North Coast Section Detailed Preview (Div. IV Boys & Girls)

As one Division IV coach stated, "Year in and year out, forecasting this division proves to be quite difficult because of the parity that exists between the perennial top dogs." I agree with that statement wholeheartedly yet here I am trying to make sense of this upcoming season. I am not sure if I can pick a favorite with conviction (especially on the boys side) but I can point out the top teams and individuals.

Over the past 8 years, the most successful team has been St. Mary's Berkeley coached by former Cal All-American and school record holder high jumper, Jeff Rogers. They won NCS titles in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013. The next best team has been San Rafael coached by Jason Jacobson who has led his teams to three NCS titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 (Sound familiar Giants fans?). His 2010 team also won the California state meet. St. Mary's Berkeley will once again contend for a state meet berth but San Rafael will now face a tougher task in the bigger Division III field.

This is a tough one to pick (I said that already right?) but at this point I will go with Sir Francis Drake. They seem to return the most firepower and looking ahead to the state meet, they have the potential to finish in the top 10. They will be led by senior Jeremy Leary (4:36.35/9:50.75) and sophomore Wyatt Miceli (16:34 at Woodward Park). Coach Bill Taylor will have quite a group that may help him secure their first section title since 2000 McKinleyville finished in 4th place last year and return 5 of their top 7. Their coach, Jason Lewis, has done a nice job rebuilding that program and coaching Division IV defending champion, Morgin Coonfield. They will be led by senior Connor Trump (4:44.21/10:22.98) and junior Austin Nolan (2:00.40/4:30.19). Arcata returns 4 out of 7 and their top 3 may be the best in the division. They will be led by defending NCS champion Brandon Kelsey (4:34.81/9:37.21) and Kellen O'Neill (4:22.15/9:37.50). St. Mary's Berkeley only returns 3 out of their 7 from last year's championship team but history has proven that they reload and will be competitive once again.

The race for the individual title will include defending champion Brandon Kelsey of Arcata and impressive rising junior, El Molino's Brian Schulz who were separated by only 3 seconds at last year's NCS MOC meet. They will also be challenged by Jeremy Leary and Wyatt Miceli of Sir Francis Drake, Kellen O'Neill of Arcata and Zach Bibeault of Terra Linda.

Top 5 individual runners returning from last year's NCS MOC XC meet:
Brandon Kelsey (1) Arcata 16:05
Brian Schulz (2) El Molino 16:08
Jeremy Leary (4) Sir Francis Drake 16:23
Wyatt Miceli (7) Sir Francis Drake 16:34
Kellen O'Neill (8) Arcata 16:43

The girls team battle should be an interesting one as the defending champion Piedmont team returns the majority of their runners from last season. Arcata, the 3-time defending champion before last season, have had a lot of success at the section level and last year finished in 2nd place. Sir Francis Drake finished in 3rd place last year and return 6 of their top 7 from last year although their lone loss was their #1 runner. St. Mary's Berkeley, like their boys counterpart, have been the most consistent team in this division. They finished in 4th place at NCS.

Piedmont will be led by one of their top runners from last year, Emma Seevak, who finished in 4th place at last year's NCS meet. Arcata will once again be led by senior Chloe Pigg who finished in 3rd place last year at the NCS meet. Sir Francis Drake will need to find a way to replace past leader Sophia Noto in order to gain another top 3 finish. St. Mary's of Berkeley returns 5 of their top 7 and seem to be locked in yearly in at least the top 5. The race for the team title should be quite close while the race for the state meet which will include the top 4 teams. The rest of the contenders will include Marin Catholic, Justin Siena and Cardinal Newman.

The individual chase could be rather one sided with 2-time defending champion Morgin Coonfield (4:55.51/10:20.72) of McKinleyville steamrolling the field. She will be chased by Chloe Pigg from local Arcata HS. Pigg won the section title convincingly as a freshman and remains competitive in this division. The rest of the contenders will include Emma Seevak and Sofia Barker of Piedmont.

Top 5 individual runners returning from last year's NCS MOC XC meet:
Morgin Coonfield (1) McKinleyville 18:50
Chloe Pigg (3) Arcata 19:25
Emma Seevak (4) Piedmont 19:28
Sofia Barker (8) Piedmont 19:56
Ella Hymel (10) St. Mary's Berkeley 20:18

Comments are welcome. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts on this division in the comment section below.