The Top Ten Boys Teams of the 2018 XC Season:
We're not leaving any state champions off of this list, and especially not a team as dominant within their division as the Tartans (they won by almost 70 points, the most of any boys team in Clovis this year). No, this team doesn't compare well to the host of strong D1 and D2 teams in the state - but nobody expects them to, with a tiny fraction of those schools' populations. This was a very impressive season for a school this small, and that should not be discounted in any way.
Like Dana Hills and Claremont, this team was right in the thick of the state title race and the battle for NXN bids. Although they fell just short in an ultra competitive Division II state meet, the Cubs had an excellent regular season and were in the small group of teams that had a legitimate shot at an NXN sport (behind Loyola in the results merge there is a significant drop-off to the next group of teams). As usual the Cubs were led by a large senior class, and as usual that should not cause them to be counted down for the 2019 season. This program just keeps rolling, and we don't take that for granted at all!
8. Laguna Beach
Just being the Division IV champ would be enough to get on this list, but this season was so much more than that for the Breakers. Laguna Beach had the 15th-best team performance of the state meet across all divisions, with only one team outside of D1 and D2 doing better. On the season, the team ranks 11th for 5K and a stunning 3rd in the state for 3 Miles (based largely on league meet times from a known super-fast course, but still). Those are remarkable numbers for a D4 squad, and Laguna Beach should not go unrecognized for being one of the best teams overall (not just in their division) this fall.
That this team won Division III was not a surprise to us, although to be honest it was a closer race than I expected. We knew Ridgeview would be good - but we didn't expect them to be THIS good. They rank 8th in the entire state in the season 5K rankings, extremely impressive for a D3 school, and you could actually argue that the state meet was one of their weaker performances of the season. When you can be off a bit and still win a state title in California, you definitely have a strong squad!
6. Dana Hills
Did you miss the very strong season from the Dolphins? This has been an unusual season for Dana Hills, simultaneously quiet and also outstanding. They definitely get credit for overcoming the transfer of their returning #1 runner as well as their typical graduation losses, which together represented a larger mountain to climb than just about any other team in the state. Despite those setbacks, the Dolphins still finished 3rd at the state meet, even outscoring Claremont in a full results merge. The moral of this story? Never count Dana Hills out (remember that when we start ramping up for the 2019 season...)
This team came very close to cracking the top four. There is very little gap between the Wolfpack and La Costa Canyon, either looking at season rankings or state meet results. While that no doubt makes for a disappointing finish to the season for Claremont, this was nonetheless an excellent fall for this team. Division II was ultra-competitive this year, as was the state overall on the boys' side, yet Claremont was right there in the thick of things - and the Wolfpack will have a very strong team back next year to try to break through again.
It took a while for the Mavericks to reach full steam, but when they did it was impressive. LCC finished a close second in the Division II state meet, running well enough to earn an at-large berth in Nike Cross Nationals. They finished 11th there, which means that all four California teams placed in the top half of the race. In edging Claremont in the state's most competitive overall division, the Mavericks secured their space in the top four.
3. West Ranch
You can't call their outstanding performance at the state meet a surprise, not after posting big times at the Master's College Mustang Challenge and then finishing third at the Clovis Invitational. Still, the Wildcats only rank 6th in the final season 3 Mile rankings, and they lost to Newbury Park every time they raced head to head. When it counted most, though, West Ranch came through to finish a close 2nd at the state meet and secure an auto bid to NXN, where they finished 8th. You can make a very strong case for them to be at #2 in this list, and there is virtually no separation between these two teams.
2. Newbury Park
The choice between 2nd and 3rd in this list was very difficult. Newbury Park had a slightly better regular season (although West Ranch definitely showed flashes of the brilliance we would see at the state meet), and who knows what would have happened if the Panthers were racing in Division I in Clovis? If you considered the two teams tied after state, then Newbury Park broke the tie with a 6th-place finish at Nike Cross Nationals, more than justifying their inclusion as a wild card team. One other factor that gives them an edge here: this was all a bit ahead of schedule for the Panthers, who had less experience than the other teams in the top 4 and will have most of their runners back next fall.
1. Great Oak
This Wolfpack squad may not have been as statistically spectacular or as dominant throughout the season as the 2015 team, but their accomplishments are nonetheless extremely impressive. Great Oak won their 5th consecutive Division I state title, holding off an inspired West Ranch team, then followed that up with a second place finish at Nike Cross Nationals. Perhaps most noteworthy was the interchangeability of their top 5: Mateo Joseph led the way at the state meet, but Tyler Tickner was their #1 at Southern Section Finals, and both Gabriel Abbes and Chris Verdugo also pushed the front of the pack at times.