Certain athletes stand to face greater expectations in 2019.
And certain stars stand to face greater pressures and greater ambitions.
As the modern landscape of cross country has changed, so has the athlete. Very few athletes with championship aspirations in recent times have settled simply for in-state tune-ups. Greater numbers are flocking to out-of-state competitions where they can test their ability against athletes from all corners.
Many have made the figurative leap forward.
But when looking at the 2019 season, there are also stories within the traditional storylines: Which athletes are seeking national championships, which ones are becoming leaders and accepting the challenge, which ones are searching for their one shining moment?
These seven athletes below all have something to prove in 2019.
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Nico Young/Cole Sprout, Newbury Park (CA)/Valor Christian (CO)
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This fall begins the battle for a national championship, and it begins the potential year-long duel of Nico Young and Cole Sprout.
The pair from California and Colorado have faced off just twice in their careers, first at NXN, where Sprout was third to Young's fourth-place -- and they were separated by just two seconds.
And then there was the Arcadia Invitational, where Young out kicked Sprout to the line in the 3,200m by tenths of a second, winning in 8:40.00.
A new season sparks new expectations. And these two, with all due respect to many other athletes, are the front runners for an NXN title in 2019.
Sprout has set records on Colorado soil and won state championships. Young had his breakthrough in 2018 and scored a few titles of his own over the calendar year.
Each will likely look to continue in that ascent -- Young, for instance, has eyes on breaking Galen Rupp's national record of 13:37.91 on the track in the 5K.
But with the fate of a national title in the balance in 2019, these two will be markedly focused throughout the fall campaign.
Carlos Shultz, Loudoun Valley (VA)
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There's no doubt Shultz will feel, at least in some small way, pressure in 2019. He's the top returning runner on the two-time defending NXN champion Vikings.
And he was the top finisher on Loudoun Valley's squad at NXN last year, which is no small feat.
So a new year will elicit a new role for a runner like Shultz, who will be counted on as a No. 1 for a team that still stands to be one of the best in the country. This past spring wasn't bad for the high school senior, who produced a title in the 3,200m in 9:19.94 and ran 4:19.69 in the 1,600m.
But there will be more urgency with every run.
He may be asked to lead the troops in 2018 -- whether by virtue of his words or actions, or both -- and will be counted on to produce as a frontrunner on many different occasions.
If nothing else, Shultz will have one wildly important senior season. And more importantly: He could be Loudoun Valley's next breakout star.
Graydon Morris, Aledo (TX)
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Morris is preternaturally gifted in a way that you don't often see in Texas.
Because athletes his size and stature -- he's roughly 6 feet, 4 inches -- usually pick another sport.
But Morris has set himself apart through three seasons in high school, scoring two straight All-American finishes at Foot Locker Nationals while conducting himself in a manner where it seems like every effort is easy as a Saturday stroll. Basically.
He's won two straight state titles in Texas, ran for a USA Track and Field Junior team and even tested himself at 8,000 meters this past fall, finishing seventh at the most recent USATF U20 Cross Country National Championships.
What's eluding Morris is that one big moment. Whether it's a national title or an incredible effort on cross country soil, Morris has a chance to accomplish a new hallmark for his career in 2019.
Nathan Green, Borah (ID)
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Green was the only underclassmen in the top 20 at NXN last year.
And there's no doubt he's a sleeper to have an even bigger performance in 2019. But we largely won't get to see Green's best until late in the season.
Which is why the Idaho junior may shine even earlier this fall.
It's important to know that Green is no surprise star. His rise began in his freshman season when he ran 4:15.81 in the mile, 4:17.53 in the 1,600m and 9:20.11 in the 3,200m -- he owned the nation's top freshman mile and 3,200m time.
He didn't back off as a sophomore, hitting 4:06.20 in the full mile and 9:14.69 in the 3,200m this past spring -- earning the top sophomore 1,500m and mile time for this past spring. Last cross country season, he was second to Evan Holland at NXR Northwest last fall.
There's something about Green -- he's willing to go after big times, big races, and big moments. He exudes competitiveness, and maybe even greater, he's the type of athlete who races better among likewise talent.
Evan Bishop, East Grand Rapids (MI)
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Outside of Colorado, Michigan was one of the top producing states at NXN last year. Three athletes finished among the top 20 finishers at NXN, including Bishop.
But no one would have guessed it.
That's because Bishop didn't venture outside of Michigan until the middle of November.
It wasn't until regional races when he finally showed what he was made of, when he finished eighth and third at Nike and Foot Locker's regionals, respectively. He would follow with an All-American outing at Foot Locker Nationals.
He'll lead a new wave of Michigan athletes over the fall.