Tuesday, June 24, 2014

2014 NCS Division V Pre-Season Rankings (Girls)

The maximum number of teams in each division that can advance to the California state XC meet from each section is 7. Of course, one section dominates with the most auto team qualifiers with 7 in each division and that is the Southern Section. Ever since the inception of the state meet in 1987, I believe no other section has had 7 teams qualify to the state in any division until 2014. Following two decades of success at the state meet, 7 girls teams from the NCS MOC meet will now advance to the state meet. At last year's state meet, the 6 NCS girls' teams finished in 1st, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th and 10th place.

The Branson School won their first cross country state championship last year after a near podium finish (4th place) the season before. They defeated Central Section's Central Valley Christian at the state meet 70-82 after a narrow loss to Lick-Wilmerding the week before by 3 points (60-63) at the NCS meet. Along with '14 grad, Julia Maxwell's 3 state individual championships, the school is certainly no stranger to state championships with 2 girls' basketball state titles (20007, 2008), 3 boys' basketball state titles (2006, 2007, 2008) and 4 girls' volleyball state titles (2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012).
The top four runners from last year's NCS meet were seniors with both Branson and Lick-Wilmerding each led by multiple seniors. This year's meet will definitely be decided by the younger runners especially the incoming freshmen. The slight favorite at this point appears to be the Lick-Wilmerding girls who won their first ever section XC title in 2013 (above). While they lose their top two runners, Molly Dicke and Andie Von Eschen, L-W is one of the largest Division V schools and has plenty of depth to continue their run of success. They will be led by sophomore Jill Reilly (5:28.34/11:46.21) and junior Maddy Nakada (2:26.87/5:26.75) and will return 5 of their top 7 runners from last season. They will be definitely challenged to repeat and a case can be made for 4-5 schools who could upend L-W and win this division.

The Branson girls will need to find a way to replace their top three graduating seniors, Julia Maxwell, Anna Harleen and Allie Williams. This season, they will be led by sophomore Ashley Delgado (2:25.33), who along with teammate Lizzie Reeves both finished in the top 15 at the NCS meet and were part of Branson's first MCAL XC championship team that preceded their state meet victory. They would have more than likely won their first XC section title but chose to rest Harleen for the state meet which turned out to be the right decision. That second place finish may have been a disappointment last year but a 2nd place finish in 2014 would definitely be considered a success.

The Convent girls had their most productive season in school history with a 3rd place finish at the BCL West final, a 3rd place finish at NCS and an even more impressive 5th place finish at the CA state meet. They will be led by senior Camilla Bykhovsky (5:22.14/11:55.38) who rebounded nicely during track season after a shortened XC season. She will be joined by junior Mae Singer (2:35.96, 19:27 and 12th at NCS), senior Sarah Selzer (5:48.66, 19:45 and 22nd at state) and 10th grader Katie Newbold (2:36.02). They will need to solidify the rest of their top 7 in order to repeat or perhaps improve their top team finishes from last season.
Following the passing of legendary coach, Jim Tracy, the University HS girls will be under a new coach (Carin Marrs). For 20 years under Tracy's tutelage, University won 15 league championships, 14 NCS titles and 10 state meet championships (a state record). During his last season, the UHS girls finished in 2nd place in the BCL West, 4th at NCS and 7th at state. This coming season, they will be led by senior Grace Euphrat-Weston (11th at BCL West meet), and sophomore Simone Jacob (2:32.56/5:35.21).

The wild card in this division will be Sonoma Academy, coached by Danny Aldridge. They finished in 10th place at last year's NCS meet with Alyssa Goody their lead runner in 8th place. She went on to finish in 13th place at the state meet with a time of 19:25. This year, she will be joined by freshman phenom, Rylee Bowen, who just ran 4:58.57 (mile), 7:11.43 (2k steeple) and 11:27.44 (2 miles) at the New Balance National meet. More on her later. She will also have a couple of freshmen teammates that are sub 21:00 5k runners. Junior Lilly Reinstein (2:27.14/5:28.43), sick during the last part of the XC season, rebounded with an excellent Track and Field season. Provided those 5 runners can all stay healthy, Sonoma Academy will definitely be in state meet contention and with some inspired running, could break into the top 3.

