good day."
Among the contenders for the Girls AA individual gold are Carroll, Notre Dame's Katherine Downing (who placed fifth last year), Moravian Academy's Rebecca Askins-Gast and Salisbury's Taylor Gonoude.
Among TIMES NEWS area runners, watch out for Panther Valley senior Sindle Griffiths, who placed fourth at the Schuylkill League Meet.
Saucon Valley and Northwestern have joined what is a loaded Girls AAA field.
Liberty's duo of Amy Darlington and Jess Cygan finished 1-2 at Districts last year, and both are back, having reversed that order at the Lehigh Valley Championships.
Saucon's Elizabeth Chikolas is the Colonial League champion, and Stroudsburg's Kiana Tucker was the Mountain Valley Conference Meet winner.
Then there's Pottsville record-breaking freshman phenom Paige Stoner, who is the Schuylkill League champion.
In this tough field, Pleasant Valley senior Samantha Klingel is attempting to qualify for States for the fourth time after finishing 18th at Districts last year. The Lady Bears were the MVC champions and also have freshman Dana McAllister, the conference's silver medalist.
Northwestern no longer as PIAA Class AA champion Lindsay Kerr, but the Lady Tigers do have Haley Yost and Emma Kemmerer, who both had top 10 finishes at the Colonial League championships last week.
Jim Thorpe's Kayla Susko had a solid showing at the Schuylkill Meet with a fifth place finish.
North Schuylkill sophomore Brendan Shearn and Notre Dame of Green Pond junior Eric Busher finished 2-3 in the District AA race a year ago, and both won their respective league meets, with Shearn capturing the gold at the Schuylkill Meet and Busher at the Colonial.
Some other runners to watch include Notre Dame of East Stroudsburg's Brett Gubitosi, the Colonial runner-up, and Pine Grove's Kyler Burke, the Schuylkill silver medalist. Allentown Central Catholic has a pair of top 20 District returnees in Dan Fitzpatrick and Shawn Regan.
Northern Lehigh senior Austin Danish is the top returning TN area runner in Boys AA, finishing 17th last year.
Palmerton's Austin Papay was 23rd a year ago while Jim Thorpe's Matt Curran (32nd), Weatherly's Andrew Vack (41st) and Marian's Phil Marzen (48th) all finished in the top 50.
Also watch for Northwestern senior Cody Reinert (who was 56th in AAA last year) and sophomore Tyler Stelmack.
Colonial League champ Notre Dame of Green Pond is the favorite to defend its District title. Jim Thorpe, which finished third at the Schuylkill Meet, could be a darkhorse.
Defending AAA champion Matt Kacyon of Whitehall returns, and he comes into Districts off of a first place finish at the Lehigh Valley Conference Meet. Easton's Bernard England, the District runner-up last year, finished second to Kacyon at the LVC meet as well.
Contenders from the Mountain Valley Conference include MVC champ Mark Pfaeffle, who placed fifth at Districts last year; Pocono Mountain East's Alex Price, the MVC runner-up; and Pleasant Valley's Dan Rose, the MVC bronze medalist.
NICE TO BE BACK ... John "Doc" Fallabel and his Marian Fillies are back in the Schuylkill League Volleyball playoffs vying for their first championship since 2006.
The Fillies went through the regular season with a perfect 14-0 record and beat defending champion Nativity twice to win the Division IV championship. Marian opens up tonight's semifinal round against Division I Pottsville (13-1). Division II champ Pine Grove (12-4) takes on Division III champ Tri-Valley (14-2) in the other semifinal at 6. The finals will follow.
The only team returning from last year's playoffs is Tri-Valley.
Senior Taylor Mele has broken the Marian High School record in career digs hitting 1,041.
Sophomore MaryKate Sherkness has found a home playing with seniors Mele, Tori Vadyak, Rachel Krajcirik and Kathleen Reilly. Sherkness is closing in on Joelle Snyder's single-season school record of 387 kills.
SCORING MACHINE ... Tamaqua's girls soccer team finished the regular season with three of the top six scorers in Schuylkill League play.
Ali Updike had 50 points with 23 goals and four assists as the No. 3 scorer behind Nativity's Kiely Chaklos (25 goals, four assists) and Halifax's Lauren Steffen (22 goals, nine assists). The Raiders' Kailee Rottet was right behind Updike with 48 points (20 goals, eight assists) and Lauren Mateyak was sixth with 45 points (20 goals, five assists).
Teammate Kayla Hope wasn't far behind in 10th place with 13 goals and 11 assists.