SAN DIEGO -- A year ago, the San Diego Section had a prohibitive favorite to win an individual cross country title and an outside chance for a team champion.
Sure enough, MileSplitCA Runner of the Year Kristin Fahy of La Costa Canyon, now at Stanford, held off all challengers to run away with the state Division II title, winning by more than 22 seconds at 17:22.6.
The team given the best chance, La Costa Canyon's boys, came close, putting three runners in the top 10 but were simply not deep enough for Thousand Oaks Newbury Park, which had all five scorers in the top 30 led by champion Nico Young, to low-score the Mavericks 77-90.
For LCC, Caleb Niednagel led the way, finishing fourth, and he'll be the No. 2 returning runner in the division. He and coach Bill Vice say it might not be wise to count out the Mavericks who have lost the Stanford Twins to BYU but have seen solid progress from the likes of Andy Pueschel, who placed 25th in the team scoring.
Niednagel himself is ready to roll.
"At this time last year I was still commuting from Orange County (he transferred from Dana Hills) and getting to know my teammates," said the 17-year-old senior. "I've bumped my mileage up from 50 to 60 miles a week and I'm dropping my times. Each year running is more fun."
Niednagel and Newbury Park's Young figure to have some battles but the LCC runner isn't focused on that.
"I'd rather be the No. 2 individual and win the team title," he said.
Coach Vice notes that five of the seven runners who went to Portland last December for Nike Cross Nationals return and he's very happy with the makeup of the team as he searches for his first team title.
"We had a 2-mile time trial and nine runners were within a minute of each other," said Vice. "Our goals are the same -- win league and section and make the podium at State."
Among those to watch-freshman Jacob Niednagel, Caleb's brother.
Click the pages below for more San Diego Section storylines, other runners to watch and a division-by-division breakdown
SEVEN HOT DATES
San Diego Section Area Meets To Watch
Aug. 24 - Vaquero Stampede at Lindo Lake Park, Lakeside
Sept. 7 - Bronco Roundup at Kit Carson Park, Escondido
Sept. 21 - Mt. Carmel XC Invitational at Morley Field, San Diego
Sept. 27 - Jerry Downey Classic at Morley Field, San Diego
Oct. 12 - Running Center SoCal Invitational at Guajome Park