The rest of the contenders will be familiar ones for those that follow the NCS Division V scene. Urban HS finished in 6th place at NCS and followed that up with a 10th place finish at state. They lose their #3 runner from last year but will have the return of a healthy Molly Carleton who ran 2:18.39 at the NCS MOC track and field meet. The Athenian girls return 6 of their top 7 from last year including sophomore Grace Brown (2:22.71/5:24.91) and junior Rebecca Elliott (2:25.18/5:36.30). They will be in search of a new coach this coming season as their previous coach, Phillip Hadley, will be moving back home, north of the border. The College Prep girls may have been overlooked during University's run of 4 straight state championships, but they had 3 straight podium finishes between 2009 and 2011. They will be led once again by veteran coach, Jack Coakley and sophomore Maya Zimmerman (11th place at NCS meet). CPS finished out of the state meet qualifying positions with a 7th place finish last year but that finishing position will not exclude you from the state meet this season.

The individual winner this coming season will not be named Julia Maxwell after her 3 straight individual titles. It will also not be Lucy McCullough after her 4 straight victories preceding Maxwell. We could however have another McCullough at the top of the heap with younger sister Bevin taking a shot at adding to the family trophy case. She finished in 6th place last season at the section meet and 15th at the state meet but had an even more impressive track and field season. She recorded her season best time of 5:02.94 at the NCS MOC meet to finish in 7th place. She also ran 11:34.09 at the Class A Meet. She will need to get past Veronica Aguila of St. Joseph Notre Dame who finished just ahead of her at the section meet with a 5th place finish. McCullough will also need to contend with Sonoma Academy freshman, Rylee Bowen who has been chomping at the bit to race in high school. In fact, she has taken on collegians already and fared quite well including a victory in the Santa Clara Invitational Open Race (below). The rest of the challengers have already been mentioned with many of them looking to extend their track success to the fall season.
Division V Girls (Top 7 Advance to state)
1) Lick Wilmerding-Could win their 2nd straight section title.
2) Convent-Will look to continue last season's success with healthy Camilla Bykhovsky.
3) Branson-They will need immediate freshman help to replace top 3 graduates.
4) Sonoma Academy-They could finish higher but we will start them here.
5) Urban-A healthy Molly Carleton starts the Blue with a very low stick.
6) University-A tradition of athletic success never graduates.
7) Athenian-Best team from BCL East.
Top 5 returning individuals, (place) and 2013 NCS meet time:
Veronica Aguila (5) St. Joseph Notre Dame 18:53
Bevin McCullough (6) Marin Academy 19:03
Grace Brown (7) Athenian 19:05
Alyssa Goody (9) Sonoma Academy 19:14
Maya Zimmerman (11) College Prep 19:27

Please feel free to chime in on the rankings above. I won't be offended if you strongly disagree as the above rankings are meant to be a launching pad for conversation. Fortunately section titles and state meet berths are decided by the runners themselves. Did I miss any teams or individuals? Any other impact freshmen that we should know about?

Boys coming up next...


Anonymous said...

Nice ranking and write-up. Hard hard to disagree with any of it.

I think Rylee Bowen is about to go on a 4 year domination that makes Lucy McCullough and Julia Maxwell's multiyear runs at the top look like small potatoes. Whether the rest of the Sonoma Academy crew will have enough to get past the usual crop of BCL contenders as a team is the only question.

With Maxwell, Harleen, Dicke, and Von Eschen all graduating, Division V may be more wide open than it has been in a long time.

Anonymous said...

Boys D5 rankings coming soon???

Albert Caruana said...

They will be posted next week.

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