Overview: Last years battle for the NCS team title saw both Campolindo and Bishop O'Dowd engage in a season long struggle for supremacy with Campo prevailing in decisive fashion at the NCS championship by overpowering the rest of the competition in scoring a low 43 points to O'Dowd's 67. The trend continued the following week as Chuck's Army rolled to a 4th place team finish, with Bishop O'Dowd landing in 9th place. This season, the Dragons return the majority of their team from a year ago and look to flip the script on the defending champions who will need to rebound from the graduation of 2 time state champion Aidan Goltra to continue their winning tradition. Not to be overlooked, 3 other teams from the DFAL: Las Lomas, Miramonte, and Acalanes will seek to close the gap on Campo and O'Dowd and nab a coveted spot at the state meet. With NCS DIII boys now having 5 team spots to the state meet these rankings will be 5 teams deep.
1. Bishop O’Dowd: The Dragons return 4 from last years 2nd place team, the majority of whom had exceptional track seasons to firmly put them in the drivers seat in the quest for the NCS title. Senior Colin Burke leads the way after ripping a 9:23 3200m as he will look to challenge for the individual title after finishing 4th last year, giving O’Dowd a low scoring ace to help in the team competition. Right on his heels is Junior Nick Downs who ran 4:25 in the 1600m this past track season to advance to the NCS Meet of Champions in that event. A personal best of 9:50 in the 3200m points to great aerobic strength as well. Considering he owns a pb of 16:02 at Woodward Park, Downs could provide a deadly 1-2 punch this coming season. Sean Burke (10:01 3200m) and Riley Cooke (4:34 1600m) add more firepower to the proceedings after productive track seasons and will look to improve upon their placings (26th and 27th) from the previous year. Backing up this talented foursome is veteran Joshua Pagila who clocked a 10:43 3200m during track, and Charley Nordin who also sports a 3200m best of 10:43. It will be critical for the Dragons to close down the gap at the back end and find some more depth to fill out their roster in case illness/injury or an off day besets them. However, as it currently stands, Bishop O’Dowd has all the requisite firepower to overwhelm the rest of the division and capture their first section title since 1995.
2. Campolindo: The Cougars stormed through last season on the heels of their remarkable front running prowess and solid supporting cast to lay claim to their 9th section title. This year the task will be considerably more difficult as Chuck’s Army seeks to rebuild after losing a solid portion of their team from a year ago. Unlike past seasons, where Campo could count on exceptional performances from their #1 runner, the key to success this season will depend on developing a solid pack margin between 1-5 to counteract other teams frontrunners. Leading the charge is ultra talented senior Parker Lothamer whose 9th place finish at last years NCS meet makes him the 3rd fastest returner. While focusing on being a member of Campo’s 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams over the spring, Lothamer still managed to roll to a 1:58 800m performance to place in the top 10 at NCS MOC. With a solid summer of training he could develop into a threat to crack into the top 3 individually. Right behind him are the tandem of Kevin Buckley and Nathaniel Sauerberg who both clocked identical 9:57 3200m times this track season and will look to build upon their clutch performances from a year ago. After that things get a little shaky as super talented sophomore Jared Yabu was injured for the majority of the track season and only managed to post a 10:45 performance in the 3200m. However his 21st place 16:14 clocking from a year ago points to great performances if he can remain healthy. Next in line to step up are Jonathan Semenza ( 4:52 1600m 10:21 3200m) and Gabriel Valverde-Turner (4:56, 10:21) who flashed brilliance at the frosh-soph level but will need to make the big adjustment to varsity level racing in order to close down the gap on the lead trio. Veteran Sean Pappa (10:39 3200m) rounds out the squad at this point in time and looks to provide some more depth. For the cougars to prevail it will become critical to hone down the pack margin as the season progresses. As it stands now it will take a quality summer and an unrelenting pack for Chuck’s Army to defend their section title.
3. Las Lomas: The Knights surprised last year in stepping up to a 3rd place finish at NCS and advancing to the state meet. While they do not return a whole lot from last season’s team, some solid frontrunning mixed with a talented influx of upstarts make the Knights a threat to capture another state meet berth. Out in front is Tom Robey who had a very successful sophomore year as he churned out a 9:46 performance in the 3200 in addition to his breakout XC season which saw him run 16:02 at Hayward High school. Right behind him is supremely talented senior Keeson Davis, who rocked to a 4:27 clocking in the 1600m during track. While he had a lackluster post-season in cross country, his personal best of 16:35 at Woodward Park from last year’s Clovis Invitational points to a lot of potential. Behind them are rising junior Daniel Jervis and Tommy Kisylia who ran 10:07 and 10:15 respectively in the 3200m during the spring. Those four should give Las Lomas the up front presence to land a spot in the top 3 and while depth after that is a concern, the Knights routinely have one of the largest XC teams in the section with which to pool talent from. The key will be to focus on bringing up younger athletes to competing against the rigorous DFAL competition which will hopefully provide the team with the experience needed to do well in the post-season.
4. Miramonte: The Matadors continued their state meet streak last season in grabbing the 4th and final qualifying spot to state. With the addition of a 5th team qualifying spot, Miramonte will once again be in the running to advance to the big dance. Varsity returnees Andrew Lewis and Sid Bagga will look to build off of solid track seasons which saw them run 10:12 and 10:10 performances in the 3200m with Lewis dropping down to a 4:35 in the 1600m. Following them is another veteran in Chris Ramirez who sports a personal best of 10:22 in the 3200m and talented Junior to be Pete Bull (10:34). The biggest x factors for Miramonte are their rock solid trio of middle distance talent: Charlie O’Brien, Brian Haufler, and Elliot Fong all ran 2:02 or better in the 800m this track season and if they can make the conversion to the longer distances with a solid summer of training they could be huge impact performers and vault Miramonte into contention for an even higher placing at the end of the season. The lack of a true front runner than can place in the top 10 at NCS is what is really holding the Matadors back at this point in time; however if they can cohesively train over the summer and work on advancing their pack margin they could turn a lot of heads once the fall season starts.
5. Acalanes: After coming up short last season in finishing in 6th place, just 27 spots out of qualifying to the state meet, the Dons look to rise up and capture the last qualifying spot this year for the state meet, in addition to closing down the gap on their rival teams from the DFAL. Out in front is junior Cameron Gaskell who is the top individual returner in this division after finishing 3rd at last year’s NCS meet. Despite being beset by illness during the track season, Gaskell still managed to record 4:25 and 9:30 clockings in the 1600/3200 and will give Acalanes a low score in every race. Backing him up are Nima Leclerc and Alex Kelly, both varsity returners from last season who had solid track seasons with Leclerc (10:11) edging a bit ahead of Kelly (10:32). Add in another returner in Aaron Harman (16:45 at Hayward) and Acalanes possesses the potential to make another team appearance at the state meet. As with most teams, depth is a concern and one that will need to be worked on throughout the season in order to assure that the Dons can match some of the more top heavy teams in the section.
On the Bubble: Analy, Petaluma, Albany
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