"This will be the first meet that we've run what we consider our varsity team," Hurricane Girls Coach Bill Posey said.
For much of the year, the Redskins competed without two of their top runners in Baylee Summers and Joie Johnston, who suffered injuries.
The pair will rejoin the other Hurricane girls who have excelled in their absence. Junior Tori Dent enters the race rated the fifth-best in the state and will look to defend her MSAC title.
In addition to Dent and Capital's Panger, four other girls at the MSAC race rank in the state's top 20: Kaylee Williams (12th, Parkersburg), Emily Schwendiman (15th, Hurricane), Jorden Thornton (16th, Cabell Midland) and Ali Cunningham (20th, Ripley).
The Hurricane girls, ranked second in the state, will battle third-ranked Parkersburg and seventh-rated Midland for the MSAC team title.
On the boys side, No. 1 Midland figures to run away with the championship behind a solid squad led by top boys runner Jacob Burcham.
"Jacob will be attempting to defend the individual MSAC title for the fourth straight year," Knights Coach Chris Parsons said. "Each week, Burcham is getting in better shape aerobically and producing better performances each time he steps on the course."
Burcham's greatest test during the MSAC meet will be from GW's Matthew Brafford, ranked third in the state. In fact, on paper, the boys race appears to be quite competitive with 10 runners ranked within the state's top 20 for Class AAA. In addition to Midland, MSAC teams Parkersburg (T-third), Ripley (fifth), Hurricane (eighth) and Huntington (10th) all rank within the state's top 10.
Parsons said perhaps most importantly, the MSAC race will help him determine who will represent the Knights at region.
"Though one of our goals is for our boys to defend the team title, we are still in search for our top seven boys and also girls for the regional and state meets," he said. "Both our girls and boys are battling among each other to attempt to secure a top seven spot and as of now, there is no clear cut seven on either side of our teams."
The MSAC is certainly important to each of the runners and teams, but more than a title, the race represents an opportunity and stepping stone to further success.
"We want to be MSAC champions," Posey said. "That's always a goal. We have three goals and it's always to win that meet, win regionals and to run as high as we can in the state meet. We're going to go into it with the expectations of doing the best we can."