With the divisional changes that took place last season, Division V will still have the majority of the teams under the past cutoff of 500 (only five teams are above that number). Although, the top end of this division now goes up to 600, the top teams will remain the usual suspects who compete for the state qualifying spots year after year.
Looking back at the past few seasons on the boys side, St. Joseph Notre Dame won four section titles in a row from 2011 to 2014 which included 4 state podium finishes which included 2 state titles in 2012 and 2013. Marin Academy, perhaps in the shadows of SJND during those seasons, had a nice run of their own that included a section team title in 2015 and two 2nd place finishes at the state meet in 2013 and 2015. Lick-Wilmerding (photo above courtesy of Albert Caruana) won a very competitive section race in 2016 that included 26 complete teams.
This coming season, the L-W boys will be the favorites to win the team title. They return the top returning runner in this division, Sean Laidlaw (4:30.14/9:38.33) as well as the top 6 competitors from last year's section meet. Their fifth man from that meet was now senior Erik Stein who recorded bests of 1:56.02 and 4:33.05 this past spring.
The next best team appears to be SF University. They had a nice influx of freshmen last year led by Charlie Kennedy (2:05.36/4:33.90) and Clay Mills (4:46.35/10:12.42). UHS will return their top 3 runners as well as 5 of their top 7 from last year's section meet.
The team that could certainly challenge both Bay Counties League teams will be Sonoma Academy. They finished in 4th place last year led by an outstanding trio of runners that all finished in the top 12. They lose lead runner Joey Johnson but return Kheva Mann (1:57.93/4:27.38) and Brendan Loftus (4:40.12/10:12.22). They will be bolstered by Kelseyville transfer Andre Williams (4:41.04/9:58.86) who will fill in capably for Johnson's absence. If you look at the top returners from last season's section meet, you will see they SA now has 3 of the top 5 returners which give them a lot of fire power up front.
The wild card in this division will be McKinleyville. They finished in 2nd place in Division IV last season but will now compete here. They lost their top two runners but will still have Christian Coley (4:34.33/9:48.53) and Trent Padilla (4:48.31 mile/10:20.70). I don't believe they will be as strong as they were last season but they can still battle for a state meet spot here.
With five teams qualifying for state, another team in the mix will include College Prep. They lose lead runner Ethan Ashby but return the rest of their team. A freshman, Jacob Lehmann Duke (4:45.08/10:17.11), led the team at last year's section meet and will have plenty of returning teammates to form a very solid team. St. Joseph Notre Dame finished in 2nd place last year but do lose their top 2 runners, Cooper Teare and Willie Mein. They return 4 out of their top 7 runners from last season and will definitely have to be accounted for when it comes to the top teams in this section.
One thing for certain is that we will have a different individual champion than the past two seasons. Perhaps, the best runner in section history, Cooper Teare, will now be taking his talents to the University of Oregon. The top returning runner from last season is L-W senior, Sean Laidlaw. Isaac Teuscher (1:59.45/4:30.84/9:35.76) of Head Royce was right behind Laidlaw in 6th place and will be aiming for an individual title as well. Sonoma Academy could be in line for a team title and their top 3 runners will all be in the mix up front with transfer Andre Williams and returners Kheva Mann and Brendan Loftus.
Division V Boys (Top 5 Advance to State)
1) Lick-Wilmerding-Last title before last year was Division III in 1989. Poised now for back to back.
2) University-Have very strong group returning but have a bit of a gap behind Tigers.
3) Sonoma Academy-They will be very tough up front but will need to close the gap with back end.
4) McKinleyville-Strong program from division IV.
5) College Prep-They will be in the mix with solid #1 and typical depth.
6) St. Joseph ND-Will be motivated to win 5th section title in the past 6 seasons.
7) Marin Academy-On the outside looking in at this point but may surprise in November.
On the bubble: Stuart Hall, Urban
Top 5 returning individuals, (place) and 2016 NCS meet time:
Sean Laidlaw (5) Lick-Wilmerding 15:35.2
Isaac Teuscher (6) Head Royce 15:36.8
Andre Williams (8) Kelseyville 15:44.8
Kheva Mann (10) Sonoma Academy 15:59.5
Brendan Loftus (12) Sonoma Academy 16:04.4