A jubilant Jace Aschbrenner and the Newbury Park boys team celebrated a national title at NXN to cap a season that also included defense of Southern Section and State Division II crowns. (Credit: Bryan Deibel)
What an incredible and forever memorable 2019 season for the Southern Section! Concluding with the Nike Cross Nationals two weekends ago, no region in the history of the event had ever been as successful as what we witnessed from the Southern Section squads.
In one of the greatest two-team rivalry in the state's history, Newbury Park held on to out lean Great Oak by a mere four points for the national title! Nico Young capped off a perfect season in not only claiming the individual title but also leading his Panthers to the national crown! With that, the California at-large entry into the event, Dana Hils, timed its peak perfectly. With a performance at the State Meet that would have claimed state titles in the past, the Dolphins placed eighth at the national event.
With the girls, the Central Section's Buchanan led the way for California. But once again, Great Oak claimed a top 10 finish while Newbury Park, the Division II State Champions, finished with a top-20 finish.
With that, we provide you with our final team rankings of the 2019 season! We reminiscence back to when we followed the American Top 40 songs in the USA. Showing our age in reflecting back to the 1980's, we have expanded this last list from 25 to the Top 40!
Heavy consideration was placed on a team's State Meet performance. But we did take into consideration each squad's overall 'body of work' in reflecting back on their success over the last month of the season.
Southern Section Top 40 Final Overall Rankings
BOYS (State Meet team merges)
1. Newbury Park (Div. 2) -- The Panthers became the third California team in NXN history to claim the team title. In one of the greatest regional rivalries to ever take place in sectional history, they held off Great Oak by only four points! In claiming another Division II State Title, they set a new Woodward Park team time course record, smashing their record effort from the Clovis Invite with a 75:28 (15:06 average) team time. Meanwhile, not even close to full strength, they also shattered all records from the Riverside Championship Course. Nico Young graduates as, arguably, the greatest prep athlete in sectional and state history. Jace Aschbrenner will go down as the best '#2' in sectional history as well! By the way, those were the only two seniors in their program!
2. Great Oak (Div. 1) -- They beat Newbury Park at October's Clovis Invite but was not able to repeat in their quest for the program's second national title! Resting out most of their varsity squad a month before the State Meet, they captured another State Championship while remarkably, capturing their eighth straight divisional title with their 'B' team! Their 76:23 ranks them the fourth fastest team in the history of the Woordward Park course, and only 13 seconds short of their 2015, national title unit! Chris Verdugo was sensational this season along with fellow senior Gabriel Abbes. They lose a lot to graduation BUT.... remember which program we're referencing!
3. Dana Hills (Div. 2) -- Perhaps the team that surprised everybody, the Dolphins waited until the last two weeks to pull out their two best performances of 2019. Not only were they runner-up to the greatest team in California State History (after placing third at the divisional finals), but they also turned around to place eighth at NXN. Carrick Denker breaking 15:00 at the State Meet was one of the top surprises of the season! Their 77:13 was the Dolphins' second-best in school history for Woodward Park and the ninth best team in state history.
4. Claremont (Div. 2) -- Walked away from the season with their best performance, yielding them a spot on the podium at the State Meet. After having finished fourth the week before at the Division 2 finals, Jack Keough Lansford (seventh place) and Adam Trafecanty (17th place) led the way. The crew ended up seventh in all of California with their 78:29 performance, setting a new school record for the Woodward Park course. In other years, this group would have received more headlines!
5. Burbank (Div. 1) -- No team stepped it up over the last mile at the State Meet than this crew as they collectively moved up by 43 points! As they moved up from eighth with less than a mile to go and placed fifth overall when it was all said and done. After placing fourth at the divisional finals, most did not project them to finish in the top eight. In the overall state merge, they placed tenth overall. Great battle with Crescenta Valley all throughout the season, concluding with Burbank sitting on top in the end.
6. Roosevelt (Div. 1) -- What a roller coaster ride of a season with all compliments to Coach Cummings, who stepped in as head coach mid-season to keep these boys on the path to success. No group went into the postseason with more question marks, but yet, emerged with so much success! The Mustangs not only placed third at the Division 1 finals (but were ranked tenth in the official CIF-SS rankings), but backed it up with a seventh place finish at the State Meet. In the overall State Meet merge, they placed 11th.
7. Loyola (Div. 2) -- No other program has continually reloaded on a yearly basis over the past two decades than the Cubs! For most of the season, they were right on the fence of qualifying for the State Meet. But, once the postseason rolled around - they silenced all doubters in taking fifth at the Division 2 finals only to come back with a better race at the State Meet. Placing fourth at the State Meet for Division II, they ended up 12th in the overall State Meet merge.
7t. Redlands East Valley (Div. 2) -- Despite being outpaced by Loyola at the State Meet, it was tough placing this group so low considering their runner-up finish at the Division 2 finals! They were the second fastest squad at the divisional finals, but as we mentioned - heavy weight was placed on the State Meet. In the end, their best squad in school history placed 14th in the overall State Meet merge.
9. Crescenta Valley (Div. 1) -- Like REV above, the Falcons had a tough time matching their success from the previous week. Dylan Wilbur led his group to a runner-up finish at the Division 1 finals, but they faded to ninth at the State Meet, placing 15th in the overall State Meet merge.
10. Thousand Oaks (Div. 2) -- Competing in the same league with Newbury Park provided a nice measuring stick for this crew. Led by Michael Mireles, the Landers ended up as the 19th best team in the overall State Meet merge. With three of their top five returning in 2020. they finished strong with a sixth place finish at the State Meet to improve upon their seventh place finish from a year ago.
