1. Campolindo: After being the underdogs for the majority of the past 2 seasons, the machine known to many as ‘Chuck’s Army’ are firmly installed as the favorites to secure their 3rd straight NCS team title as they return 5 out of their top 7 from last season, plus add in a great deal of promising young upstarts. Leading the way is precocious junior to be JJ Yabu who seems ready to continue the legacy of past Campolindo greats (Thomas Joyce/Aidan Goltra) and battle it out for the individual title after an astonishing track season in which he dipped under 4:30 in the 1600 (4:29) and roared to a 9:29 in the 3200, both exceptional times for a sophomore. Right on his heels is veteran Nathaniel Sauerberg whose 4:31/9:41 performances in the 1600/3200 will provide an even greater front end presence for the cougars. As usual, Campo has a crazy amount of depth with Ray Diaz (4:38/10:05), Gabriel Valverde-Turner (10:05), Richard Gong (4:40/10:13), and Kyle Flett (4:46/10:23), all excelling this track season in the 1600/3200 on the frosh/soph level and will look to move up and make a massive impact on varsity this fall. Varsity veteran Miguel Baliwag was right there as well with his 4:44/10:15 performances in the 1600/3200 giving Campo an impressive 7 returners at or below 10:15 for the 3200. The biggest x factor for the Cougars is senior Jonathan Semenza who dazzled during last XC season, running 16:19 at the state meet as the #2 finisher for Campo. He appeared to struggle at times during the track season, ‘only’ managing to run 4:38 and 10:02 in the 1600/3200. If he can continue to improve and regain his form of a year ago, the Cougars become even more deadly. As it stands now, Chuck’s Army is the favorite to take home the team title, much of the chagrin of the countless detractors and critics who anonymously bash the program for its success.
2. Piner: After a few down years it appears that Piner is back on the upswing in a big way this coming cross country season. It was not too long ago that the Prospectors were one of the top teams in the NCS, pushing Campolindo to the brink at the 2011 NCS meet and then knocking off the Cougars for the final podium spot a week later at the state meet. Look for a similar battle to ensue this year as Piner has their sights set on reeling in Campolindo. While some teams struggle when moving up divisions it would appear that Piner will have no trouble in this regard and have clearly shown a wicked improvement curve this track season; don’t let their 7th place finish in Division IV last year fool you: the Prospectors are a force to be reckoned with this fall. Senior Aidan Carpenter raced to a 4:31 this track season to firmly plant him as a legit frontrunner, while fellow senior Jacob Hayes also dipped under the 4:40 barrier, running 4:36 in the 1600. Jonny Vargas ran exceptionally well for a freshmen this track season clocking 4:41/9:54 in the 1600/3200 and should be a big factor for the Prospectors as they aim to close the gap on their opponents. Backing up this talented trio are seniors Brian Loung (4:40 1600) and Eduardo Calderon (4:42/10:11 1600/3200) who give Piner a fairly tight pack margin to work with. So long as this group can coalesce and work on training and racing together as a team their impressive improvement curve should continue. At this point in time Piner looks to be in great position to make a return to the state meet and the team with the tools necessary to reel in defending champion Campolindo.
3. Petaluma: Before Piner, the Trojans of Petaluma were the natural rivals to Campolindo in this division, narrowly losing to them in one of the greatest showdowns in sectional history at the 2008 NCS meet. The next two years Petaluma halted the Cougar’s title hopes, taking home the team title in both the 2009 and 2010 seasons. The following season a coaching change took place, bringing with it a downturn which has seen the Trojans fail to qualify to the state meet as a team the past 4 seasons. Look for that to change this year as former Petaluma standout Cole Yungert has turned things around in a big way. Ultra talented freshmen twins Will (4:33/1:57 1600/800) and Jack Dunbar (4:34 1600) thrived this spring and will no doubt continue their momentum this fall, giving Petaluma two impressive frontrunners. Sophomore PJ Lynch also notched a big improvement around the oval rocketing to a 4:42 1600 while junior veteran Edden Yashar also made progress running 4:47 in the 1600. Rounding out the upstart crew is another legit underclassman in sophomore Rory Rodgers (4:50 1600) giving Petaluma the depth needed to make a move up this list. Right now Petaluma is only a few steps behind Piner so a big summer and a big breakout by any of the aforementioned athletes could close the gap considerably.
4. Las Lomas: The Knights impressed last fall, managing to grab 3rd place at the NCS meet, only 7 points back of runner up Bishop O’Dowd, and 18 points back of 1st place Campolindo. Look for a similar situation this year as Las Lomas returns their entire top 5. Leading the way as usual are Tom Robey and Danny Jervis who ran exceptionally well during the track season, both clocking identical performances of 4:25 in the 1600. After that the rest of the returners seemed to stagnate as Kyle Ivy (4:53 1600) and Tristian Chung (10:43 3200) put up respectable times but were not factors in those events by the end of the season. However, track times do not always correlate to cross country success, so look for both of them to rebound this fall. Ultra talented freshmen Reese Liberman put up solid times in the 1600 and 3200 (4:52/10:35) to give the Knights the foundation needed to catch up to the top teams in this division. In order for Las Lomas to close in on the 3 teams ranked ahead of them it will take a commitment to pulling the 3-4-5 scorers closer to their lead duo, as a weakness at those scoring positions will lead to an inflated score come championship season.
5. Miramonte: The Matadors lose a lot from graduation but the talent pool is still deep enough to put them in great position to make the state meet. Christian Gonzalez made his mark in the middle distances this track season, rolling to a 1:56 in the 800m to make the final at the NCS Meet of Champions. He showed his great aerobic strength as well, running 4:30 in the 1600. Backing him up are the Bull brothers: Pete (10:07), Edward (10:15), and James (10:36) who all posted respectable times in the 3200 during the track season. Behind them it looks like Kyle Finger (10:44 3200) is the next one up. Miramonte always has a large team which will no doubt give them plenty of more talent to back up this crew moving forward.
On the bubble: Bishop O’Dowd, Acalanes, San Rafael, Albany