In 2014, SJND had two of the best runners in the section in Kiera Marshall (5:01.85/10:41.80) and Beatrice Levy (5:19.64/11:29.88). After those 2 runners, there was a significant drop and despite Marshall and Levy both placing in the top 6, SJND placed 7th in the team competition. In 2015, the Pilots added freshman Emily Perez (5:18.40/10:57.86) along with two other freshman (Zhane Duckett (2:35.08/5:46.38) & Araceli Zavala 5:46.39)) that gave them a very solid five. SJND finished in 3rd place at the Stanford Invitational giving notice that they would be a competitive team. They won the school's first section title for the girls (boys have won 5). They followed that up with a 2nd place finish at the California state meet behind a dominating victory by Flintridge Prep.
SJND will be the favorites to win the section title here with the return of their top 5. They could prove to be unbeatable if they strike gold with another strong freshman or two. Chasing SJND will be the Sonoma Academy girls who won the 2014 section title. They will be led by Rylee Bowen (4:43.92/10:13.20) who will be joined by younger sister Kate. The Lick-Wilmerding girls finished in 2nd place behind SJND at the section meet and in 4th place at the CA state meet. They lose senior Maddy Nakada but will return the rest of their lineup. At 488 students, L-W is one of the larger schools in this division and typically has the strongest team 1-7. Branson will be led by their own one/two punch with Grace Dailey (2:20.02/4:59.91) and Callie Jones 5:27.96/11:34.62). They will need to add a couple of strong runners to their lineup if they want to finish in the top 4. University, College Prep and Urban have historically done well in this division and will all be in contention for a top 6 finish.
The race for the individual title should pit the top two finishers from last year's section and state meets, Rylee Bowen SA and Kiera Marshall SJND. Also in the mix will be Grace Dailey of Branson (4th at state), Emily Perez SJND (5th at state) and Brianna Bourne College Prep (5:01.04/11:08.87 and 6th at state). Joining the ranks this year will be Rylee's sister, Kate Bowen, who has run 5:10.97 (1600m) and 10:16.98 (3000m).
Division V Girls (Top 6 Advance to State)
1) St. Joseph ND-Strong favorites to repeat after winning their first section title in '15.
2) Sonoma Academy-The addition of a 2nd Bowen vaults them into second place.
3) Lick-Wilmerding-Definitely a top 3 team that's within striking distance of the top 2 teams.
4) Branson-Very strong top two punch but will need help to finish here.
5) University-Will be looking to move into a state meet qualifying spot after finishing in 8th in '15.
6) College Prep-Have been in the hunt for a state meet spot for many years in a row.
7) Urban-Don't sleep on this team as they have quietly been in the mix for many years.
On the bubble: Athenian, Convent, Head-Royce
Top 5 returning individuals, (place) and 2015 NCS meet time:
Rylee Bowen (1) Sonoma Academy 17:29.7
Kiera Marshall (2) St. Joseph Notre Dame 17:34.2
Grace Dailey (3) Branson 18:21.8
Brianna Bourne (4) College Prep 18:23.4
Emily Perez (5) St. Joseph Notre Dame 18:36.2
With the divisional changes taking place this coming season, Division V will look very similar since the top teams in this division are all under last year's cutoff of 500. Although, the top end of this division goes up to 600, the top teams will remain the usual suspects who compete for the state qualifying spots year after year.
Looking back at the past few seasons on the boys side, Urban School boys edged out St. Joseph Notre Dame 64 to 65 to win their first NCS cross country section title in 2010. SJND then ran off 4 consecutive section titles as well as 4 state podium finishes which included 2 state titles in 2012 and 2013. Marin Academy, perhaps in the shadows of SJND, had a nice run of their own during the past few seasons that included last year's section team title and two 2nd place finishes at the state meet in 2013 and 2015.
This coming season, the SJND boys will be the favorites once again to win the team title. They return the best runner in this division, Cooper Teare (more on him later), as well as 6 of their 7 competitors from last year's section meet. The next best team appears to be Lick-Wilmerding. Sean Laidlaw (4:44.43/9:51.43) will be their #1 runner after competing in his first Track and Field season. The next group of teams all finished in the top 7 last season but will need to replace some talented seniors from the 2016 class. University, Athenian and Sonoma Academy will all be in the mix for a top 5 finish and each team will return their #1 runner. University finished in 5th place at last year's section meet but rebounded with an 8th place finish at state. They will be strong up front with Spencer Small (1:57.06/4:26.16) and CJ Dowd (1:59.60/4:31.90). SA returns 6 out of 7 and coach Danny Aldridge has had a lot of success coaching at Maria Carrillo and Sonoma Academy. College Prep lost their #1 runner Alex Glavin but will still have a strong #1 in Ethan Ashby (9:35.36). Marin Academy have lost some very talented runners over the past few seasons. They lose their top 3 runners from last year's team but based on their success the past few seasons should not be counted out.
Individually, Cooper Teare will be the overwhelming favorite to repeat as section champion. He ran 14:46.4, which is the 2nd fastest time on the Hayward HS course for a Division V athlete trailing only the 14:44 run by Trevor Reinhart (Marin Academy) in 2013. The course will be slightly different this year so Teare should establish the course record on the "new" course. Looking back at his junior season, Teare won the CA state meet in an epic finish over Jack Van Scoter of Flintridge Prep 15:07.313 to 15:07.316. He also won the state 3200m title by an even closer margin over Cole Spencer of Great Oak 8:51.845 to 8:51.847. Brian Schulz El Molino finished in 2nd place at last year's Division IV race and will be a section and state contender in this division in 2016. Eli Horwitz (1:57.83/4:20.63) Stuart Hall and Dawson Reckers (2:04.98/4:24.02) Athenian finished in 4th and 5th place respectively. Other contenders include Sean Laidlaw L-W, Ethan Ashby CPS, CJ Dowd UHS and Kheva Mann SA.
Division V Boys (Top 5 Advance to State)
1) St. Joseph ND-Will be motivated to win 5th section title in the past 6 seasons.
2) Lick-Wilmerding-Looking to win first male section title since winning Division III in 1989.
3) University-The most successful team in this division aiming to return back on top.
4) Sonoma Academy-Return 6 out of top 7 from last year's section meet.
5) College Prep-They will be in the mix with solid #1 and typical depth.
6) Marin Academy-On the outside looking in at this point but may surprise in November.
7) Athenian-Will need some freshman help to contend once again for a Fresno trip.
On the bubble: Roseland University Prep, Stuart Hall, Urban
Top 5 returning individuals, (place) and 2015 NCS meet time:
Cooper Teare (1) St. Joseph ND 14:46.4
Brian Schulz (2) in Division IV) 15:28.3
Eli Horwitz (4) Stuart Hall 15:38.0
Dawson Reckers (5) Athenian 15:41.3
Sean Laidlaw (7) Lick-Wilmerding 16:01.0
The girls 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 section below.