But with the emergence of experienced and talented teams from Shawnee and Bridgeton, the Chimeras could be vulnerable in both major and dual meets.
Shawnee coach Tim Gushue stopped short of saying the Renegades would dethrone Willingboro, but said he was confident his club would be a state power. With 20 returning letter-winners, he has reason to be optimistic.
"Frankly, we are strong in every event," Gushue said. "We have solid strength and depth in the hurdles and distance events. Barring injury, we should be one of the dominant teams in New Jersey."
The Renegades should rise to state prominence this season.
Last spring, Gushue's team finished second at the South Jersey Group 4 sectional meet, 10th at the state meet and second in the Burlington County Liberty Division. It finished with an 8-1 overall record.
The Renegades were even more impressive during the recently completed indoor season, finishing second to Hacksensack in the state Group 4 championships in February and winning the state Group 4 Relay Championships in January.
Gushue's club features senior Ed Loges, who won the Group 4 sectional long- jump title last spring and finished first in the high hurdles at the recent All-Groups Championships.
Loges can take part in several events, including the 100, 200 and 400
meters, the long jump and the high hurdles.
Also returning will be junior Aaron Totten-Lancaster, a distance runner who placed second in the 3,200 meters at the state Group 4 meet last season, and who recently enjoyed a superb cross-country campaign. Senior Keith O'Brien, fourth in the state in the 1,600 meters last season, will join Totten- Lancaster in the distance events.
The Renegades will be strong in the field events, too, with senior Marty Wick leading the way in the shot put, discus and javelin. He was first in the javelin last season at the South Jersey Group 4 sectional meet and is a threat to sweep all three events at the sectionals this spring. Senior Mike Ragan has consistently pole-vaulted 13 feet or better and will likely be a consistent point-scorer.
Bridgeton, which finished second in The Inquirer's South Jersey track and field rankings last season, behind Willingboro, will return a talented team under coach Wil Barry.
The Bulldogs enjoyed perhaps the greatest campaign in school history last season, winning the Group 3 state championship and the Cape-Atlantic National Division title with a 9-0 dual-meet record.
"We have experience and some depth, and we should contend for the league title," Barry said. "But we're still young as a whole and we may be rebuilding compared to last year."
Bridgeton, nonetheless, will return several formidable athletes. Senior Dwayne Robinson high-jumped 7 feet at the state championships last season. He finished first in that event at the Meet of Champions.
Also returning will be senior Curt McIntire, a speedster who won the 400
meters at the state Meet of Champions last season and usually contributes several first-place points at major meets.
Junior Rufus Wright, who was fourth in the indoor 55 meters at the state Meet of Champions this winter, also will return, as will Jon Griffin, a junior javelin thrower; Jamil Sanders, a sophomore hurdler, and Andy Bodine, a sophomore shot-putter.
The first major test for Bridgeton and Shawnee will be the Bridgeton Relays in early April, which will be followed one week later by the Woodbury Relays.
"It should be an interesting season, and hopefully we'll be right there with the best of them," Gushue said. "Everyone will get some early indications of how good they are in April."