What is typically the strongest cross country section in NorCal?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

2015 NCS Division III Pre-Season Rankings (Boys) by Campolindo Assistant coach, Andy Lindquist

Overview: Much like in 2013, the 2014 cross country season was another epic battle between Bishop O’Dowd and Campolindo for the NCS DIII team title. In one of the most interesting races in recent memory, ‘Campo’ managed to pull off the win over O’Dowd despite having no runner place in the top 7. It was a true team effort as the Cougars had an exceptional pack margin of 29 seconds between their 1st and 5th finisher. This was enough to counteract O’Dowd’s fearsome front 3 who all placed ahead of Campo’s #1. With Bishop O’Dowd graduating the majority of its team, it looks like there will be a new challenger who will try to unseat Campolindo as they attempt for a 3-peat. The last team to win 3 in a row in this division was (you guessed it) Campolindo back in 2003-2005. The next challengers to the Cougar’s supremacy are old rivals: Piner, who is moving back up into DIII after 3 seasons in DIV, and Petaluma, who is on the rise again after being dormant for the past 4 seasons. Both of these programs have been major rivals to Campolindo over the years and will no doubt put pressure on ‘Chuck’s Army’ yet again this upcoming season. DFAL rivals Las Lomas and Miramonte figure to factor into the remaining state meet slots, but will have to have great summers in order to challenge the depth of the top 3 teams.

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


Anonymous said...

What about Chuck Woolridge?

Anonymous said...

Chuck who?

Anonymous said...

Why isn't odowd higher?

Anonymous said...

Who is coaching O'Dowd next season?

Anonymous said...

I see why Campolindo haters are out there. They get all the talent and always win.

Anonymous said...

Why is Piner and Petaluma ranked so high....... both teams have not done much in recent years.... San Rafael and O'Dowd will beat both those teams at NCS and it won't be close.

Andrew said...

SR and BOD - what do they return? BOD has Downs and some solid runners moving up from F/S. SR has the young Kabbara, but looks like they graduate a ton. The other XC returners appear to not have run track (only after a quick glance on athletic.net).

Both Petaluma and Piner are discussed in the rankings and I think deserve the spots Andy gave them.

Anonymous said...

I know Campolindo has a great coach, but they were good before too. How is it that one school is so good all the time? It is coaching but there's more to it. Even Arcadia or Long Beach Poly has ups and downs. So why are some schools so much better than others?

Albert Caruana said...

No question that a good coach is the key component to any successful program. Before Chuck Wooldridge, Chris Walsh did a great job at Campolindo so that is a lot of years of excellent leadership at the same school.

TheMightyAcorn said...

Anonymous @ 7:36 am - Good coaching and building a strong team culture and tradition is the big difference. As for getting all the talent, this is just an excuse for the schools that underperform on a regular basis. There are schools in the same league and section that draw students from a similar demographic so the only explanation is the program has done a better job on a consistent basis of developing talent...

Mendel said...

Let's be honest. Yes environmental factors come into play: culture, coaching, parent support, $$$. But genetics (i.e. TALENT) is the key ingredient. Anyone who says otherwise is doing so out of faith, not science. They want it to be about them. It's not. You can be the best coach in the world but you can't coach someone to a level they are incapable of becoming.

Campolindo is very good. They are a school that attracts running talent.

To those who say it is coaching I say this: is it talent why they haven't won more state titles or is it they just need a better coach?

Anonymous said...

I disagree Mendel. A lot of it is coaching. In CCS I can tell you what teams will have the best sprinters, jumpers, distance runners, weight throwers, pole vaulters, jumpers, etc. There may be some outsiders but year after year the same teams will have the best events if the coach stays. A lot of times you find the outsiders are using the best coaching outside of their school.

Its a easy excuse to blame it on the athlete.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know if St Francis can beat Bellermine in the fall?

Anonymous said...

Would it be possible to have one of these mid-season?

Jim He said...

Is it possible for CCS Pre-Season rankings for each division?

Albert Caruana said...

We will have updates throughout the season.

Albert Caruana said...

I am sure Hank Lawson at www.lynbrooksports.com will post Walt Van Zant's pre-season lists which include all divisions.

Anonymous said...

Mendel, how do you explain last year's NCS D3 race? Campolindo had less talent than BOD, yet they won. There can't be one key ingredient. Talent is important, but the way in which talent is developed is more important. All 4 schools in the AUHSD attract similar talent, yet it is one team that consistently comes out on top.

Anonymous said...

Genetic talent is difficult to put a value on. Who is to say one runner is more talented than someone else? Perhaps Campolindo runners are more talented but were underperforming. I do agree that BOD did have more talent up front and they beat the Campolindo runners to prove it. They did not have depth, which is why they lost the team battle. "Talent" or genetics is and always will be THE factor to dermic who is better and who is not. I am not arguing environmental factors such as coaching, culture, etc. do not influence results, they do. But not as much as talent.

Your argument is flawed, schools do not draw equal talent. Bottom line is coaches are only as good as their athletes. Anyone who says otherwise is pumping up their own egos.

