North Schuylkill's Brendan Shearn will be back to defend his state title. Shamokin's Matt Gass will be back to defend his district titles, and Mount Carmel and Southern Columbia's boys will try to defend Heartland Conference division titles, although the Tigers move from Division III to Division II, so something will have to give.

The Tigers will try to defend their first-ever district team title.

Area boys track and field teams were a little ahead of the girls teams last year, and the same should be true this year, although the girls are likely to make a little more noise this time around.

On the down side, Shamokin Area will not host the Purple and White Relays for the first time in more than 30 years. Only about a half dozen teams opted to compete in a sign of the times, when more coaches want to compete in straight

invitationals in order to qualify people for postseason competition.

And Southern Columbia's boys will try to defend their Heartland Division III title without head coach Lanny Conner, who will likely be away from the team most of the season after undergoing recent quadruple bypass heart surgery.

Shearn will try to add another state title to his resume. He won the AA 3200-meter title last season after winning the AA cross country title the fall before and was second in cross country last season.

Gass will be back to lead Shamokin's team. He won the District 4 AAA 400 and 800-meter titles and led the Indians to a win in the 1600-meter relay as well, then broke a 42-year-old school record in the 800 at the state championships.

"Our team will build around Matt Gass in the 400-800-200-4x4 and 4x8," says Shamokin coach Mike Rogers.

Mount Carmel head coach Mike Farronato doesn't have any returning district champions but does have some state qualifiers back in all-around field performer Rob Varano (pole vault) and Justin Skavery (1600) and a host of other veteran performers, so the Red Tornadoes should be solid again.

"We do return many key athletes from last year's team, especially in the field," Farronato says. "Ultimately the success of the team will depend on the leadership of these athletes and the rest of the senior class. We have some holes to fill but have some new athletes out this year that make an impact on the team's efforts. Strengths should be an overall balanced team with very good individuals in all disciplines."

Other key people back for Mount Carmel include Nick Troutman, Lucas Klingerman, Ray Heromin, Elijah Duran (school record holder in the triple jump), Eric Joraskie and Gary Grayeski.

Among Southern's returners are district AA long jump champ Luke Rarig, and sprinters Joe Kleman and Bryce Parry, who helped the Tiger 400-meter relay team set a school record and qualify for states. Tom Donlan, who served as interim coach for the girls team in 2012, will do so for the boys team this season with Conner's absence.

Besides Shearn, who has doubled up in the 1600 and 3200 meters the past two seasons at the District 11-AA championships, North Schuylkill returns state qualifier Dan McSurdy (300 hurdles) and sprinter Ethan Motsney, district runner-up and state qualifier in the 200 and Schuylkill League champion at both 100 and 200 meters. Those two also ran on the Spartans' state qualifying 400-meter relay.

Other key performers back for Shamokin besides Gass include Ken Anderson, Zach Santey, Dan Delbaugh, Draven Miller and Josh Scheuren.

"Even after losing 80 percent of our district scoring from last season, we still have an experienced core of athletes to choose from," says Rogers. "Early team success will depend on how quickly the new and younger guys can develop and replace the holes left from the departing seniors."

Southern Columbia's girls return several key people from a team which was 6-1 and won the Heartland Division III crown, including Bailey Bzdak, Teanna Shutt, Kendra Jones, Julia Mudrock and Olivia Potter.

Kristen Diehl takes over for Donlan as head coach after assisting for several seasons.

Mount Carmel has a veteran cast back led by junior Ali Varano, who was a consistent scorer last season and a state qualifier as a freshman in the sprints. Other key returnees include distance runner Lauren Hause, Jill Mazurkevich, Cathy Fletcher, Jenna Jurasich, Rachel Schultz and Jen Bolick.

"The upperclassmen have really stepped up and have shown their leadership," says second-year head coach Ana Ditchey. "We were lucky and got a lot of very talented newcomers this year that can make us a solid group as they gain experience."

Shamokin Area coach Dave Kopitsky has a nice number of girls, including some veterans, but says, "Over half of our team is freshmen, so we are in the process of trying to find the proper events for each athlete. We lost several key athletes to season-ending injuries so that doesn't make matters any easier. But the potential is there for several of our girls to be state qualifiers."

Seniors Molly McDevitt, Alaina Petrovich, Brandi Segura, Megan Sheriff and junior Lea Richardson are some of the Indians' top returnees.

