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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Division V Pre-Season Rankings

Boys 800: 1:54.73, 1:54.88, 2:00.37, 2:00.53
Girls 800: 2:15.39, 2:15.65, 2:24.39, 2:25.22
Boys 1600: 4:11.74, 4:25.73, 4:27.40, 4:31.38
Girls 1600: 4:57.35, 5:17.86, 5:18.35, 5:20.58
Boys 3200: 9:45.52, 9:50.25, 9:52.94, 9:54.03
Girls 3200: 11:35.87, 11:44.37, 11:54.98

Division V is a lightly regarded division but as you can see by the above times from the just completed Track season, there is certainly no lack of talent. Those times were all recorded by North Coast Section (NCS) athletes. If I were to expand to times from other sections, I would have to include a certain sophomore from Mission Bay, who happens to also be a Division V athlete.

SF University (UHS) had their streak of 10 NCS girls' titles broken by Crystal Springs Uplands (CSU) two years ago. The boys had their own streak of 7 broken last year by College Prep (CPS). Now if you were to conclude that the UHS team is on a downslide, think again. The Red Devils finished in 2nd in both Division V races last year with scores of 62 for the girls and 68 for the boys. During Track, they had two runners qualify for the state meet (Andrea Imhoff in the 1600 and Elliot Wehner in the 800). Both teams return the majority of their top 7 from last year and will be a factor once again.

Based on the success of the Division V boys' team the past three years, the NCS gained one more entry into the state meet this season. At last year's state meet, 4 NCS teams placed in the top 11 with the top two teams, CPS and UHS, in 2nd and 4th respectively. With the extra entry this year, more teams will now have the incentive for a state meet run. The top two teams will once again be CPS and UHS. They return the most experienced group from last year's teams with College Prep getting the nod based on the strength of their top three runners, Jamie Lawrence, Casey Knudsen and Charlie Sauter. The rest of the top five will be a battle between Bay Counties League West rivals Lick Wilmerding, Stuart Hall and Crystal Springs Uplands. Berean Christian with the return of all their talented sophomores will be in the mix as well. Several teams from up north could be a factor with South Fork and their two impressive seniors while Rincon Valley Christian and St. Vincent return their entire top 7. St. Joseph Notre Dame drops down to Division with their top four runners returning.

With the graduation of St. Helena's Brian Cole, the individual favorite will be Hank Carl of South Fork who finished 2nd last year. Carl had a 10th place finish at the CA state XC meet and went on to record times of 4:35.64 and 9:49.84 around the oval. His teammate, Michael Radenbaugh, finished 16th last year in Hayward but watch out for him this coming season. He recorded 2:00.53 and 4:36.64 during the 2007 Track season. Victor Ho is the next best returner from last year's NCS XC meet with a 4th place finish. Time will tell if he is ready to challenge for the individual title as he had a subpar ending to his Track season. The remaining contenders for the individual title will all be seniors this year: Zach Nave of Santa Rosa Christian (2:05.03 and 4:31.38), Thomas Bliska of Marin Academy (4:39.87 and 10:02.55) and Jamie Lawrence (4:35.10).

The girls race should shape up to another clash between CSU and UHS. Both teams lose a senior who has been instrumental in their success the past four years, Maddie Rozwat for CSU and Andrea Imhof for UHS. They both return 5 out of their top 7 and will be formidable again in this section. An impact freshman will be necessary for both teams to get back to the state meet podium. Marin Academy is the next best team but their success will hinge on a healthy return of Alesandra Roger. College Prep returns 4 out of their top 7 from last year and will be in contention for the state meet after just missing last year. The best team out of the north appears to be Sonoma Academy and their front runner, Grace Hafner, a state meet qualifier last year.

The girls' individual battle will be an interesting one. Defending champion, MA's Roger, will be a senior but had her track season curtailed by a back injury. Her health is still in question so we won't know of her status until mid-season. CSU has the next top returners with senior Alysha de Souza and junior Aimee Raleigh. de Souza recorded personal records on the track running 5:28.85 and 11:44.37 while Raleigh recorded a 9th place finish at the XC state meet. UHS could possibly have their own dynamic duo with Margaret Wehner who had an outstanding freshman Track season with 2:24.39/5:17.86 clockings. Cecilia Furlong was impressive on the track with 5:31.76 and 11:35.78. She has played Volleyball in the past so her participation is questionable.

