Wednesday, July 08, 2009

2009 NCS Division V Pre-Season Rankings

I can speak from experience about the strength of Division V in the North Coast Section (NCS). There is no question that the best two sections in the state when it comes to the smallest division are the Southern Section (duh!) and NCS. The SS gets the usual (for them) 7 boys' qualifying teams to the state meet but the NCS is not that far behind with their 5 entries. Last year at the state meet, 22 complete teams scored at the state meet. NCS finished with 4 teams in the top 10 (SF University in 3rd, Redwood Christian in 5th, College Prep in 8th and Head Royce in 10th). Berean Christian, the 5th NCS team, didn't finish in the top 10 but still came in at a not too shabby 12th place.

The clear favorite to win this year's boy's team title will be Redwood Christian. After an impressive 5th place finish at last year's state meet (in their first season in NCS), RC returns all but one runner from last year's top 7. Their top runner, Josh MacDonald, returns as the 2nd fastest returner in this division at both the section and state levels. More on him later. They also return Alex Mattson and Wayne Smith who both broke 17 minutes on the state meet course. With a solid 4th and 5th runners, RC could contend for a state meet plaque this year.

Picking Redwood Christian to win was easy. Now comes the hard part of trying to select the order of the teams that will finish behind them. The two teams that finished 1st and 2nd last year at the NCS MOC, SF University and Berean Christian, were both devastated by graduation, losing the majority of their teams. Given that University has won 10 NCS titles in the last 12 years, there is a pretty good chance that they will be competitive again, sooner rather than later.

The next teams in line will be two more BCL East competitors, College Preparatory and Head Royce. CPS will be led once again by longtime successful coach, Jack Coakley. Despite losing key members from their top 5 (including #1 runner Charlie Sauter), CPS should be competitive again as they always seem to reload following key losses. Head Royce returns the nice one/two punch of seniors Mercer Cook and Walker Holden but will need to find a couple of runners to fill out a solid five.

The team that could make waves this year in this division will be Stuart Hall as they return their entire top 7 from last year. This should be the first time they qualify to the state meet as a team from this division. How competitive they will be in this division will be determined by October as they will have faced many of their rivals at the Stanford Invititational and the BCL Challenge.

The individual favorite as just as clear as the team favorite, as mentioned above, and that will be Josh MacDonald (4:24.65 and 9:37.55) of Redwood Christian. He will have the rare opportunity to win an individual section title in two different sections. MacDonald won the Central Coast Section (CCS) title as a sophomore during RC's final season in that section. The runners that will have the best opportunity to finish in the top 5 will be Mercer Cook of Head Royce (fastest returner), Ned Tannenbaum of SF University, Alex Mattson of RC, Jordan Lee of Chinese Christian, Wayne Smith of Redwood Christian, Walker Holden of Head Royce and Jacob Roth of Berean Christian.

Unlike the boys, the girls' team race will be quite competitive. As is usually the case with girls' teams, many schools return the majority of their rosters mostly intact. You would think that the favorite at this point has to be the defending champions, Marin Academy, which also has the defending individual champion, Lucy McCullough. They won their first section title in cross country last year as well as their first state meet plaque with their 3rd place finish. Including McCullough, MA returns 6 out of their top 7 from last year.

Considering all that, my favorite for this coming season will be University HS. University is no stranger to success here as they won 10 straight section titles from 1995 to 2004 and have participated in every Division V race at the state meet since it's inception in 1996. They finished in 3rd place at the NCS meet last year and a more impressive 4th place finish at the state meet.
They return their top five which includes sophomore Holland Reynolds who finished in 8th place at last year's state meet. UHS also had an outstanding track season as the majority of their cross country runners shined at the end of the season such as the following results from the NCS Class A Meet. They are also adding an impressive freshman in Jennie Callan who won the BAIAL cross country final last year by a considerable margin on the modified Crystal Springs course.

College Prep returns one of the best runners in the section, sophomore Kai Wilson, along with the rest of the top 4 runners from last season (Emily Erickson, Adrienne Strait and Sarah Eppley). Wilson finished in 2nd place last year on the Hayward course just edging out University's Reynolds at the finish line. Along with their 2nd place NCS finish last year, CPS won the Track and Field Class A Meet to end this past school year and were the 2007 NCS Cross Country champions.

The battle for the final state meet berth will pit East vs. West as BCL East school (Head Royce) takes on BCL West school (Lick Wilmerding). A nice influx of freshmen aided both teams last year with LW claiming the 4th and final state spot. Head Royce missed making the state meet with their 6th place finish but their front runner, Savannah Ryder, qualified as an individual. Perhaps her experience in Fresno can inspire the rest of the Jayhawks to join her again this coming season.

