This coming season, 3 boys teams and 4 girls teams will automatically qualify to the state meet from this division. Several teams who have been Division III teams in the past will now compete in this division including state meet contenders Bishop O'Dowd and Miramonte. Without further ado, here are my pre-season rankings for teams and individuals that will potentially contend for state meet berths on slightly changed Hayward HS cross country course.
For the girls, the team favorite will be the already mentioned Bishop O'Dowd. The school has competed in Division III for over a decade now but the last time they competed in this division in 2004, the result was a section title. BOD was led by individual section champion Ariel Wright and then unknown freshman, Alexi Pappas. She will be competing in the upcoming Olympics for Greece and you can read about her in the just posted article in Rolling Stone magazine at this LINK. BOD returns their entire team from last year's Division III 2nd place team including individual champion, Grace Taylor (17:30.1 at Hayward). They will be challenged by the defending Division IV section champion, Piedmont. The Highlanders return 6 of their 7 participants from last year's section meet and will be led by sophomore, Erin Hong (5:31.30/11:57.36). Miramonte, another Division III competitor last year, finished in 5th place but will be looking for a state meet qualifying spot this year. Also in the mix will be '15 state meet qualifiers McKinleyville and Arcata. Both teams lost their #1 runner but will have the majority of their team members back.
One thing for certain is that Morgin Coonfield will not win the individual title. Following a 4th place finish as a freshman in 2012, Coonfield ran with three straight individual titles. She will be taking her talents to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo which means that Division IV will have a new individual champion. It is however possible that a returning champion from last year could win this division. Grace Taylor of Bishop O'Dowd won the Division III race with a time of 17:30.1. She will compete in this division but her status is up in there air as she did not compete in the spring Track and Field season. The favorite, regardless, will be Cassy Haskell (4:52.29/10:51.37) of Miramonte who finished finished just behind Taylor in the NCS Division III race and had the fastest time at the state meet by a non senior. Piner's Cynthia Rosales (2:22.50/5:27.60), Bishop O'Dowd's Jourdan Aman (2:24.17/5:16.89), Alhambra's Marissa D'Atri (2:17.61/5:11.21) and Piedmont's Erin Hong will all race up front and will be in contention for an individual spot should their teams not automatically qualify to the state meet.
Division IV Girls (Top 4 Advance to State)
1) Bishop O'Dowd-Aiming for first section since 2004 in same division.
2) Piedmont-2-time defending team champion with lots of talent returning.
3) Miramonte-No team in this division can match up with the Mats at the front.
4) Justin-Siena-Made state last year however the challenge is greater this year.
5) McKinleyville-Lose all-world Morgin Coonfield but program will continue to thrive.
6) Arcata-Tigers have been perennial contenders in this division.
On the bubble: Albany, Piner, St. Mary's Berkeley
Top 5 returning individuals, (place) and 2015 NCS meet time:
Grace Taylor (1 in Division III) Bishop O'Dowd 17:30.1
Cassy Haskell (2 in Division III) Miramonte 17:38.4
Cynthia Rosales (5 in Division III) Piner 18:16.7
Jourdan Amen (6 in Division III) Bishop O'Dowd 18:18.5
Marissa D'Atri (7 in Division III) Alhambra 18:21.8
Fastest returning individual runner from 2015 Division IV race
Erin Hong (2) Piedmont 19:01.8
The boys pre-season rankings will be posted next. Comments? Do you know of impact freshmen that will attend at any of the above schools? Feel free to chime in the comment section below.