Carter Green, who qualified for the state championships in both the shot put and discus last year and placed fifth in the AA discus as a freshman in 2011, is the leading returnee on a fairly veteran North Schuylkill team. Others back include 800-meter state qualifier Brittany Martin, Kylie Fetterolf and Ryan Evanousky.

BOYS

Mount Carmel

Head coach: Mike Farronato, 14th season, 102-14-1

Last year: 8-0, Pennsylvania Heartland Athletic Conference Division II champions

Assistant coaches: Brian Carnuccio, Joe James, Kerri Spears, Ana Ditchey, Mark Kraynak, Mike Klembara, Jeff Sluck, Tony Grayeski, Cassandra Niglio

Key losses: Mikael Hause, Mick Saukautis, Meyrick Lamb, Gabe Matukaitus, Tommy Hynoski, Jacob Kleman, Tyler Hodge, Alex Zsido, Josh Tomedi, Andrew Sickora, Cody Haupt.

Top returnees: Seniors - Justin Skavery (state qualifier, 1600), Nick Duceman, Brandon Greco, Nick Troutman, Seth Nicola, Ray Heromin, Rob Varano (state qualifier, pole vault), Elijah Duran, Bobby Beierschmitt, Eric Joraskie, Gary Grayeski, Lucas Klingerman; Juniors - Cory Hoffman, Jon Golaski, Alex Mrozek, Mackenzie Greco; Sophomores - Cieran Fisher, Christian Kelly, Trevon White, Tommy Moser, Nate Bartos, Brian Beaver, Michael Kaminsky, Juwan Sullins.

Remainder of roster: Seniors - Tyler Kwiatkowski, Dondre Glasper; Juniors - Brandon Toter, Zeke Zsido, Nick Stancavage, Armando Chami, Brett Zosh, Dustin Murray; Sophomores - Cody Little, Blake Panko; Freshmen - Ethan Bartos, David Fletcher, Dominic Farronato, Brandon Sorge, Brett Katalinas, Tommy Nguyen, Mason Duran, Michael Bergamo, Ryan Walter

Outlook: Red Tornadoes lost some key people to graduation but do have a lot of veterans and should battle it out for another division title. Ultimately the success of the team will depend on senior leadership. Strengths should be an overall balanced team with very good individuals in all disciplines.

North Schuylkill

Head coach: Lafay Hope

Last year: 2-3, 2-3 D-I

Returnees: Cody Antalosky, sr., jumps; Matt Gownley, sr., sprints, jumps; Danny McSurdy, sr., sprints; Ethan Motsney, sr., sprints; Kyle O'Connor, sr., throws; Brendan Shearn, sr., distance; Jordan Shinkus, sr., sprints; Alec Bolinsky, jr., jumps; Evan Blouse, jr., pole vault, mid-distance; James Caulfield, jr., jumps, throws; David Hall, jr., mid-distance; Will Halko, jr., mid-distance; Matt Manbeck, jr., throws; Devin Mashack, jr., distance; Justin Reichwein, jr., jumps; Alex Weisbeck, jr., distance; Joe Bluge, soph., jumps; Tyler Briel, soph., throws; Tyler Budnavage, soph., mid-distance; Chris Karlonis, soph., hurdles, jumps; Trent Kaufman, soph., distance; Ryan Mazeika, soph., jumps

Newcomers: Anthony Marone, sr., throws; Andrew Gantz, jr., throws; Eric Groody, jr., throws; Keegan Hubler, jr., throws; Skylar Hughes, jr., mid-distance; Tim Sokoloski, jr., jumps; Glen Weist, jr., mid-distance, hurdles; Mitchell Homberger, soph., throws; Jadyn Arczarski, fr., throws; Kehner Antalosky, fr., throws; Logan Bell, fr., throws; Jordan Green, fr., throws; Patrick Gownley, fr., sprints, jumps; Adam Isgate, fr., throws; Melvin Mastishin, fr., sprints; Hunter Mickatavage, fr., jumps; Austin Raup, fr., throws; Cody Sanko, fr., jumps; Matthew Stever, fr., throws; Noah Swald, fr., throws; Elijah Thompson, fr., jumps; Phillip Waller, fr., distance, jumps; Conor Wood, fr., jumps

Outlook: The Spartans should be improved on last year's record and will be a threat for the District 11-AA title if Shearn, McSurdy, Gownley and Motsney are healthy.

Shamokin

Head coach: Mike Rogers

Assistant coach: Sam Scicchitano

Last year: 4-3.