Individually, there is one clear favorite and that is McCullough of MA. As impressive as her cross country season was last year, McCullough took it to a new level on the track. She qualified for the CA state meet running 4:54.82 at the NCS MOC in the 1600m and had a pr of 2:18.90 in the 800m. She will not only be the favorite to win NCS this year but I believe she will now have a realistic shot to win the state title as a certain Jordan Hasay will be wearing Oregon green (or is it black now?) next year.

Besides Wilson of CPS (26.30, 58.05, and 2:25.18) and Reynolds of UHS (5:25.04 and 11:53.18), the other contenders for top 5 finishes will be Jessica Ho of Chinese Christian, Emily Lewis of MA, Emily Erickson of CPS and a now healthy Margaret Wehner of UHS. The next group includes a trio of freshman who all finished in the top 15 at the NCS MOC and those runners are Savannah Ryder of Head Royce and Lick Wilmerding teammates, Sara Peletz and Rachel Prensky-Pomeranz. The unknown in the individual race will be the freshman (like Jennie Callan) who always make an impact but those will be determined later.

Besides Wilson of CPS and Reynolds of UHS, the other contenders for top 5 finishes will be Jessica Ho of Chinese Christian, Emily Lewis of MA, Emily Erickson of CPS and a now healthy Margaret Wehner of UHS. The next group includes a trio of freshman who all finished in the top 15 at the NCS MOC and those runners are Savannah Ryder of Head Royce and Lick Wilmerding teammates, Sara Peletz and Rachel Prensky-Pomeranz. The unknown in the individual race will be the freshmen (like Jennie Callan) who always make an impact but those will be determined later.

2008 NCS Meet of Champions (XC) Division V Results Girls
2008 NCS Meet of Champions (XC) Division V Results Boys

Division V Boys (Top 5 Advance to state)
1) Redwood Christian-Can they contend for a state meet plaque?
2) University-Have a strong number one runner in Tannenbaum.
3) Head Royce-Strong one/two punch up front.
4) College Prep-A consistent contender in this division.
5) Stuart Hall-Poised to make 1st state meet in school history.
On the bubble: Marin Academy, Lick Wilmerding, Chinese Christian, St. Joseph Notre Dame, Urban

Top 5 returning individuals, (place) & 2008 NCS meet time:
Josh MacDonald (2) Redwood Christian 15:52
Mercer Cook (10) Head Royce 16:26
Ned Tannenbaum (11) University HS 16:29
Alex Mattson (12) Redwood Christian 16:33
Jordan Lee (13) Chinese Christian 16:34

Division V Girls (Top 4 Advance to state)
1) University-In position to reclaim the NCS crown.
2) Marin Academy-Defending NCS champions.
3) College Prep-Can they put five together to challenge top two teams?
4) Lick Wilmerding-Good group returns from last year.
5) Head Royce-Return top 6 with possible help coming from their MS.
On the bubble: Urban, Santa Rosa Christian

Top 5 returning individuals, (place) & 2006 NCS meet time:
Lucy McCullough (1) Marin Academy 18:35
Kai Wilson (2) College Prep 19:05
Holland Reynolds (3) University 19:05
Jessica Ho (4) Chinese Christian 19:30
Emily Lewis (5) Marin Academy 19:45

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?


Anonymous said...

Wow. What comprehensive rankings from Jason and you, Albert. Keep up the great work!

Albert Caruana said...

Thank you very much. I have been very lucky to get some terrific contributions from athletes and coaches such as Jason.

It's always great to hear from all of you out there. As always, any ideas for the blog, please forward them my way.

Anonymous said...

cool. when are you posting the rest of the divisions?

Albert Caruana said...

Will get to the rest (II, III and IV) when I get some free time. Hope to get the next one up before this weekend.

Anonymous said...

Jordan Hasay is not very good at running

Albert Caruana said...

You are absolutely right. Oregon gets all the left overs.

Skandera said...

Thanks for your continued excellent work for D5 results and polls. In the CMC Santa Rosa Christian will return most of its runners in Boys and Girls and will have 2 newcomers in boys and girls which will make both teams stronger.
That may not be enough to hold off the charge of fast improving Sonoma Academy with new coach Dan Aldridge, local legend and former coach of highly succesful d3 Maria Carrillo.
Willits, defending Boy's conference champ will return most of its team from last year with some new additions, and fast improving Upper Lake returns with its nucleus intact.
In the Girls, SRC returns its entire conference championship team, but will be challenged again by Sonoma Academy, Cloverdale, and Rincon Valley Christian.

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