Albert Caruana said...

Bishop O'Dowd had the better talent up front (top 3) but Campolindo won the section with their depth (4-7).

There is no question that teams cannot win without talent but good programs have a coach and culture present in order for that talent to succeed.

Anonymous said...

Funny how BOD's loss to Campolindo is attributed to lack of depth as one can easily argue they had much more "talent" returning in the Fall of 2014 than just the top 3. Going into last year's XC season they returned five runners vs Campolindo's four and:
- #4 had a 4:34 1600 PR, which was faster than anyone at Campolindo
- #5 had faster 1600/3200 PRs than three of Campolindo's top 7 PLUS
- #6 had a faster 1600 PR than Campolindo's # 6 and a faster 3200 PR than 6 & 7
- #7 had similar PRs as Campolindo's #7 and was faster than #6

So what happened to BOD's 1-7 talent advantage as Campolindo put 6 in front of BOD's #4 at both NCS and State (and #7 in front of #5 at NCS)?

As for the talent vs coaching/culture argument, both are important. Just as coaches are only as good as their athletes, the same can be said in the opposite - athletes are only as good as their coaching. And It's impossible to measure which school's have more "talent" as some will never surface at the weaker programs.

What's even more laughable are the comments by Mendel a couple of days ago that Campolindo attracts more talent. Here is the reality:

- Running is a minor sport. A high school's running program falls very low (if at all) on most parents' priorities when choosing a place to live and finding a school district/high school for their children.
- The vast majority of incoming freshman parents at Campolindo (95%?) have no idea the school has a successful XC/track program.
- Most of the kids started running at Campolindo (e.g. Leach & Finnane) so obviously they didn't take their "talents" there to run.
- On the boys side, if Campolindo is really attracting more running "talent" then it would be easily apparent in the results of the 9th graders. But if you compare Campolindo's frosh boys over the past years vs the other three DFAL schools in the Acalanes Union High School District, which have similar demographics, it's clear that Campolindo does not have a "talent" advantage.

No one argues that talent is a big factor but it's comical to think coaching/culture doesn't play a significant role or some public schools get more "talent" than others on a regular basis....

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @3:43PM awesome comment.

As for Anonymous @10:27AM, you're simply wrong. Talent does play a key role, but it is not THE determining factor, as you put it. Aidan Goltra had apparent talent his first two years at Las Lomas. But he would not have won two state titles had he stayed there. His move to Campo gave him the tools he needed to rise to the next level, and its impossible to add talent. His talent alone would not have abled him to beat Smith and then Tamagno and Luna. And if you think Campolindo underperformed last year compared to their talent than you weren't paying attention. Coach Woolridge gets the most out of his athletes regardless of their talent.

Anonymous said...

Geeze, this gets worse and worse. Faith moves mountains right? You just need to believe.

You all need to take a biology course. A good motivator draws out the best in people. But they NEVER will perform beyond their genetic ceiling. It's called science.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 9:28 PM, I'm pretty sure that the argument is that many athletes only reach their genetic ceiling with good coaching.

East Bay Parent said...

The argument against a coach's importance would hold water if all programs conducted the same workouts and the difference between coaches was simply their personality. Given those circumstances, I agree that talent would win out on a very consistent basis. It simply is not the reality though. Some coaches believe in high mileage, some believe in low mileage but fast intervals, some are good at getting certain types of runners to respond to training, others are great at recognizing strengths and weaknesses of their athletes and adjusting accordingly. I'm willing to bet that the workouts at Campolindo are different than the workouts at other schools just as the workouts at any school will be different from the rest. Could the Campolindo athletes simply be more talented? I guess, but over such a long period of time, it seems doubtful. It is more likely that Coach Woolridge just does a good job of providing workouts that work for his clientele.

Anonymous said...

Great comments by East Bay Parent. The problem with this whole "talent" discussion is it's impossible to measure unless everyone is doing the same thing. Also, not everyone develops at the same rate or time.

Here is a good example as it really shows how difficult it is to spot "talent" in underclassmen boys unless it manifests itself right away. Here are the sophomore track 1600/3200 PRs (with freshman times in parentheses) of three of the top boys who have come out of NCS over the past several years. One graduated two years before the other two:

4:47/10:12 (freshman: injured but probably around 5 for 1600)

4:23/9:35 (freshman: 4:06/8:55 for 1500/3000)

4:22/9:33 (freshman: 4:26/9:47)

Based on Frosh/Soph PRs alone, #2 & #3 were clearly more "talented" than runner #1. However the gap closed by their senior years with #2 & 3 still faster. Senior year PRs were:



4:10 mile/8:54

Was #1's "talent" held back by his coaching or did his coaching help him realize his "talent" by the end of high school?

As a side note, all three have moved on to the next level and #1 made a NCAA final, #2 redshirted his first year and #3 ran in the 13:50s for 5000m his first year....

Anonymous said...