Division V Boys (Top 5 Advance to state)
1) College Prep-Have the best firepower up front.
2) University-They will, at the very least, finish 2nd.
3) Lick Wilmerding-Return 5 of top 7 from 4th place team.
4) Berean Christian-Young team finished 5th last year.
5) Stuart Hall-Poised to make 1st state meet in school history.
On the bubble: Crystal Springs Uplands, South Fork, St. Joseph Notre Dame

Top 5 returning individuals, (place) & 2006 NCS meet time:
Hank Carl (2) South Fork 16:01
Victor Ho (4) Chinese Christian 16:08
Jamie Lawrence (7) College Prep 16:21
Zach Nave (8) Santa Rosa Christian 16:23
Thomas Bliska (9) Marin Academy 16:28

Division V Girls (Top 4 Advance to state)
1) Crystal Springs Uplands-Can win their 3rd straight NCS title.
2) University-In position to reclaim their crown.
3) Marin Academy-Finished here last year.
4) College Prep-Ready to join boys to state meet.
5) Lick Wilmerding-Consistenly good program.
On the bubble: Convent, Berean Christian, Sonoma Academy

Top 5 returning individuals, (place) & 2006 NCS meet time:
Alesandra Roger (1) Marin Academy 18:29
Alysha de Souza (3) Crystal Springs Uplands 19:11
Aimee Raleigh (7) Crystal Springs Uplands 19:24
Margaret Wehner (6) SF University 19:59
Emily Erickson (9) College Prep 20:11

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Division IV Pre-Season Rankings

When you look at the past five NCS Division IV boys' races, two teams have top 5 finishes in every championship. The first team is Arcata which has finished 1st in 2002, 5th in 2003, 5th in 2004, 5th in 2005 and 3rd in 2006. Piedmont is the other team with the multiple top 5 finishes with a 3rd in 2002, 1st in 2003, 2nd in 2004, 1st in 2005 (state champions) and 2nd in 2006. St. Mary's College appears to have joined those two as one of the top teams in Division IV by finishing in 4th in 2004, 2nd in 2005 and 1st in 2006.

They will once again be the favorites to repeat this year as they return every runner except their #2, Rob Riccardi. Their leader is Matt Duffy who had a spectacular season last year winning several invitationals (Ed Sias Small School Varsity, Stanford Invitational Division IV, and the Clovis Invitational Division 4 Small Races), the NCS Division IV race and a 7th place finish at the state meet. Duffy went on to record times in Track and Field from 800 to 3200 of 1:58.72, 4:19.18 and 9:23.12. As one Division IV coach said, "Duffy should be able to change his shoes and start his cool down before 2nd place comes in."

With St. Mary's safely locked into the top spot for the team championship, Moreau Catholic seems to return the next best group of runners as they return their top 4 runners and their 6th man. They are also no strangers to success as they have won two NCS titles in the past six years. That would leave one spot remaining for a team to enjoy a Thanksgiving getaway in lovely Fresno, California. At the time of this preview, I will include Sir Francis Drake, Arcata and Piedmont in the battle for that last spot.

With Duffy as the strong favorite for the title, the following group of runners should be part of the chase pack: Brian Fix of Moreau Catholic (4:42.75 and 10:27.71), Kenny Smith of Willits (4:36.74 and 10:06.39), and Joe Withers of Cardinal Newman (1:59.60 and 4:33.51). Watch out for another Newman runner, sophomore Brian King, who was the fastest freshman racer in 12th place. With the ability to train and race with Withers, King should see great improvement during his 2nd year of XC.

During the middle of the 2006 season, Piedmont had problems trying to field a complete girls' team at several of their league meets. When it came to the championship part of the season, they put it all together to win the BSAL and NCS crowns. Quite a season to go from pre-season favorites, mid-season nobody's to late season champions. So here I am again picking Piedmont as the favorites for 2007. The order for the rest of the pre-season rankings will be very similar to the finish of last year's NCS meet with the lone exception being St. Mary's leapfrogging Moreau Catholic for the #2 spot. This is due to the return of their impressive top three runners, Alex Choy (5:23.22 and 12:03.33), Margot Sullivan (5:20.21 and 11:59.56) and Taylor Lawson (2:20.49).

