Wednesday, July 06, 2011

CCS Girls' Division III preview by Valley Christian SJ coach, Josh Small

Girls Division III
With the departure of the defending champions (St. Ignatius) to Division II, the title is up for grabs in DIII with Sacred Heart Cathedral, Saratoga and Aptos leading the charge. SHC coach Andy Chan has a solid team this season led by standout Sophie Cannata-Bowman who ran 18:53 at Crystal Springs last fall. She missed the 2011 track season but was the WCAL champion at 3200 meters and was a CCS finalist in 2010. The strength of SHC is not just upfront but in their amazing depth. They return 5 runners who ran 21:19 or better at last year’s CCS Championship, all of whom ran under 21 at Crystal as well. All 5 runners have 1600 personal bests of 5:42 or better and 12:30 or better for 3200. This team is going to be good!

Saratoga had a breakthrough at the CCS Finals last year and is poised to have another great season this fall. This is a young team that has depth up front with a powerful trio in Maya Nag, Emily Williams and Courtney Schlossaresk who all ran 20:36 and under at last year’s CCS Finals at Toro. Their front four matches up well with Sacred Heart Cathedral and with the addition of new recruits who showed potential this track season (Stephanie Ho ran 5:28 for the 1600 while Allison Bruno ran 5:49) they could very well make a run for the title.

It is hard for me to put Aptos down at number three…so I am doing so with a “for now” asterisk because they won’t be there for long. (After all this is just a pre-season paper ranking before anyone has even laced ‘em up). As a Santa Cruz native I admit my bias for the SCCAL but both my heart and my brain tells me Aptos will make a run for the title and in all reality are the co-favorites. What can you say about Aptos? Year in and year out they consistently have some of the best athletes and teams in the CCS. They have one of the best places to run in the world, great community, a solid feeder program and awesome coaching. It is a recipe for success! Nikki Hiltz was phenomenal this past track season running 4:43 for 1600 meters placing 3rd at the State Championship meet. She is the top returning runner this fall for DIII and my guess is she is going to bring that dominance to Crystal Springs in November. She is followed by Clare Peabody who ran 20:15 at last year’s CCS Finals but really broke through this spring where she ran 5:08 for 1600 and 11:22 for 3200. They will be supported by Meghan Morse and surfer Maddy Hagerle. If that were not enough, Jackie Stanger showed up on the track this spring and ran 5:13 for 1600 meters. Rumor has it she doesn’t run cross country but I have heard that story before. And just when you thought things might open up for the rest of the section you take a look at some cross country results from Aptos Middle School and you see slew of young talent coming in, including Jade Bowdin who placed 3rd in the Lynbrook Invite Middle School race. The machine is rolling in Aptos.

Also, expecting to make a run for a State birth is Santa Cruz High School. It seems like Coach Greg Brock tells me every year, “We are not going to be as good this year,” and every year they come out and challenge for another state meet spot. And this year is not any different. They return four very talented runners led by Mimi Eckhardt, the #2 returner this season. She is followed by 4 runners who ran 21:38 or better in last year’s finals and with the addition of sub 6 min miler Erin Coffey the Cardinals are in position to make another run for a top 3 spot.

Rounding out the top 5 are my Warriors. I’m not going to lie, 6th place was disappointing for us after 4 consecutive trips to the state meet. Plagued by illness, injury and a couple of bad races the end of the season was not kind to us. But the girls all ran with heart and never gave up all the way to the end.  Refocused and with a determination to get back to the state meet, the girls have a solid shot but will need to work hard and catch a couple breaks if they want to move up. Led by Morgan Lira who won the WCAL championship last season and was 4th in last year’s final,s the Warriors return a group of 5 girls who ran 6 minutes or under this past spring.

The team title for D3 will certainly be a battle!

The top 5 returning girls in D3 are some of the best in all of CCS. As mentioned, Nikki Hiltz leads a talented group of runners after running 4:43 for 1600 last spring. Mimi Eckhardt was a CCS finalist at 3200 meters and Morgan Lira is the defending WCAL Champion and posted an 11:05 for 3200 this spring and was a CCS Finalist. Anna Welsh of Monterey is one of the best around at 2 miles running a blazing 10:44 at 3200 meters to finish the season with the 3rd fastest time in the section. Sophia Cannata-Bowman rounds out the top 5 and is the 2010 WCAL Champion at 3200 meters and very solid over three miles running 18’s at Toro last fall. It will be a heated battle for the individual and team titles this year and anyone can win. And that is why they run the race!

DIV. III GIRLS: Team Pre-Season Rankings
1.  Sacred Heart Cathedral
2.  Saratoga
3.  Aptos
4.  Santa Cruz
5.  Valley Christian S.J.

DIV. III GIRLS: Top Returning Individuals
1.  Nikki Hiltz, Aptos
2.  Mimi Eckhardt, Santa Cruz
3.  Morgan Lira, Valley Christian S.J.
4.  Anna Welsh, Monterey
5.  Sophia Cannata-Bowman, Sacred Heart Cathedral


togaalummni said...

Alison Bruno does field hockey in the fall. And Stephanie Ho wants to do volleyball but the team is persuading her. If those two are not on the team, Saratoga's top 5 is still great.

Anonymous said...

Why is SI girls in Div II and their boys in Div III?

Anonymous said...

SHC has senior Tatiana Baiza, juniors Kellie Redmond, Katherine Tze & Emily Hipp, soph Emily Jay along with Maria Lara, Ebony McKeever, Maria Tuite. Cannata-Bowmen hasn't return to form yet so it will be between Baiza & Redmond to be the No 1 runner. Baiza still holds the record for 1600 from her freshman year. If she returns to that form she along with Redmond should lead the Irish to the team title. I predict that they will battle their wcal foes throughout the year.

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