Friday, June 17, 2011

2011 NCS Division V Pre-Season Rankings

I will first tackle the pre-season rankings for the biggest division (if you count the amount of teams that could potentially compete at the NCS MOC cross country meet) in NCS, Division V (499 students and fewer).  There are 45 schools that have enrollments under 499 but typically, 20 or so teams race at the NCS meet.  When you win in this division, you become part of a very exclusive club.  With SF University's dominance in this division, the opportunities for other teams to claim section titles are few and far between.  Since the addition of Division V in 1996, there have been 5 boy's teams (SF University, St. Mary's, St. Joseph, College Prep and Urban School of SF) and 4 girl's teams (SF University, Crystal Springs Uplands, College Prep and Marin Academy) that have won in this division.

Last year's boys team battle was as close as you can get without going to the 6th man tie breaker.  Urban School of SF just edged out St. Joseph by one point (64-65) as they won every head to head battle from 1st through 4th runner.  Due to a new rule enacted last year (teams move up a division if they win 3 consecutive section titles), SF University competed in Division IV for the first time since 1996 and finished in 5th place although they would have easily won the team title in Division V.

For this coming season, the slight favorite is St. Joseph.  They return their top 3 runners and 4 of their top 6 from last year's NCS meet.  If you look at their state meet performance, where they finished 7th as a team, they return their top 5.  They will be led by sophomore Gabe Arias (4:30/9:45.29) and senior Nick Ratto (1:56.32/4:26) who will both be in the hunt for the individual title.  Rapidly improving junior Louis Rodrigues (2:05.63/4:35) gives them a strong #3 runner.

Their chief rival will be SF University.  They appeared to lose their swagger last year in division IV but now will have a chance to do some major damage back in Division V.  They do lose their #1 runner from their past two seasons, Ned Tannenbaum, but return the rest of their top 5 with some impressive performances during track and field season.  Junior Connor Clark (2:02.82/4:27.09/9:48.50) will lead the way along with senior Duncan Hosie (4:35.14/9:53.02) and fellow varsity mates, James Burton and Liam Gallivan.

The defending champions, Urban School of SF, lose their top 2 runners from last year, Cole Williams and Sean Judkins-Boeri, who both finished in the top 4 at last year's NCS xc meet.  Williams went on to finish 2nd at the California State xc meet and had one of the finest track and field seasons in NCS history in the 800m.  He finished with a time of 1:50.57 at the CA state track and field trials which is the 9th fastest time on the all-time top list in NCS.  They will obviously have a lot to replace from last year but don't count them out just yet.  Senior Alex Wu (2:00.59) finished 7th at the NCS meet last year while Whit Henderson (10:20.88) was also in the top 20 with his 19th place finish.  The wild card for this team is their 5th man from last year, Cole Larsen, who ran 1:56.88 for 800m. this past track and field season.

The rest of the field will include the usual suspects of state meet competitors and a couple of teams searching for their first state meet qualification.  College Prep, Lick Wilmerding and Marin Academy will all be in the hunt as they try to replace several of their graduated runners.  Sonoma Academy just missed qualifying to the state meet last year, return their top 6 runners and have a proven, successful coach in Danny Aldridge.  Athenian seemed to have a nice group of young runners who ran well during track and field season and if they all decide to participate on their school's xc team could field a competitive team.

The race for the individual title will come down to three competitors and at this point there is no clear cut favorite.  The top returner from last year is Gabe Arias of St. Joseph who finished in 2nd place.  He went on to finish in 6th place at the state meet but one spot behind teammate Nick Ratto.  Connor Clark will now take the leadership role on the SF University team and will contend for the section title.

The girl's team favorite will be a familiar one as SF University will be attempting to win their 17th NCS title (yes, SEVENTEEN!).  They have won 11 section titles in the 15 years that Division V has been in existence and 8 state titles on top of that.  After a four year drought without an NCS title (2005-2008), SF University started another steak of victories in 2009 which could potentially land them in Division IV in 2012 with another title this season (it's been brought to my attention that this rule was rescinded in April).  They will be led by senior Holland Reynolds who has finished in 3rd place (9th grade), 2nd place (10th grade) and 2nd place (11th grade) at the NCS MOC meet.  Holland got a lot of publicity last year for her crawl to the finish line at the state meet but clearly, she has been one of the top runners in Division V at the state level.  Bridget Blum (2:21.52/5:00.72/11:07.31) and Jennie Callan (2:22.00/5:02.50) give University quite a top 3 punch that will be hard to overcome in this section and at the state meet.

The College Prep girls have been a model of consistency in this division.  Since 2007 when they won their 1st section title, CPS has also finished 2nd in each of the past 3 seasons.  They have  won two state meet plaques by finishing in 3rd in 2009 and in 2nd place last season.  They do lose Adrienne Strait who was their most consistent and reliable runner the past four seasons but will return the rest of their top 5 from last year (Lexie Burton, Claire Shellem, Kai Wilson and Amanda Glavin).  With the addition of one more solid runner, CPS could be in the hunt for another top 2 finish at NCS and another podium finish at the state meet.