The individual favorite will be Sarah Sumpter of Healdsburg who finished in 2nd place last year as a junior following a 46th place finish during her sophomore season. She also returns with the best track credentials with 1600/3200 times of 5:19.71 and 11:05.74. Not surprisingly, her closest competitors were all freshmen last year: Jamie Kent of Piedmont (11:05.97), Theresa Devine of Marin Catholic, Luz Mejia of Encinal (2:28.21, and Allie Maher of Arcata. Senior to be, Kelsey Ripp of San Rafael, will also be in the mix as she finished in the top 10 last year as a Junior.

Division IV Boys (Top 3 Advance to state)
1) St. Mary's College-Defending champions will make it two in a row.
2) Moreau Catholic-The Fix is in for next NCS finisher.
3) Sir Francis Drake-Bill Taylor's 25th year at the helm of the boys.
4) Arcata-Mystery team from up north will challenge again.
5) Piedmont-History puts them here despite rebuilding year.
On the bubble: San Rafael, Cardinal Newman

Top 5 returning individuals, (place) & 2006 NCS meet time:
Matt Duffy (6) St. Mary's College 15:25
Brian Fix (5) Moreau Catholic 16:08
Kenny Smith (7) Willits 16:10
Joe Withers (8) Cardinal Newman 16:18
Joaquin Smith (11) Arcata 16:23

Division IV Girls (Top 3 Advance to state)
1) Piedmont-Defending champions with 9 lives.
2) St. Mary's Colllege-Top 3 return to challenge Highlanders.
3) Moreau Catholic-One of largest Div. IV teams.
4) Arcata-Sophomore Maher will lead the way.
5) San Rafael-Can they crack the top 3 this year?
One the bubble: Sir Francis Drake, Ursuline

Top 5 returning individuals, (place) & 2006 NCS meet time:
Sarah Sumpter (2) Healdsburg 18:20
Jamie Kent (3) Piedmont 18:56
Theresa Devine (4) Marin Catholic 19:00
Luz Mejia (6) Encinal 19:33
Allie Maher (7) Arcata 19:39

Feel free to comment on above rankings. Division V coming soon.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

NCS Division III Pre-Season Rankings

Historically, Division III has been one of the most competitive divisions for the North Coast Section at the state meet. The four state meet berths for both boys and girls are proof of the division's strength. This year, lots of questions abound in this division. Can the Acalanes boys make one last run at the NCS title? How will Maria Carrillo finish with the departure of coach Danny Aldridge? Will Eureka make in impact in this division? Is Las Lomas ready to move to the top of this girls' division? Will the two defending champions, Laurie Finnegan of Campolindo and Greg Drosky of Las Lomas, repeat? To paraphrase from the old Batman series, tune in next season, same NCS time, same NCS channel, to find out!

Last year, Maria Carrillo, Acalanes and Campolindo staged a great 3 team race for the NCS boys' title. The teams finished in that order with scores of 61, 67 and 73 respectively. The team's fifth runners finished at 21, 22 and 25. It doesn't get much closer than that. The favorites, at this point, for this coming XC season will be Campolindo and Maria Carrillo. Both teams return 4 out of their 7 competitors from their 2006 NCS teams. The Pumas will have three runners (Nathan Huckeba, Grant Wlliams and Alex Hartz) who all broke 10 minutes in the 3200 this past Track season. The Cougars will have a strong class of Juniors (Garret Holmes (update-will not run XC), Ross Geiger and Michael Brondello) who ran 4:33.77, 4:36.01, 4:40.55 respectively at the DFAL F/S Track finals. That junior group also includes their top returners from last year's NCS team, Nate Cox, Robert Pulford, Colby Pines and Jarrett Hendrickson. It's a coin flip at this point so to begin the rankings for this season, I am going with the defending champions, Maria Carrillo.

The favorite for the individual title has to be Greg Drosky of Las Lomas, the defending champion. Not resting on his XC laurels, Drosky went on to record a 9:23.90 3200 meter time which qualified him for the CA state track meet. Nate Beach (4:26.21 and 9:34.93) of Acalanes should also be in the mix as he has finished 3rd, the last two XC seasons at NCS. James Attarian of Dublin recorded an outstanding 4:17.87 to finished 2nd to Brian Cole at the NCS MOC in the 1600m. His teammate Jeremy Grace (9:43.76) along with state meet qualifier from last year, Zeal Levin of Bishop O'Dowd will be in the mix. Nathan Huckeba of Maria Carrillo was impressive during track season recording a season best of 9:32.61.

