If Cross Country 2007 stared down Cross Country 2008 and said, "Top that!", it would be a tall order, for sure.

If Cross Country 2007 stared down Cross Country 2008 and said, "Top that!", it would be a tall order, for sure.

But Two-Thousand-Eight appears up to it.

Rogue Valley teams and individuals had a banner state championship meet last year, bringing home three of eight team titles and one individual crown.

It figures to be more of the same when all of Oregon's classifications gather Saturday at Lane Community College in Eugene to determine this season's trail-course kings and queens.

And when you factor in the Klamath Falls area, where Henley and Lakeview return girl winners from a year ago, "It's conceivable," says Phoenix co-head coach John Cornett, that Southern Oregon "could have individual state champions in five or six of the eight races Saturday. That's really exciting."

Crater will head the expedition to mine precious metals, preferably the gold that goes to victors.

The Comets won Class 5A boys and girls team titles last year, and the boys are heavy favorites to do so again. If successful, it would be their third straight championship.

Other favorites to repeat are the St. Mary's girls, who won the school's first girls team state crown in any sport and return the bulk of that squad; and Elliott Jantzer, the Phoenix Phlash out to defend his boys 4A title.

From Klamath, Taylor Wallace of 4A Henley and Ashley Baldovino of 3A/2A/1A Lakeview are back for more.

"Our conferences down here are bringing a huge amount of runners who could do very well up there across the board," says Crater coach Justin Loftus.

Included are individual conference champs from the 6A Southwest in Drew Jordan of the North Medford boys and Piper Delaney of the South Medford girls.

The Elliott brothers, senior Zach and junior Josh, have the best times in the state for any classification. At the Brooks Harrier Classic in Albany Oct. 4, Zach clocked 15 minutes, 27.7 seconds to Josh's 15:28.2 for 5,000 meters.

They backed those times up a week later, each running a few seconds slower but still posting times in the low 15:30s that are the state's next-best times.

"I try not to read too much into times," says Loftus, "because all the courses are so different. But in head-to-head matchups, they (Elliotts) have come out on top and have faced everybody in the state. Time-wise, they're the best, and they've proved it on two different courses."

Three runners return who finished ahead of both Elliotts at state last year. The best of them, based on this fall's results, is Tim Costin of Springfield. He placed fifth in 2007, one spot ahead of Zach and well ahead of Josh, who was 15th.

However, the Elliotts each have a couple 15-second-range wins over Costin in back-to-back meets earlier this month.

In hypothetical team scoring, taking each runner's best time this year, Crater wins in a landslide over contenders Cleveland, Wilsonville and Klamath Union.

And there's no mistaking the Comet boys are peaking for state. Last year, they focused on big meets earlier in the season and did well enough to earn a No. 5 national ranking. But subpar performances at district and state followed and led Loftus to rethink his approach.

"Just making it to this race was our focus," he says.

Mindful that "anything can happen at state," Loftus still says, "If we have a good race at state, it will be hard for us to get beat."

The Crater girls will be hard-pressed to duplicate last year's record-shattering state showing, when they scored the fewest number of team points (16) for any classification or gender in history.

Summit, Corvallis and Crescent Valley all dope out ahead of the Comets and all have head-to-head wins over Crater.

But one Comet, senior Kayleigh Tyerman, isn't expected to see the backs of many foes. She paced the Comets' eye-popping effort last year by finishing second overall to since-graduated Michelly Foley of Crook County.

This year, Tyerman has the fastest time in 5A at 18:08.7. Her nearest pursuer is Foley's little sister, sophomore Kellie, with a mark almost 18 seconds slower.

"She's as prepared for this as she can be," says Loftus. "She's been waiting for this for a while. She's definitely put in the work. She hasn't stopped training since the state meet ended last year."

The St. Mary's girls aren't as big of favorites as the Crater boys, but they have reason to believe a second straight title is within reach. Back from last year's top five finish at state are Mary Bennion, Rebecca Tribelhorn, Morgan Martin and Emily Reeder.

Bennion, runner-up to Baldovino last year, ranks eighth in the state going in. Baldovino, a junior who won titles her first two years, ranks third.

On the boys side, Rogue River junior Cole Watson has the No. 2 3A/2A/1A time at 16:07.8, less than three seconds behind Michael Sherman of McKenzie.

In 6A, Delaney ranks 12th with a season's best of 18:53.50, and Jordan is 26th at 16:15.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com