Since her sophomore year, Hannah Kelly has been a mainstay in Loyola’s lineup.

Now a senior, she enters this season as the team’s No. 1 runner after the graduation of Louisa Edwards, Annie Foley, Payton Hoag, Lainey McKinley and Emily Plodzeen. McKinley was the lone Rambler to qualify for the Class 3A state meet last season.

“You can tell she worked really hard over the summer,” Loyola head coach ChrisJon Simon said. “She made a commitment to be the best runner on the team, and it’s showing.”

Simon pointed to a workout she did last week at Harms Woods as proof. Not only were Kelly’s times better than a year ago, they rivaled ones by last season’s best runners.

“She’s doing really well,” he said. “Her speed and stamina are better.”

At Saturday’s season-opening meet at Lewis University in Romeoville, Kelly led Loyola by placing ninth. The course is the site of the GCAC meet.

Junior Alex Guzzardo is the other runner to return from last year’s postseason lineup. She was second on the Ramblers at Lewis by finishing 16th. Loyola took fourth in the nine-team field, which was won by host St. Ignatius.

Seniors Ellie Slattery and Reagan Robertson both are back after being in the rotation last season. Newcomers to watch, according to Simon, are sophomores Hayes Flanagan and Claudia Herman. At Lewis, Herman finished 19th.

“Hayes never ran before, but we’re glad she’s here,” Simon said. “She could be a star.”

Simon said as many as nine runners are in the mix for starting spots this season.

“This team doesn’t have the same experience or depth as years past, but it’s one that could really surprise people,” he said. “We could be really good.”