The girls team title should go through defending champion Campolindo which has won 4 out of the past 7 championships. They return the defending champion, Laurie Finnegan, as well as an army of young runners which includes their #3 runner, Lisa Rosenthal . Maria Carrillo loses their top three runners but the Curtin twins, ( Lauren 2:23.35/5:16.75 and Cara 2:27.93/5:16.09) are ready to make their impact on the XC team. Las Lomas and Redwood return all 7 runners from their 2006 NCS teams and could give the Cougars and Pumas a run for the title. There is no doubt in my mind that a very good team is going to finish 5th at NCS and not be able to participate in the state meet. It could possibly be one of the four teams mentioned above.

Campo's Finny (5:13.17 and 11:25.87) should be the favorite to repeat as the NCS champion. The next five runners that finished behind her as well as Maria Carrillo's Kristen Sanzari have all graduated. Despite all that, her road to the championship will not be easy. The two Maria Carrillo runners showed much promise during Track season and could be contenders. Libby Brokaw of Las Lomas was the top freshman from last year's NCS MOC as she finished 7th. Two runners (Miramonte's Elaine Tanski and Bishop O'Dowd's Alexi Pappas) that were not able to run at last year's NCS meet could possibly return this year and be in the mix for the individual title.

Division III Boys (Top 4 Advance to state)
1) Maria Carrillo-Huckeba will lead Pumas this year.
2) Campolindo-Strong Junior class can challenge for NCS title.
3) Las Lomas-Young, talented team with Drosky leading the way.
4) Acalanes-Capable of beating any of the top 3 teams.
5) Eureka-Could be wild card team here.
On the bubble: Miramonte, Alhambra, Redwood

Top 5 returning individuals, (place) & 2006 NCS meet time:
Greg Drosky (1) 15:18
Nate Beach (3) Acalanes 15:30
James Attarian (4) Dublin 15:30
Jeremy Grace (7) Dublin 16:03
Zeal Levin (9) Bishop O'Dowd 16:09

Division III Girls (Top 4 Advance to state)
1) Campolindo-Can they repeat without Sparky?
2) Maria Carrillo-Have the talent to reload and contend once again.
3) Las Lomas-Top 7 runners ALL back.
4) Redwood-Also return top 7 runners.
5) Bishop O’Dowd-Return of Pappas would make them contender.
One the bubble: Miramonte, Acalanes, Albany

Top 5 returning individuals, (place) & 2006 NCS meet time:
Laurie Finnegan (1) Campolindo 18:21
Libby Brokaw (7) Las Lomas 19:04
Anna Smidebush (8) Concord 19:12
Hannah Farazmand (9) Redwood 19:14
Lisa Rosenthal (10) Campolindo 19:16

From 2005
Elaine Tanski (3) Miramonte 17:59
Alexi Pappas (4) Bishop O'Dowd 18:02

Division IV will be posted next. Feel free to comment on above rankings.

Friday, June 15, 2007

NCS Division II Pre-Season Rankings

The 2006 NCS Division II boys' race was easily one of the most competitive at last year's Meet of Champions on the Hayward HS course. Petaluma was the heavy favorite following their sweep (1-5) at their league final. Montgomery was an impressive 2nd to Maria Carrillo in the NBL finals led by eventual NCS champion, Blake McDowell. De La Salle was well, De La Salle. Going back to 1990, DLS has won 10 NCS titles combined in Division I and II. The wild card was Eureka HS which has not been a stranger to success with their 3 NCS titles as well as a state championship in 1999.

While Petaluma did win the race, it certainly wasn't as easy as many anticipated. Eureka gave Petaluma all they can handle packing their five runners before Petaluma's 5th runner. Any way you look at it, it was a great battle for NCS title as well as the state meet births. De La Salle, without the majority of runners that won three consecutive NCS titles, ran their best race of the year to capture the last state meet qualifying spot. Montgomery missed out on qualifying to the state meet while running very well as their top six runners finished in the top 33.

