Overview: Last season Campolindo blew away the competition scoring a low 25 points at the NCS meet and continued that domination by winning a state title the following week. With 6 of the top 7 returning for the Cougars, the bar is set even higher for Campo which seeks its 2nd straight state title and 3rd in 5 seasons. However, Bishop O'Dowd has significantly closed the gap on Campo by virtue of returning its entire top 5 from a year ago, with all of them having remarkable track seasons. DFAL opponents Las Lomas and Miramonte have made steady gains over the spring track season and will look to lock down one of the 4 qualifying spots to the state meet. Tamalpais returns their entire top 7 from a year ago and will also look to challenge for a podium position and a trip to state. Of course some teams will get impact freshmen but for now this is how things look.
1. Campolindo: The machine that is Chuck's Army appears primed to pick up where they left off last season and with the progress made during the track season they appear ready to defend their state and NCS titles. Leading the way is defending NCS champion and state runner up Brighie Leach who, despite missing time due to injury during the track season, was able to knock down some big personal bests running 2:17 in the 800m and 4:54 in the 1600m placing 9th at the state meet in that event. Mary Orders also excelled, breaking the 11:00 barrier in the 3200m by cruising to a 10:58 in addition to a 5:04 1600m time. These two alone are enough up front firepower to strike fear into the hearts of most teams, but it is Campolindo's depth beyond #1-2 that makes them so difficult to beat. Senior Rachel Johnson, a critical component of last years title run with seasonal bests of 11:18 and 5:15 this track season should play another big part this year as well. Junior Hana Sun rebounded from an injury riddled fall to rip a 5:10 1600m making it very likely that the cougars will have an overpowering front end presence in most races. The biggest wildcard for Campo is Junior Sarah Cella, who had an impressive fall XC season in rising to being the team's #4 scorer during the post-season. During track Cella took it to a whole other level in roaring to a 2:16 800m performance while also finishing in 4th place at MOC. Track times are not always indicative of cross country success but with a talented group of teammates to train with, she could continue to make huge strides and provide Campo with an unreal front end. Varsity returnees Robin Powell (5:35 and 12:06) and Sarah Shipway (5:49 and 12:42) are ready to bolster the back end after making continued progress over the spring. With an astonishing amount of front-running talent and a solid back end, look for Campo to continue their domination this season.
2. Bishop O’Dowd: After finally making to the state meet last season via a 3rd place finish at NCS, the Dragons struggled to a 12th place finish in Fresno well back of plenty of teams they had soundly beaten a month earlier at the Mt.Sac invite. The stage is set for a much better performance this year as O'Dowd returns the majority of their team from last year, all of whom had fantastic track seasons. Sophomore Linnea Gullikson, who was not even in the varsity lineup last year, made huge progress running 5:37 in the 1600m and 12:04 in the 3200m. Last seasons front runners Jourdan Amen (5th place at NCS) and Julia Cooke (7th place) continued to improve running 11:11 and 11:12 in the 3200. Grace Taylor was not too far behind them, clocking 11:18 in the 3200 but what makes Bishop O'Dowd so strong is their remarkably solid pack margin. Alyssa Byer was yet another sub 11:30 performer with a personal best of 11:26 in addition to running 5:13 in the 1600m. Right behind her is Meredith Nix, another key returner who ran 5:15. Having a pack this good has both positive and negative aspects: having the chance to train and race together is a big stress reliever as the pack can pull people to fast times and high placings. However, it is also negative because there are no ace frontrunners to keep the team score low in big meets. With so many great teams in the section/state possessing these quality frontrunners it makes it difficult for a pack centric team such as O'Dowd to beat those teams in a large meet where having a low scoring ace is so essential. As it stands now, O'Dowd has come on strong and is a threat for a top 2 finish at NCS and a top 5 finish at the state meet if their pack continues to develop.
3. Las Lomas: After a successful fall which saw them finish 2nd at NCS and 5th at the state meet, the knights look to continue their recent hot streak and grab another spot to state. Last years NCS runner up and state 4th placer Chloe Hansel really stepped it up during the track season in running 4:54 in the 1600 to give Las Lomas an impressive #1 who will score low points for them in every meet. Sophomore Sydney Polich also had success around the oval this spring in running 11:40 for 3200m along with Samantha Coopersmith who clocked a 5:44 1600m. Add in veterans Megan Wenzel (18:59 at Hayward) and Elise Stankus (19:14 at Hayward) who both placed in the top 20 at last years NCS championship and you have a solid core of runners. The most important aspect will be how much Las Lomas can close down the margin between their #1 and #2-5 as maintaining a closer pack will yield much better results.
4. Miramonte: Last season provided plenty of heartbreak for the Matadors as they were only 11 points away from qualifying for the state meet for the first time since 2006. Look for things to change this year as they return a great deal of talent and look for finally get over the hump to Fresno. Sophomore Hannah Fishlow came out of nowhere in the track season to blitz a 5:10 1600m time. That coupled with a 19:21 clocking at last year's Clovis Invite shows that she has the potential to make a big impact this upcoming season. Arden Creason, who was Miramonte's #1 at NCS last year focused more on the sprints this year but managed to put up a respectable 2:23 in the 800m while her 19:15 personal best on the Hayward course shows she has the endurance ability. Georgia Roden also had success in the middle distances, rolling to a 2:18 800m time and with a steady summer of training could rise up to being a big contributing factor. Rounding out the scorers are Sondra Abruzzo and Sarah Rockwood, both veterans who had solid track seasons in the 3200m running 12:11 and 12:31. Throw in sophomore Madison Alvarado (12:20) and the matadors have all the right pieces in place to make a run at a state meet birth. Competing against rival Campolindo in the DFAL will give them plenty of opportunities to measure themselves against high level competition.
5. Tamalpais: Returning their entire top 7 from last season's NCS championship meet, Tam has the potential to move up in these rankings and challenge Las Lomas and Miramonte for state meet berths. The Red Tailed Hawks are lead by sophomore Katie Miekley who had a big personal breakthrough on the track running 5:11 for 1600m. Sophomore Lizzy Labeeuw-Anderson also broke through in a big way in the spring, vaulting from the pack end of the pack in XC to a 5:29 1600m clocking. Right behind her was Olivia Phillips in 5:32. Tam has a great deal of depth as evidenced by Megan Bartschat and Gianna Garza who both ran at or under the 12:00 barrier in the 3200m. Add in veterans Hadley Clark and Bella Amyx and Tam looks like the dark-horse pick to step up and surprise people at the end of the season. Again much like some of the other teams above, the focus has to be on bringing down the pack margin and ensuring that all members of the scoring 5 can be fit enough to move up with the front end of the field in larger races.
On the Bubble: Albany, Petaluma, Acalanes