Thursday, July 15, 2021

Pre-Season NCS Division III XC Rankings (Boys)

 NCS Division III Boys Preseason Rankings by Campolindo assistant coach, Andy Lindquist

Overview: This fall season will be like no other in recent memory as we are coming off of nearly 2 years of covid-19 restricting high school sports in the North Coast Section. The last season that a full XC season took place (2019), was one of the greatest in section history, with Campolindo and Maria Carrillo finishing 1-2 at state. Much has changed since then as graduation losses and the upheaval caused by the pandemic have significantly changed the landscape for many teams.

While most teams in the area were able to get in a relatively full track season this spring, it still remains to be seen how athletes and teams adapt to running big-time cross country in the fall. Track times are not always indicative of cross country success, however, the performances from this past track season are the best data points available, so they factored heavily into these rankings. 4 teams make it to state in this division so these rankings will be 4 teams deep.

Maria Carrillo had an incredible spring track season and is loaded with talent, while upstart programs from Tamalpais and Newark Memorial have made astounding progress as well and will challenge for the title.

1. Maria Carrillo: The Pumas are one of the most consistently good teams in the entire NCS, especially over the previous few seasons. From 2017-2019, Maria Carrillo won 2 NCS team titles, had 3 top 10 finishes at state, and in 2019 landed on the podium with a 2nd place team finish as well as having the individual state champion in Colton Swinth. The Pumas rolled to some fantastic performances during the spring track season with Jacob Donohue (9:19 3200) and Noe Vieyera (4:22 1600) impressing the most. Both runners seem poised for a big fall and having such an impressive 1-2 punch will make a big difference in close races. However, it was massive improvements from Adam McCorquodale (4:34 1600) and Oswaldo Rodriguez-Lopez (4:34) that have made the biggest difference for the Pumas, firmly stamping them as not only the favorites to win the section title but also challenge for that elusive state title as well.

The only missing piece for Maria Carrillo heading into the summer is the back end, as there is a bit of a drop-off after #4. Youngsters Sean Gubera and Jonathan Donohue looked solid during the spring track season and if they can continue to progress this fall, it will be tough for anyone to challenge Maria Carrillo for the top spot.

2. Tamalpais: During the previous 3 full XC seasons (2017-2019), this division went back and forth between Maria Carrillo and Campolindo, but that is expected to change in a big way this fall as Tamalpais has emerged as one of the most improved teams in the entire state.

It starts with junior Caden Carney, whose rapid improvement this spring was impressive as he clocked 4:16 for 1600, one of the fastest times in the entire section. If he continues on that trajectory, he will be the heavy favorite to win the individual title and provide that crucial low stick for the red-tailed hawks. However, what makes this team so dangerous has been the development of the 2-5 runners, as Thomas Sternfels (4:37), Ethan Lin (4:32), David Grijabla (4:43), and Sven Toernqvist (4:43) all massively improved in the 1600 over the spring. The challenge will be adapting that skillset to a 3-mile cross country race, but all the pieces are there for Tamalpais to challenge Maria Carrillo for the title and be very competitive at the state level as well.

3. Newark Memorial: Coach Tyler Jorgens has quietly built Newark Memorial into a very solid team with plenty of depth, making them the darkhorse to move up these rankings and surprise the favorites at the end of the season. The Cougars are led by the tandem of Tad Kawabata (9:45 3200) and Chance Tokubo (9:46 3200) who both had very solid track seasons. Talha Ahmed, Angelo Frese, and Diego Ochoa all ran under 4:50 in the 1600 during track season as well, so the cougar’s match up very well with other teams in this division at the critical 4th and 5th positions. For Newark Memorial to move up in these rankings they will need to focus on honing down their pack margin from 1-5 to counter the strong frontrunners from Tamalpais and Maria Carrillo. If they can do that, look for them to surprise come championship time.

4. Campolindo: For the past twenty years, “Campo” has been the standard in this division. The Cougars have won 11 section titles in that span in addition to 6 combined podium finishes at the state championships. When the CIF last held a full cross country season, Campolindo won the DIII Boys’ state title with a very low score of 47 points.

Two of those athletes return for the Cougars this fall in Alex Lodewick and Rhys Pullen, but after that graduation losses and the pandemic have ravaged the roster for Campolindo, making it very challenging for the Cougars to close the gap on the top teams in this division. While Lodewick was injured during the spring track season, when healthy he is one of the best runners in the state. His 15:47 clocking at Woodward Park as a freshman in 2019 is the fastest time in NCS for a frosh, so the talent is undoubtedly there. Pullen managed a solid track season, running a personal best of 9:49 in the 3200. Those two are good starting points but after that, there is a severe lack of varsity experience. Junior Blake Webster showed promise with a breakout track season, running 4:41 in the 1600 and 10:06 in the 3200. However, after that, there is a massive drop-off in track performances, with the Cougars only having one other athlete returning with a personal best under 5:00 in the 1600.

Coach Chuck Woolridge is known far and wide as one of the best motivators in the state, but he will have his work cut out for him this season. For Campo to be competitive on a section level, they will need to develop their younger athletes and work on closing the massive gap that exists between their #2 and the rest of the group.

On the bubble: Northgate, Alameda

Girls rankings will be posted tomorrow.

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