This year, the team favorite will once again be Petaluma. They return every team member and with 5 juniors in their top 6, they will be a force to reckon with for at least two more years. With Eureka losing 3 out of their top 5 and possibly moved to Division III, Petaluma's closest pursuers appear to be De La Salle. While they do lose their #1 runner Alex Davies, the rest of the team is back. Montgomery without McDowell and last year's #2 runner, Jeremy Cutcher, still has a nice pack that will contend.

The individual title for the boys will have to go through Sterling Lockert of Petaluma. He finished 13th as a freshman and 3rd last year as a sophomore. He also recorded an impressive 9:23.55 at the NCS MOC for Track to qualify for his first and definitely not last state Track meet. Teammates Brandon Felipe (4:39.67 and 9:58.07) and Devin Lockert, Sterling's twin (4:28.64 and 10:08.89), along with Nathanael Litwiller of Clayton Valley (4:21.61 and 9:46.9h) should all be part of the lead pack.

Carondelet is the best girls' team in NCS and oh by the way, defending Division II state champions. They return everybody with their top two runners (Nicole Hood and Heather Cerney) just completing their freshmen years. This could be the beginning of a long string of titles for this very talented group of runners. Their closest pursuers appear to be Washington and their lead runner, Elizabeth Raymond.

The race at the front of the girls' lead pack will feature the three best runners from this past Track and Field season. Much heralded freshmen Jacque Taylor of Casa Grande and Nicole Hood of Carandelet received all the press during XC season and much of the Track season. However at the NCS Meet of Champions meet, Diana George of Livermore completed a very difficult double, winning the 1600 (4:52.83) and 3200 (10:38.16). Taylor narrowly defeated George at the state meet as they both finished in the top 5 (10:34.39 and 10:35.55). Should be a great battle between the two front runners (Taylor and Hood) and the kicker (George).

Division II Boys (Top 3 teams advance to state)
1) Petaluma-Clear favorite for consecutive titles.
2) De La Salle-Solid 2nd, can they challenge Petaluma?
3) Montgomery-Just missed state meet last year.
4) Washington-Young team from last year all back.
5) Eureka-Loggers might be in Div. III.
On the bubble: Santa Rosa, Arroyo

Top 5 returning individuals, (place) & 2006 NCS meet time:
Sterling Lockert (3) Petaluma 15:54
Nathanael Litwiller (5) Clayton Valley 16:00
Brandon Felipe (6) Petaluma 16:01
Devin Lockert (9) Petaluma 16:05
Eric Johnson (11) De La Salle 16:12

Division II Girls (Top 3 teams advance to state)
1) Carondelet-Reserve rooms for Fresno now.
2) Washington-Return top 3 runners.
3) Montgomery-Celeste Berg leads the way.
4) Santa Rosa-Top 5 return after 5th place finish.
5) Casa Grande-Looking to qualifying for first state meet as a team.
On the bubble: Livermore, Alameda

Top 5 returning individuals, (place) & 2006 NCS meet time:
Jacque Taylor (1) Casa Grande 17:23
Nicole Hood (2) Carondelet 17:53
Kellie Houser (3) Carondelet 17:59
Heather Cerney (4) Carondelet 18:17
Sara Alliotti (6) Carondelet 18:29
From Div. I-Diana George (2) Livermore 18:08

Feel free to comment on the above rankings. Division III will be posted by end of the week.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

NCS Division I Pre-Season Rankings

After one year of testing the waters of prognostications, here are my second attempts at predicting the top cross country teams in the North Coast Section (NCS). When one thinks of the best harrier squads in NCS, several teams quickly come to mind: De La Salle, College Park, Campolindo, Piedmont and SF University. Now before anybody gets all up in arms about not being included on that list, check out the all time team championship lists for (boys and girls) on the NCS website. Those five schools have won more team titles in the past 7 years than any other teams.

Of course, things do change and several up and coming teams are poised to join those elite teams. With coaching moves, transfers as well as hot shot freshmen, this time of year is always the most difficult time to rank teams. I am always open to feedback so feel free to comment on any of the following picks.

