"Matt likes to go out and take control from the very beginning, and see who'll come out with him," Bias said. "Eventually, he's going to drop somebody."
In the girls AAA race, Panger is a solid favorite to finish second. First is another matter, as University senior Amelia Paladino is running in a different orbit.
But Panger, a junior, enters the state meet undefeated and wants to eventually break 5 minutes in the mile. Coach Jared Smith said she increased her training mileage in the offseason and that, along with a lot more work running hills, has helped her immensely.
"Paladino is going to go down as one of the best in state history," Smith said. "Peyton is going for everybody, but I wouldn't be surprised if she got close to her this year."
Dent leads a Hurricane team that wants to make a run at meet favorite Morgantown, yet needs to keep rival Winfield at arm's length. Now a senior, Dent finished seventh in the 2011 meet.
Freshman Anna Gordon is also a top-10 candidate, and Joie Johnston would have been if not for a stress fracture that sidelined her for the season. Winfield has several runners who could crack the top 20, even the top 10: Brittney McMillion, Rachael Englund, freshman Alyssa Rittinger and Krissy Rich. McMillion and Englund finished 15th and 18th, respectively, in 2012.
In girls AA-A, Peyton Mullen can crack the top 10 if she's fully recovered from a recent bout with pneumonia. Freshman Hannan Gacek is another top-20 candidate. On the boys side, Catholic has Caden McClanahan will shoot for the top 10 after a 22nd-place finish in 2012.
Buffalo sophomore Hayden Harrison, who was 23rd last year, will try to follow in the footsteps of former teammate Dylan Rich.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.