If you are running 4:20's as a freshman and making an NCAA final you are genetically elite. Bad example. Most coaches would probably say their job is to just not screw them up. But if you want to take full credit go ahead. Truth is they'd be good no matter what.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 1:58 PM - Unfortunately, you failed in reading comprehension so probably don't fall under the genetically elite intelligence group.

The one who made the NCAA final in the 1500 last year was runner #1, who only ran around 5 minutes for 1600 as a freshman and 4:47/10:12 as a sophomore. Solid times but would you have said he was genetically elite back then? Or only now that he's run sub 4 in the mile and 13:33 over 5000m?

Anonymous said...

Wrong. All three are genetically talented. Runner #1 obviously a late bloomer.

Since you are arguing it is culture and coaching that is the major influence how do you explain his success at CAL?

Coach Ozzie said...

I believe the 3 runners in the above case study are Joyce, Hurlock, and Huxham. Where Thomas exhibited considerably more improvement in high school, he came into the game with a lot less experience than Hurlock (I don't know how much Huxham had run prior to entering high school). His considerable improvement may have been due to maturation over his four years at Campo, or due to Chuck's training plan, but if he had a few years of training prior to getting to high school, he may have been just as fast or faster than Blair and Fred. Take nothing away from any of these runners, but to judge the merits of any of these coaches based on those three athletes is not a fair sample.

Here's my take on the impact of a coach on an athlete. I agree with the poster who says that an athlete can never surpass his or her genetic limitations. I would argue though that most athletes do not even begin to approach their genetic limitations. Part of this is due to the fact that most athletes have other priorities besides truly being as good as they can be. They have grades to consider as well as other interests, and in many cases, issues with confidence, and aversion to too much discomfort. A coach can mitigate some of those issues, but the coach alone cannot solve those problems.

Every coach is going to be different, with a different value system and different philosophy for his or her team. Some teams are dead set on winning at all costs and some don't care whatsoever and just want to make the experience as fun as possible for all involved regardless of results. Most coaches will lie somewhere in between. Now let's take a look at three hypothetical sets of 50 athletes. One group of athletes is on a team who believes in a low mileage approach, does not provide an off-season plan, and just wants athletes to come out in August ready to start running. At the end of four years, the dedicated runners are running sporadically in the summer and maxing out at about 35 miles per week. Group 2 is in a program where the coach believes in a methodical build-up, provides a detailed plan for each season, and from season to season, and at the end of four years, those who have safely progressed through each stage are running 60 miles per week. Set 3 run for a team where the coach does not understand some of the fundamentals of training, but has heard that some of the successful programs in the area run 60 miles per week, so he or she assigns his or her athletes 60 miles per week thinking that this will be the thing that brings home the team victory.

Any of these three scenarios might produce the fastest individual runner. As the above poster notes, talent could very easily override the coaching here. But if we watched these 3 programs year in and year out, assuming that they did not adjust with time (a relatively dumb assumption), my money would be on program number 2 to win more often than not. They are executing intelligent training that is leading athletes to eventually doing more work at a level that they can sustain. Will any of these athletes eclipse their natural limits? No, as noted earlier, that is impossible. But did the runners in Program #1 or program #3 even approach their natural limits?

A coach can only provide an athlete with an opportunity to fulfill his or her athletic destiny. The coach cannot provide a destiny that isn't already there. But in Northern California, we have a lot of coaches that do a really good job at helping their athletes achieve their potential.

Anonymous said...

Will throw out a few more things here to address the last two comments:

Anonymous @ 4:10pm - Yes, Joyce is genetically talented, but are you saying he is succeeding at CAL despite the coaching? While I know they don't have the greatest record developing all the talent they get, have you ever thought that maybe the coaching/training is the right fit for Joyce? Or do you think he could run 3:39/13:33 at any program?

Coach Ozzie - Great post and you are right about the three athletes. However I question your comment that your "money would be on program number 2 to win more often than not."Personally I think they do a better job developing talent at the individual level (Huxham is a prime example) but have been less consistent year in and year out winning at the team level in XC. Given the "talent" they get, shouldn't they be challenging for NCS titles every year?

Anonymous said...

To everyone ragging on Campo; Slide by some official NCS practices (Saturdays at Hayward) in a few months. You'll want to get there before your team shows up and look for the organized group doing core.

Coach Ozzie said...

I'm sorry if I was unclear in my post. When I referenced programs #1, #2, and #3 I was talking about the hypotheticals in my post, not De La Salle, Campo, and Redwood. I have a ton of respect for all three of those programs.

Steve Palladino said...

Outcomes in HS distance running are multifactorial. Coaching no doubt plays a +/- role. Inherited physiologic abilities and biomechanical parameters of the athlete certainly also plays an improtant role n the development and outcomes for an individual athlete. When it comes to programs, things like program culture, community economics, and total gene pool from which the program draws also come into play.

If you dismess individual genetics, and the total gene pool from which a program draws, then one might falsely conclude that nearly all of the good coaches reside in SoCal ;-)

Anonymous said...


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