Wednesday, June 22, 2011

2011 NCS Division IV Pre-Season Rankings...

I have been ranking the North Coast Section cross country teams since 2006 and every year this is always the toughest division to figure out (especially during the pre-season).  The other divisions field teams who regularly face each other in league races and invitationals while Div. IV is a mixture of teams from all over Northern California ranging from the south end of the NCS map and all the way up to near the Oregon border.

Last year was a banner year for Div. IV especially on the boys side.  With the addition of the S.F. University boys, the race for the state meet was as competitive as it's been in the history of this division.  Following a run of success at the state meet, NCS also received an extra bid in 2010.  Moreau Catholic finished in 6th place and ran the fastest team time (1:25:02)  for that place in the history of the section meet at Hayward High School.  At the state meet, NCS posted the individual (Daniel Milechman) and team champions (San Rafael High School).  Three other runners finished in the top 10 with John Lawson of Sir Francis Drake (5th), Trevor Ehlenbach of San Rafael (7th) and Ned Tannebaum of S.F. University (8th).  Three other teams also finished in the top 10 with Tamalpais in 6th, Sir Francis Drake 9th and St. Mary's Berkeley in 10th.

Needless to say, it will be a tough act to follow for this year's group of runners and teams.  The race for the team title will be between the two teams that return the most fire power from last year, St. Mary's Berkeley and Sir Francis Drake (check out Drake's team picture from last year here).  Duncan Calvert (2:00.54/4:20.63/10:07.20) was St. Mary's #1 runner at the state meet last year and followed that up with a successful track and field season.  Stevie Greene (10:27.08) led St. Mary's to a 2nd place finish at the NCS MOC meet last year along with #2 runner (Patrick Mariolle-2:09.60/4:36.53) and #4 runner runner Nate Hill.  If St. Mary's can find a decent 5th runner, they will be the favorites to take their 4th title ('06, '07 and '09) in the last four seasons.

Sir Francis Drake (interestingly enough, just missed moving up to Division III by 2 students) will be led by long time coach Bill Taylor, who will be in his 29th season at the school.  His last boy's NCS title came in 1990 but this could be the team that claims the school's 2nd male NCS xc crown (girls won NCS titles in 1977, 1979, 1980, 1985 and 2010).  They will be led by the individual favorite, John Lawson (4:25.30/9:33.30) who finished 2nd at the NCS meet which preceded his 5th place finish at the state meet.  Will Baker Robinson (9:47.00) and Clayton Hutchins (4:32.76/9:57.89) could give Drake the best 1-3 punch in this division but until their 4th and 5th runner step up, I will keep them as the runner-up team.

The race for the final two state meet qualifying spots will come down to teams who will be reloading after losing the majority of their 2010 squads.  Last year was a magical season for San Rafael's team with their first NCS (not confirmed) and state meet xc titles.  Now, coach Jason Jacobson will have to figure out how to contend at NCS without his top 4 runners from last year.  Cardinal Newman is an interesting team in that they have their top 3 runners (Alexi Taylor, Charlie King and Jack Bowlby) back which makes them quite competitive through their first three runners.  The problem is that their 3 to 4 gap is quite large and it will come to play at the section meet.  If they can tighten up that gap, they could finish in the top 5 easily.

The three time defending individual champion, Daniel Milechman of Tamalpais HS, will be competing next year at Harvard University.  With 6 of the top 10 runners graduating, the favorite as mentioned earlier, will be John Lawson of Sir Francis Drake.  He is a proven competitor in cross country and just won another black shirt at the world famous Dipsea race. Keeping him honest will be his teammates Will Baker-Robinson and Clayton Hutchins, Alexi Taylor and Charlie King of Cardinal Newman, Duncan Calvert, Stevie Greene, Patrick Mariolle and Nate Hill of St. Mary's Berkeley.

Sometimes you just have to admit defeat and I would like to state that I had a hard time trying to rank the girls' teams in this division.  Most of the top teams lost a significant portion of their squads as 9 of the top 14 runners from last year's NCS meet graduated (unusual for a girls' race).  However, just like the boys, the top two teams will be St. Mary's Berkeley and Sir Francis Drake.  