With 5 teams advancing to the state meet, an array of teams go into next season with a legitimate shot at the state meet.  Branson seems to have the next best team among the state contenders.  Julia Maxwell (5:16.44 and 5th place finisher at 2010 state meet) and Kate Courtney (accomplished cyclist) give Branson a nice one/two punch with enough behind them to compete for 3rd place.  Urban loses their top 2 runners (Emma Lehmann and Caitlin Iglehart) but I believe will have enough to chase a top 5 finish.  Lick Wilmerding and Marin Academy have been consistent contenders in this division and will be in a battle for those last few spots along with Sonoma Academy.  St. Joseph returns their entire lineup and could be a team with the potential to contend with a healthy return of Kimberly Avalos.

When it comes to the chase for the individual title, one thing is certain, we will have a new champion this season.  Lucy McCullough of Marin Academy won the last four section titles and will now take her talents to Harvard University (I couldn't resist).  The favorite has to be Bridget Blum of University.  She finished in 3rd place at the section xc meet and followed that up with a 3rd place finish at the state xc meet.  She qualified for ca state track and field team in the 1600m. and if you look at all the contenders, she is the fastest runner going into the fall season.  Her teammate, Holland Reynolds, has always been impressive during cross country (18:11 pr on the Crystal Springs course) and will be a contender along with Julia Maxwell of Branson and Katy Lee (5:18.17/11:42.18) of Sonoma Academy.

2010 NCS Meet of Champions (XC) Division V Results Boys
2010 NCS Meet of Champions (XC) Division V Results Girls

Division V Boys (Top 5 Advance to state)
1) St. Joseph-Aiming for first title since 1998.
2) University-Back in familiar division after 1 year hiatus.
3) Urban-Could be spoilers this year after championship last year.
4) Sonoma Academy-Missed state meet by 1 point last year.
5) College Prep-A consistent contender in this division.
On the bubble:  AthenianLick WilmerdingMarin Academy

Top 5 returning individuals, (place) and 2010 NCS meet time:
Gabe Arias (2) St. Joseph 16:15
Nick Ratto (5) St. Joseph 16:46
Alex Wu (7) Urban 17:18
James Kinney (10) Marin Academy 17:28
James LaFaollette (12) St. Joseph 17:32
Also from Division IV:
Connor Clark (10) University 16:29
Duncan Hosie (29) University 16:58
James Burton (46) University 17:31

Division V Girls (Top 5 Advance to state)
1) University-This could be their 3rd title in a row for UHS.
2) College Prep-2nd place for the past three seasons.
3) Branson-Maxwell and Courtney lead the way.
4) Urban-Now know what it takes to get to state meet.
5) Lick Wilmerding- 6 of top 7 return and could finish higher.
On the bubble:  Marin AcademySonoma AcademySt. Joseph

Top 5 returning individuals, (place) and 2010 NCS meet time:
Holland Reynolds (2) University 18:28
Bridget Blum (3) University 18:37
Julia Maxwell (4) Branson 18:44
Katy Lee (6) Sonoma Academy 19:09
Lexie Burton (9) College Prep 19:50

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...

University's girls should run to win at NCS but just stop short of the finish line, wait for the #5 runner from the next best team to cross, then finish 1-7 all together.

Sure, you cough up the NCS title, but they will get to refresh their clock and still go on to state and win that one.

What a ridiculous rule.

Anonymous said...

great write up Albert! i cant wait for the others

Albert Caruana said...

To anonymous #1, I wasn't sure where you were going with your comment but yes, the rule is not well liked at all. NorCal team are already at a disadvantage at the state meet vs. the SoCal schools at the state meet and this rule only makes that disparity of school size in each division worse.

Anonymous #2, thank you.

Andrew said...

holy calzone! this is excellent. I cannot wait for the other divisions!

Anonymous said...

yeah good work Albert! looking forward to D3

Anonymous said...

Glad to see University is back home after paying the NCS Success Tax. Great rankings, getting me excited for the season.

Anonymous said...

For the boys, my money is on University they know how to win and have done it year in and year out. Their time in D4 will serve them well.

Kevin said...

This is awesome, I'm not even from NCS DV, heck, I'm not even from NCS and I'm all interested in this now. Great work Coach Caruana, looking forward to CCS predictions, and if they're even half as good as this one, we all shall bow down to the journalistic legend that is Coach Caruana.

Anonymous said...

should be noted that Stuart Hall's Michael Chan took a wrong turn at NCS last fall. Stupid mistake, but the guy runs a 4:35 and should be able to compete for a medal at hayward.

Rob Collins said...

Nice Preview for NCS Albert, sorry I couldn't make the Clinic, would have loved to listen to some Great Coaches there,just have to take care of some personal things first, next time though!

Anonymous said...

Hurray Albert. You can not get this in-depth review in dyestatcal - especially the supposely new and improve version of dyestat . Infact you get very little coverage if you are not from socal!! So sad...

Albert Caruana said...

Thanks Rob and everybody else. Appreciate the positive feedback.

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