Key losses: Andrew Griffiths (district qualifier), Blair Faust (district qualifier), Brandon Mendoza (district qualifier), Brandon Nash (state qualifier), Cameron Pensyl (district qualifier), Cycle Taylor (district qualifier), Kimi Newborn (district qualifier), David Williams (state qualifier), Ethan Lindermuth (district qualifier), Josh Dunn (state qualifier), Scott Bradley (district qualifier), Tim Wargo (district qualifier), Bob Bainbridge, Shane Williams (transfer), Edward Kurtz, Hunter Bloom.

Top returnees: Seniors - Matt Gass (district champ, 400-800), Kenny Anderson (district qualifier, pole vault, javelin); Nick Kleman (district qualifier, 300 hurdles), Zach Santey (district qualifier, 300 hurdles); Alex Zalar, distance; Juniors - Danny Delbaugh (district qualifier, 800), Draven Miller (district qualifier, 100, 200, shot put), Josh Scheuren (district qualifier, 1600, 3200), Ryan Wilk (district qualifier, 100, 200, long jump), William Ruch, throws; Sophomores - Dante Picarelli (district qualifier, high jump), Zach Moyer (district qualifier, high jump), Brett Long, distance; Christian Duganitz, distance; Jacob Gallagher, sprints; Zach Koharski, hurdles; Draven Faus, hurdles, high jump; Jake Brown, 1600; Mitch McGinn, throws.

Remainder of roster: Seniors - Matt Reichner, distance; Ryan Rompolski, distance; Juniors - Andrew Eveland, distance; Matt Renn, sprints; Noah Rachau, distance, hurdles, jumps); Seth Hornberger, jumps, sprints; Tyler Fisher, jumps; Sophomores - Darren Egick, sprints; Noah Young, sprints; Sean Reichner, middle distance; Dylan Edmondson, sprints; Freshmen - Ryan Gass, distance; Chris Petraskie, middle distance, jumps; Brett Rebuck, middle distance; Max Morrison, middle distance, jumps; Kyran Brown, throws; Jake Weaver, distance, jumps; Josh Kahoon, distance, pole vault; Jazz Levan, sprints; Derrick Dilliplane, throws.

Outlook: The Indians probably don't have enough depth to compete for Heartland Division I or District 4-AAA titles, but have enough talent to have a say on who wins those titles. Gass is the fulcrum, with Miller, Wilk, Santey, Delbaugh, Anderson, Scheuren, Bonshock and McLaughlin all threats for district points. In addition, a good freshman class will help.

Southern Columbia

Head coach: Tom Donlan (interim)

Last year: 8-0, Heartland Conference Division II champs

Top returnees: Seniors - Tony Chiavaroli, Joe Kleman, Bryce Parry, Jansen Ring, Dylan Swank, Jeff Roomey; Juniors - Cody Pavlick, Andrew Steely, Josh Tripp; Sophomores - Collin Dudanowicz, Brad Noll, Luke Rarig.

Rest of roster: Seniors - Karl Myhre, Allen Potter, Paul Thomas, William Wertman; Juniors - Adam Feudale, Cody Olson, Austin Potter, Alexander Scull; Sophomores - Grayson Belles, Marc Boyer, William Clark, Mitchell Croall, Joseph Davis, Trent Donlan, Justin Ernest, Matt Jeremiah, Seth Joseph, Stephen Knouse, Ryan Matukaitis, Brady Petrovich, Connor Swank, Jason Vought, Adam Weissert, Charles Wertman; Freshmen - William Marzeski, Dayne Wetzel, Bradley Whyne, Josh Yoder.

Outlook: The Tigers should be contenders for another Heartland Conference division title. Whether or not they have enough talent to defend their district title is another question.

GIRLS

Mount Carmel

Head coach: Ana Ditchey.

Assistant coaches: Mike Farronato, Kerri Spears, Cassandra Niglio, Brian Carnuchio, Jeff Sluck, Mark Kraynak, Tim McConnell, Joe James, Tony Grayeski.

Last year: Overall: 5-3 HAC-II: 3-3

Key strengths: Sprints, distance

Potential weaknesses: Lack of depth in the throws and jumps.

