Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Pre-Season NCS Division IV XC rankings

 D4 - Boys by Piedmont assistant coach, Len Goldman


As noted in the D3 analysis by Andy, for the upcoming Fall 2021 cross country season forecast there is somewhat limited recent results data available and most of it is from Spring track meets. The last NCS championship meet was in 2019 and while there was an abbreviated cross-country season in the Spring of 2021, many schools either did not participate or fielded a partial squad.  In addition, during the Spring, some schools had a concurrent cross country and track season which could be argued allows for some direct comparisons and validation between times for the two sports.  Nevertheless, here is one person’s perspective and I am sure as the season hopefully progresses, more accurate assessments can be made.  Note, two schools were re-classified to D4 this year, JFK-Fremont and San Rafael.

The defending D4 champion from 2019 is Archie Williams (formerly Sir Francis Drake.)  Obviously, graduation, as it has for almost all the schools, caused some turnover in runners.  However, after trying to glean data from Spring 2021 results, the squad from Archie Williams appears to be in a good position to repeat as champions.  Based on a cross country meet at Indian Valley during the Spring, this team had four runners who were sub-17 minutes on the 5K course.  They are led by senior Nate Wolford who ran a 16:32 in the Indian Valley 5K cross country race and 4:29 for 1600m in track.  This squad seems to have a very deep roster, with lots of quality runners and they are the #1 ranked team pre-season.  In addition, Evan Lee had a season's best 9:58 for 3200m, with Jonah Grubb and Eric Overaa not far behind in 10:13 and 10:14 respectively.  Rounding out the varsity 5 was Luke Calegari with a 16:37 5K and 4:55 for 1600. 

After Archie Williams, there are three schools that are contenders for the remaining two qualifying positions for the state meet.  All appear to be evenly matched and it could be a very close contest among them, with one of the schools sure to come away disappointed.  The contenders are Albany, O’Dowd and Piedmont.  Albany is led by junior Sean Morello who could be the top runner in D4 with a 9:09 time for the 3200 and 16:08 for the TCAL Pt. Pinole three mile course. He is ably supported by four other runners, Lucas Cohen, brothers Ben and Jack Elfenbaum, and Kristiyan Klichev, all of whom are sub-11 minutes for the 3200 and also sub 18 minutes for the 3 mile distance.  This team could certainly challenge for the #1 spot as they also have a very deep group of distance runners.

Year in and year out, Bishop O’Dowd is always one of the top teams and that appears to be the case for 2021 also.  By virtue in being in the WACC league, they competed on the Hayward course twice during the Spring of 2021, and they were the first-place team in the final WACC cross country meet of the season.  While two of their top runners have graduated, they return four varsity runners led by Zach Tannebaum who ran a 17:10 on the Hayward course and 10:56 for the 3200 in track.  The other returning runners are Marcus Fong, Griffin Osser, and Ethan Gonzalez, all ran in the mid 17 minute range on the Hayward course. However, the question mark for this team is who will fill the 5, 6 and 7 positions and that could be critically important to their success.

A team on the rise is Piedmont, which has a number of young runners at its core and is led by senior Jack Stein who posted outstanding times during the 2021 Spring season with a 15:59 on the Hayward course and a 9:47 for 3200 in track.  Six other runners on this squad were all under 18 minutes for the Hayward course and also posted sub-11 minute times in the 3200.  One standout runner was Christian Taylor, 17:40 for 3 miles and 4:38 for 1600.  Depth is not an issue in the case of this group, but can they continue to progress in dropping their times and challenge the teams ranked in front of them is the question.

Individually as mentioned, the favorite is Sean Morello of Albany.  After him the possibilities are Jack Stein of Piedmont, Tyler Hunt of Acalanes and Mateo Malko-Allen of St Mary's. 

Unfortunately, results data for schools that might be on the bubble is pretty sketchy so rather than list any right now, I think it best to wait until mid-September when the picture should be a bit clearer.


D4 - Girls


It appears that for the Spring 2021 season, many girls opted not to compete in track or cross country, as the numbers for most schools were down from the previous year.  With a “normal” sports season in the offing, hopefully the number of participants will bounce back.  As noted for the D4 boys, once the season is underway in September and a few meets have taken place, the picture should become a bit clearer as to who are the contenders.


The defending D4 champion from 2019 is Piedmont and they have several veteran runners returning for their senior year.  However, a girls’ team from the most northern corner of the NCS looks to be the pre-season favorite.  This school enjoyed much success from 2012 to 2015, winning the NCS twice and qualifying for the state meet all four years.


Arcata posted times in both cross country and track during the Spring that are ahead of the rest of the pack.  This team is led by the three MacDonald sisters, Anneli, Mathilde (both seniors) and Soquel (a sophomore).  Anneli had a 3200m time of 10:53 and her twin sister Mathilde ran 11:54, both also posted fast times in cross country, 18:55 and 19:04 respectively for a 3-mile race.  Soquel had a 12:04 in the 3200 and teammates Cassidy Thorpe and Alauna Thompson were sub 13 minutes in the 3200.  Based on these times, this squad seems to have depth and the quality times to go with it.

An up-and-coming team in this division is Acalanes.  While perhaps lacking a star front runner, they have a solid group of runners, especially their top three with Lauren and Megan Yee and Olivia Williams.  All three ran fine times in the 3200 during Spring track season with 11:25 for Olivia, and Lauren and Megan both in at 11:40.  In addition, in the one cross country meet that they ran in during the Spring, all three were under 20 minutes for 3 miles.  Backing them up are three other runners who could be key to their success this season, Elle Casselman, Caroline Crossland and Katrina Ortman.

Miramonte returns a veteran team of runners and could also challenge for the team title.  They have five seniors who have run together all four years in Kate Riley, Sadie Wayne, Jamie Say, Nathalie Green, and Claire Nolet.  All posted competitive times in the 1600 and 3200 during track season, with all five under 6 minutes for the 1600 and 13 minutes for the 3200.  In addition, they are supported by several other runners who add depth to this squad, making a solid group in the 1 through 7 positions.  It could be a spirited contest when this squad meets Arcata and Acalanes at the NCS meet in November.

The defending champion Piedmont appears to lack the strength they have had in recent years and will be hard-pressed to be one of the three teams that move onto the state meet out of the NCS.  The team is lead by Ellie Black who during the Spring won the WACC meet finale on the Hayward course in a time of 19:26. She also ran a 5:40 for 1600 and 12:31 in the 3200 during the track season. The other Piedmont runners were 2 minutes behind Ellie’s time on the Hayward course, with four girls running in the mid-21-minute range for the 3-mile distance. Unless they can improve on those times, they will not be a contender come the November NCS meet.


Finally, mention should be made of the Albany girls’ team.  They are led by senior Sophia Nordenholz, who is the fastest 3200m runner in NCS history with a 10:05.91 set at the Arcadia Invitational.  She is the prohibitive favorite to win the 2021 D4 NCS individual title and could be a state meet favorite as well.  While she has a nice group of teammates behind her, unless they really improve this coming season, it is unlikely that this team will be a contender at the NCS meet. 

1 comment:

Elmo said...

Respectfully disagree, I feel Albany boys will dominate division 4

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