St. Mary's returns 6 of their top 7 runners from last year which includes the defending individual champion, Spencer Moore (2:19.27/5:06.68/11:11.33).  Drake won last year but will now have to replace their top 2 runners from last year who both finished in the top 10.  They do return runners 3-7 and their 6th runner (Bianca Doerschlag) from last year ran an impressive 2:21.32 in the 800m. this past track and field season.

The next best team appears to be Arcata, a team that has been consistently in the top 10 in this division for many years.  They also happen to return every runner from last year's section meet including  year's 7th place finisher, Erin McNulty.  The 2nd place team from last year, Terra Linda, will try to make it two state meets in a row returning runners, 2 (Katlin McKeogh), 4 (Macauley Pickett) and 6 (Emma Pedlar).  Moreau Catholic returns just one runner (Yvette Navaro) from their 3rd place team but this is a team that has had consistent success in this division.

The race for the individual title should be a good one.  Spencer Moore of St. Mary's is the defending champion as she soundly defeated El Molino's Nicole Lane by over 30 seconds at the 2010 NCS MOC meet.  The gap between these two runners appears to be closer now following Lane's outstanding track and field season (5:07.29/11:12.83).  The rest of the contenders will include Navaro of Moreau Catholic and McNulty of Arcata.

Division IV Boys (Top 4 Advance to state)
1) St. Mary's Berkeley-Return best lineup from all the Div. IV 2010 squads.
2) Sir Francis Drake-Might have the runners to upend St. Mary's.
3)  Cardinal Newman-Triumvirate up front could be enough to make state.
4) San Rafael-This will be a rebuilding year for the defending champions.
5)  Moreau Catholic-Traditional strong program in this division.
On the bubble:  ArcataPiedmont

Top 5 returning individuals, (place) and 2010 NCS meet time:
John Lawson (2) Drake 15:43
Alexi Taylor (7) Cardinal Newman 16:26
Stevie Greene (9) St. Mary's Berkeley 16:27
Charlie King (12) Cardinal Newman 16:30
Patrick Mariolle (13) St. Mary's Berkeley 16:32

Division IV Girls (Top 3 Advance to state)
1)  St. Mary's Berkeley-Potentially could start their team score with a 1.
2)  Sir Francis Drake-Can the Pirates make it two titles in a row?
3)  Arcata-The mystery team from up north returns their entire top 7.
4)  Terra Linda-2nd place team last year will try to make it to Fresno again.
5)  Moreau Catholic-Yvette Navaro is lone returner but don't count this team out yet.
On the bubble:  Piedmont, San Marin

Top 5 returning individuals, (place) and 2010 NCS meet time:
Spencer Moore (1) St. Mary's 18:32
Nicole Lane (2) El Molino 19:05
Yvette Navaro (6) Moreau Catholic 19:45
Erin McNulty (7) Arcata 20:05
Katlin McKeogh (15) Terra Linda 20:27

Let me know your thoughts. Did I miss anybody? Who is looking good this summer? Any freshmen that will have an impact in this division?


Anonymous said...

Another great Pre-Season Ranking! Good job Albert!

Anonymous said...

SMHS should have the number one spot, nice job Albert!

Anonymous said...

way to go with these rankings Albert. Have fun with DIII,considering there are around 8 teams to analyze.

Albert Caruana said...

Thanks for all the positive feedback. I do have more time in the summer to do more in depth rankings. Now as for Div. III, I definitely have my work cut out for me. It's a loaded and deep division for sure.

Anonymous said...

think we could get an estimate of when D3 will be out? most interesting division for sure.

Andrew said...

superb! D4 is a pretty interesting one because of the high turnover with which teams qualify to state and take the title. I absolutely cannot wait for the next previews and of course my division (D1).

Anonymous said...

How many runners did the Moreau guys team lose?

Anonymous said...

4 of their top 5

Anonymous said...

What ever happened to Ryan on drake girls?

Anonymous said...

st.marys has a new 5th runner that is good and he is only a soph

Anonymous said...

piedmont actually has two guys that could upset the top returning individuals- Frost (11) and Ireland (11). i agree with the rest tho, Lawson and Taylor will go 1, 2 easily

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