Top returnees: Ali Varano, Lauren Hause, Jill Mazurkevich, Ashley Taggart, Cathy Fletcher, Jenna Jurasich, Isabella Stellar, Jen Bolick, Rachel Schultz, Madison Watkins, Bailey Trell

Roster: Seniors: Jill Mazurkevich, Ashley Taggart, Cathy Fletcher, Tara Demko, Bridget Dunkel; Juniors - Ali Varano, Jenna Jurasich, Lauren Hause, Sonya Grohowski, Jessie Gibson, Brittany Gummel, Paige Hornung, Chelsea Matos, Rachel Schultz; Sophomores - Jen Bolick, Isabella Stellar, Taylor Conches, Amber Kogut, Bianca Sandoval, Erin Scicchitano, Caitlyn Taggart, Madison Watkins, Bailey Trell; Freshmen - Elizabeth Cooper, Cameron Getty, Jacqualin Lyden, Maya Yoder, Natasha Nevis, Leah Nicola, Chantelle Skavery, Maya Khanna, Krissy Komara, Ericka Kopinshinski

Outlook: Varano, Hause, Fletcher and Schultz give the Red Tornadoes upperclass leadership, and some younger athletes should be a big help. The Red Tornadoes want to try to peak at the right time.

Shamokin Area

Head coach: Dave Kopitsky

Assistants: Rob Crowder

Last year: 1-6 overall, 1-5 HAC III

Key strengths: Mid distance, vertical jumps, javelin

Potential weaknesses: shot and sprints

Top returnees: Seniors - Molly McDevitt, Alaina Petrovich, Brandi Segura, Megan Sheriff; Junior - Lea Richardson.

Rest of roster: Seniors - Molly Hasuga, Chelsea Moroskie, Autumn Peck; Juniors - Kylie Christiana, Sara Drumheiser, Molly Haupt, Stef Hile, Cheyenne Popewczak, Brooke Sejuit; Sophomores - Samantha Carpenter, Devon Gallie, Megan Kerstetter, Sheena Latsha, Brittany Pope, Bell Quackenbush; Freshmen - Gabrielle Erb, Courtney Long, Amanda Lucas, Evelyn Madrak, Amelia Mayeresky, Emily McDevitt, Emma Miller, Sofia Pearson, Caitlyn Pope, Danielle Reed, Christina Troutman, Ceira Quincy.

Outlook: The Indians are difficult to judge. More than half the team is freshmen but the Indians also have some quality veterans. Staying healthy and focused will be a big part of the Indians' success or lack of it.

Southern Columbia

Head Coach: Kristen Diehl

Assistant Coaches: Lenny Wasileski, Bob Weinhofer, Dale Schoch, and Dewey Townsend

Last year: 6-1 overall, PHAC Division III Champions

Key Strengths: Strong nucleus of returning veterans in jumps, hurdles, and mid-distance

Potential Weaknesses: Overall depth and throwing events

Top returners: Maddi Beisswanger, Bailey Bzdak, Kelly Henry, Kendra Jones, Rebekah Lyash, Julia Mudrock, Olivia Potter, Gabrielle Scherer, Teanna Shutt, Aly Stavinski, Tasha Tasker, Katie Varano

Outlook: The Tigers should have enough talent to make another run at a division title in the Heartland Conference. Depth may be a question in how much team success they have.

North Schuylkill

Head coach: Lafay Hope

Last year: 1-4, 1-4 Schuylkill I

Returnees: Jacqui Ashman, jr., throws; Sarah Barket, jr., throws; Ryan Evanousky, jr., hurdles; Kylie Fetterolf, jr., sprints, jumps; Maura Gownley, jr., hurdles, jumps; Carter Green, jr., throws; Rebecca Kane, jr., throws; Ashley Lipshaw, jr., throws; Beckie Stankiewitch, jr., throws; Abby Warner, jr., sprints; Ariele Zahodnick, jr., jumps, pole vault; Vanessa Zimmerman, jr., mid-distance, jumps; Lacey Deeter, soph., throws; Carly Gregas, soph., jumps; Heather Skinner, soph., hurdles, jumps; Jessica Yeneskie, soph., distance

Newcomers: Devanshi Pandya, sr., throws; Maria Buckley, jr., throws; Morghan Gregorie, jr., throws; Sarah Halsey, jr., pole vault; Sarah Pollakusky, jr., throws; Emily Tobin, jr., sprints; Azure Waldick, jr., throws; Leanne Long, soph., sprints, jumps; Annina Manganiello, soph., throws; Nina Marone, soph., throws; Carly Bonomo, fr., sprints; Ashley David, fr., throws; Jacquie Kane, fr., sprints; Nicole Kane, fr., distance, jumps; Kaeli Quick, fr., distance; Shea Selgrade, fr., throws; Waverly Snyder, fr., hurdles, throws, jumps; Anya Spotts, fr., jumps, throws

Outlook: The Spartans should improve on their record and should score lots of postseason points provided they stay healty.