Last year's race for the NCS title was a back and forth affair between the top 3 teams in the Diablo Foothill Athletic League (DFAL): Campolindo, Acalanes, and Miramonte, with Miramonte ultimately prevailing at the section finals and winning their first section crown since 2001. In fact, it was the first time a team not named Campolindo, Maria Carillo or Petaluma had won an NCS title since 2002. This year, the standings look to be shaken up a bit as both Bishop O'Dowd and Redwood look to move up and challenge for the section title. Both Miramonte and Acalanes lose a good portion of their varsity teams from last season and will need to fill in some major gaps, while Chuck's Army (Campolindo) returns a good portion of their top 7, led by defending NCS and state champion Aidan Goltra. Here are the rankings in order with overviews of each team. Note: I know nothing with regards to transfers, so it is of course possible that with the new transfer rule in place, one or two students moving schools could drastically affect these rankings. (Also my apologies for being a bit DFAL centric with the write ups but that is the league I know best) So here they are:
1. Bishop O'Dowd: Last year's 3rd place team returns 5 varsity runners, led by senior Andrew Melendez who has run 9:32 in the 3200 as well as 15:29 at the Hayward course at last year's WACC XC finals. Backing him up are a strong support cast including rising soph Nick Downs who clocked a 4:33 1600m this past track season to go along with a 17:02 mark at the Clovis invitational last fall. Junior Riley Cooke also has a productive track season dropping a 4:34 1600m while the Burke twins, Colin (9:46 3200m in track) and Sean (16:04 at Hayward last fall at the WACC finals) look to round out the scorers. Also returning is Julian Siow who owns a personal best of 16:47 at the Woodward Park course. These 6 should give O'Dowd a solid and talented group of runners, however depth may be a concern if one or two go down with injury or have an off day. As it stands now, with this many quality returners, look for the Dragons to be a major factor and favorite this coming fall as they look to capture their first section title since 1995.
2. Campolindo: The Cougars managed to extend their DFAL unbeaten streak to 5 consecutive seasons last year in capturing the regular season and league championship titles. However, they had a major off day at the section finals and struggled to a 4th place finish only to flip the script on the rest of the NCS at state in landing a 6th place finish, besting the rest of the section. Led by defending section and state champ Aidan Goltra, Campo will have a big advantage considering the fact that Goltra is likely to score 1 point in each race to help keep the score low. However, it is not a one man show as seniors Ben Weinberg and Will Moran, who both court pr's in the 16:40s at Woodward Park, had solid track seasons with both dipping under the 10 minute barrier in the 3200. Senior Walter Brennan, who was normally Campo's number 4 runner last year, was injured for the majority of the track season and was only able to put up a 4:42 1600. However, his pr of 16:36 at Woodward Park puts him right in with the rest of the cougars scoring contingent. The real key to the success of Chuck's Army year in and year out (Campo has made the state meet each year since 2002 and has finished in the top 10 each of those years) would be the depth at the frosh/soph and jv levels. Last year's DFAL JV Champion, Issac Valverde as well as key frosh/soph components in junior Kevin Buckley (4:47 1600 this past spring) and sophomore Nathanel Saurberg (4:46) are key returners that could make a major impact. 2012 DFAL frosh/soph champ Parker Lothamer competed as a sprinter this past track season, so it remains to be seen if he can close the gap and make it into the top 7. With a load of talent and depth, the key for Campo will be closing down the gap between the 2-5 scorers and getting new varsity members up to speed when it comes to racing the 3 mile distance as non-varsity races in the DFAL are 2 miles not 3. That being said, the cougars have the potential to close the gap on O'Dowd and take home another section crown.
3. Miramonte: The Matadors came up big last year to capture the section title. With the core of their team graduating, it will take a step up effort from the lower level runners in order to maintain a spot in the top 4, but on paper, things appear to be in their favor right now. The top returner at this point looks to be Charlie Zamanian who ran 16:40 at state last year and ran 9:45 in the 3200 this past track season. Behind him, it looks to be swiftly rising junior Brian Haulfer who clocked a 4:30 1600 during track. Backing them up would be Dennis Finger (17:13 at state) and Miles Mccaulou who ran 17:24 at state and 10:17 in the 3200m this track season. Miramonte also produced a number of quality frosh/soph runners with Andrew Lewis being the best of them, running 10:23 in the 3200 and 4:42 in the 1600 at the DFAL frosh/soph finals this spring. Rounding out the list of returners are Jeff Lee and Sid Bagga, who have pr's at 10:26 and 10:32 respectively for 3200m. It will be critical for Miramonte to work on closing down the gap between scorers and giving the newer varsity members enough time to adjust to the rigors of competition on the varsity level. They have a young group of guys that are all relatively close together and it will take all of them stepping up as a group to close down on the distance between them and the top of the DFAL.
4. Redwood: Last year, Redwood narrowly missed out on a state meet berth finishing 5th. Look for them to move up this year and make it back to state as a team. The Giants are led by a fantastic 1-2 punch in Fred Huxham and Andy Ehrenberg who finished 2nd and 10th respectively at last year's NCS MOC finals and continued that momentum through to the track season as well with Huxham running a 4:14 1600 and Ehrenberg running a 9:49 3200. Backing them up are juniors Austin Heller and Culley Desisinger who clocked 4:45 and 4:44 respectively in the 1600 at the MCAL finals this track season. Other returners include Blake Alm and Dillon Foehre who will give Redwood enough depth to challenge any of the teams vying for a top 4 spot. It will be critical for the Giants to hone down the back end of the pack and close the gap between the 3,4,5 runners and the front 2. If that can be done look for the Giants to mix it up and contend with the top end schools in the section.
5. Acalanes: The big news surrounding Acalanes has to do with a coaching change that recently took place. Long time coaches Manny Myers and Tad Beach both retired and David Bayliss, a long time youth club coach, has stepped into the head coaching position. He will have two great building blocks in senior Michael Wang, who rocked to a 4:14 1600m this past spring, and sophomore Cameron Gaskell who clocked the 4th fastest frosh 3200m time in the state with a 9:28 during track. The next returner after those two would be Alec Webber who ran a 17:07 at last year's DFAL finals on the brutal Hidden Valley Park course (a course that compares favorably to Woodward). However, after that there is a bit of a drop, as the next potential varsity runner would be junior Nima Leclerc who finished 8th at last year's DFAL frosh/soph championships and has a personal best of 17:42 at Woodward park. The steep drop off continues as it would appear that Jared Ericksen would be next in the scoring order, with a personal best of 19:34 at Woodward Park. In order for Acalanes to be competitive and secure a state meet berth, it is paramount to work on gradually bringing the younger athletes along in training so that they can make an impact. Acalanes usually gets an impact frosh or two so look for the dons to be in the mix for a spot in the top 4.
On the Bubble: Las Lomas, Petaluma, Ygnacio Valley
Thank you to Andy for the above rankings. Feel free to add your thoughts on this division in the comment section below. Girls' Division III rankings will be posted next.