It's finally here! Although we've had a few meets over the last few weeks, the 2017 California cross country season really gets going this weekend. We have several major openers going on over the next two days, covering just about every section.
(NOTE: The schedule has changed due to expected high temperatures.) This was the largest meet of the first full weekend last year in terms of total runners, and it also produced some really strong times (including a duel between Michael Vernau and Luis Grijalva). Jesuit's Matt Strangio tore up the Freshman race in 2016, and we look forward to seeing how fit he is (and his teammates as well). The best of the Sac Joaquin usually shows up for this one, so we should get a good early fix on how strong the Bella Vista and McClatchy boys are.
On the girls' side, Davis Senior will be the headliner, and we can see if Olivia O'Keeffe's surprise state championship last November has led her to take another step forward. She actually sat out this race in 2016, and despite that Davis has the top 3 returners - they could take the top 4 spots this time around. The small schools race might be more interesting up front if Rio Americano and El Camino both return, as both teams have strong lead runners (Sophia Karperos vs. Sarah Chaves and Alyssa Barnes).
Another meet that always draws a big turnout, this will also be our first chance to see how fast Kevin Ramos (Rubidoux) is coming out of the summer. Also, keep an eye on Brett Beattie (Buena), who showed flashes of edging into the Southern Section elite before his 2016 season ended a bit early. West Ranch and Trabuco Hills both raced here last fall and both have strong girls' and boys' teams, and we'll also get a chance to see if Yucaipa is still a contender after the transfer of Victoria Gaitan to Great Oak.
Like fast times? This is your meet. This is one of the few opening weekend meets that runs a full race distance, 3 miles, and yet runners always seem to post huge marks here (in fact, two of the top boys 10 marks at the end of the season were from this race). Raymon Ornelas and Tyler Spencer of Eleanor Roosevelt raced last year, and we really hope to see Alexander Hirsch (Burroughs Burbank) running alongside teammate Jagdeep Chahal. Mikaela Ramirez and Olivia Paez are among the top girls that competed here in 2016.
Some of the Northern Section's biggest meets later in the season tend to get buried under coverage from other sections (although we do notice the big performances). This is a weekend where their top teams and individuals can stand out, though, and last year squads like Chico and Shasta turned out well here. Will Charlie Giannini and his teammates justify our placement of them in the top 30 of our countdown this summer?