This year's meet will once again take place at Hayward High School. For those of you that need a refresher on the course, you can check out the following two maps, an old school version thanks to the NCS website or this one courtesy of the Miramonte XC website. For the top ten list of times for the Hayward Course at the NCS MOC, you can view that list at this link once again thanks to the NCS website. There has been confusion in the past about the course length but it is in fact 3.0 miles, just shy of being a true 5K course.

Let's begin with Division I teams (Schools with enrollments above 2,111 students) which will have 19 schools that could potentially compete for those elusive spots to Fresno. Without a doubt, this is the most difficult division at the state meet which has left the NCS with only two state meet berths. The returning team champions for both boys and girls will be College Park High School. At this point, the Falcons will be the favorite to repeat as NCS champions but Castro Valley will have something to say about that. CP will be guided by their 3rd coach in the past three seasons although this coach is no stranger to the program as former athlete and coach, Melissa Ridings, takes the helm.

The seven runners that competed at last year's NCS MOC for the Castro Valley girls ALL return. They will be after their 2nd NCS XC championship following their first title in 2004. With those two teams battling for the NCS title, the rest of the teams can only hope for those two teams to slip which may open the door for Livermore or Granada.

The favorite for the individual title will be the returning champion, Alycia Cridebring of College Park. With Livermore and Diana George dropping down to Division II this year, her challenge to repeat should be much easier. George ran a very close 2nd last year and recorded an impressive double at the NCS Meet of Champions winning the 1600 and 3200 races turning back two of the most talented freshmen in California (Carondelet's Nicole Hood and Casa Grande's Jacque Taylor) in both races. With the loss of George from this division, the top five returners were all freshmen last year. That list includes Cridebring, Chelsea Schneider and Pam MacLoed of Castro Valley, Collen Lillig of California and Kelsey Gallagher of College Park.

The College Park boys won convincingly last year but they will have to defend their title without recently graduated, 2006 individual champion, Andy Peabody. They do return the deepest senior class of any team which makes them the favorite. Castro Valley returns the top tandem of any teams in this division with seniors James Fazzio and Jack Leng. The rest of the top five teams from last year (Deer Valley, San Ramon Valley and Liberty) should be considered contenders again despite some heavy losses due to graduation. Amador Valley, Monte Vista and Foothill appear to have the most returners and should be in the hunt in November.

The top two runners from last year's meet, CP's Peabody and Douglas Whichard of Granada, will be competing in the college ranks this coming season. The top returners are listed below with no clear cut favorite. Junior Wyatt Landrum is the top returner as he finished in 3rd place last year. You would also have to add the two Castro Valley runners as well as fearless front runner, Dimitry Kislyuk of California. Monte Vista's Bhavik Kanzaria should also be in the picture as he finished in the top 10 at the NCS Meet of Champions 3200 meter final.

Division I Boys (Top 2 teams advance to state)
1) College Park-NCS Champions 4 out of past 6 years.
2) Castro Valley-Strong duo up front.
3) San Ramon Valley-Will need to make up ground to catch top 2 teams.
4) Amador Valley-Young team that could impress later in the season.
5) Liberty-Fastest returner, Wyatt Landrum, leads the way.
On the bubble: Deer Valley, Foothill, Granada, Monte Vista

Top 5 returning individuals, (place) and 2006 NCS meet time:
Wyatt Landrum (3) Liberty 15:36
James Fazzio (4) Castro Valley 15:46
Dimitry Kislyuk (5) California 15:52
Jack Leng (7) Castro Valley 15:55
Josh Chaidez (10) College Park 16:10

Division I Girls (Top 2 teams advance to state)
1) College Park-Can 3rd coach in 3 years continue NCS run of titles?
2) Castro Valley-Strong Trojan group can unseed the Falcons.
3) Granada-Returns 2 through 5 from last year's 3rd place team.
4) California-Individual state meet qualifier Collen Lillig leads the way.
5) Monte Vista-Return 4 out of top 5 from last year.
On the bubble: Antioch, San Ramon Valley, Amador Valley, Arroyo

Top 5 returning individuals, (place) and 2006 NCS meet time:
Alycia Cridebring (1) College Park 18:07
Chelsea Schneider (4) Castro Valley 18:53
Pamela MacLeod (6) Castro Valley 19:06
Colleen Lillig (7) California 19:13
Kelsey Gallagher (9) College Park 19:19

Feel free to comment on the above rankings. Division II will be posted soon.