11. Agoura (Div. 3) -- The Division 3 champions placed third at the State Meet (18th in overall State Meet merge). The Chargers had ascended up into our top ten after the Clovis Invite, but they ran 19-seconds slower at the State Meet, unfortunately.
12. West Torrance (Div. 2) -- Despite placing as low as 27th in the overall State Meet merge, we kept this group near the top ten. Losing Jake Parker, one of the section's best, in the postseason affected their podium aspirations. With that, they still qualified for the State Meet in the toughest division in the section. At full strength, we had them ranked in the top five overall at times this season.
13. Foothill Tech (Div. 4) -- As usual with Coach Ken Reeves, his squad waited until the end to run their best in capturing their second divisional and State Titles in the past four seasons. And, they return ALL seven for the 2020 season to defend their titles! Expect them to be among the top ten squads in 2020!
4. Long Beach Poly (Div. 1) -- They placed fifth at the divisional finals and 11th at the State Meet, despite their fifth scorer being off. The all-senior squad was as consistent as any other team in the section this season. Ronan McMahon-Staggs led this crew, which will have a tall task in replacing all of their scorers and qualifying for another State Meet in 2020.
15. La Serna (Div. 1) -- In qualifying for their first State Meet ever, they finished sixth at the divisional finals and only six points behind LB Poly at the State Meet for 12th place. They graduate most of their squad but lived up to our preseason expectations here in 2019.
16. Vista Murrieta (Div. 1) -- They qualified for the State Meet (13th place) for the first time since 2015, holding off ML King for that last spot. Under ranked by others throughout the season, they utilized the same five scorers all season long.
17. ML King (Div. 1) -- One of the more difficult squads to figure out this season, but had their best performance of the season at the divisional finals. In placing eighth there, they were only six points behind for that last spot to the State Meet.
18. Quartz Hill (Div. 1) -- Always on the cusp of the top ten in Division 1, they placed ninth at the divisional finals. They were 14 points behind for a State Meet spot in a season where they exceeded preseason expectations.
19. El Toro (Div 2) -- Littered with injuries throughout the season, we still never got to see them reveal their true potential of talent. They placed eighth at the Div. 2 Finals, holding off Canyon by one point.
20. Canyon, Ana. (Div. 2) -- One of the more pleasant surprises this season as they created their own headlines (away from their strong girl's team) with their ninth place finish at the Division 2 finals. They return four of their top five for 2020.
21. Mira Costa (Div. 1) -- At times, we had them slated as a State Meet team while also left pondering just how good they were. But, even with getting Billy Atkinson healthy for the postseason, they placed 10th at Div. 1 finals.
22. St. John Bosco (Div. 3) -- Perhaps, no team moved up from their State Meet performance. The highest we had them ranked was between 30th-35th and they proved us wrong! Placing seventh at the divisional finals, they erupted for their best race of the season in placing fifth at the State Meet!
23. Laguna Beach (Div. 4) -- Coming back to defend their 2018 State Title was going to be a tough task. But, the Breakers finished third at the Division 4 finals and placed sixth at the State Meet. They developed some young talent to compliment the front running of Logan Brooks and Mateo Bianchi.
24. Woodbridge (Div. 2) -- A program that seems to go under the radar, the Warriors came back after a strong showing at the 2018 State Meet. Unable to qualify in 2019, they still exceeded expectations by placing tenth at the Division 2 finals.
25. Capistrano Valley (Div. 2) -- Strong, consistent performances by Sean Robertson (State Meet qualifier) paced the Cougars to another solid season which ended with an 11th place finish at the Division 2 finals. In returning five for 2020, expect this group to flirt with a State Meet berth once again.
26. Rancho Cucamonga (Div. 1) -- Coming in off everybody's radar when they performed so well at the Inland Empire Championships, we witnessed some great improvement from their top individuals. In the end, they placed 11th at the Division 1 finals after not being ranked in the top 20 in the preseason.
27. Viewpoint (Div. 5) -- After a disappointing third at the divisional finals, they surprisingly bounced back to capture the Division V State Title! They obviously had their sights set on the Woodward Park course as their two best performances on the season came on it.
28. Royal (Div. 3) -- Runner-up to Agoura at the Division 3 finals and seventh at the State Meet. They return their entire group and will go into 2020 as the favorites to capture the Division 3 crown and will have their sights set on the making the podium in Fresno.
29. Moorpark (Div. 3) -- With their best performance of the season in placing fourth at Division 3 finals, they faded to tenth at the State Meet. Keith Murray rolled to the Division 3 title in Riverside to pace the Musketeers to one of the best teams in school history. With three of their top four graduating, they will have a steep challenge in matching the same success in 2020.
30. St. Margaret's (Div. 5) -- In working to defend both titles from 2018, they settled for runner-up plaques at the both the divisional finals and the State Meet. Junior Jackson Adelman defended his Division 4 divisional title before racing to the Division V state title! This was their 11th time in 12 seasons they qualified for the State Meet.
31. Brea Olinda (Div. 3) -- Favorites to capture the Division 3 crown in the summer, they had a tough time replacing a top scorer. They placed third at the divisional finals to qualify for their 11th straight State Meet. Unfortunately, they could not replicate their divisional performance and fell down to 12th place at the State Meet.
32. San Clemente (Div. 1) -- When viewing this squad through their peaks on local courses, which revealed that they had State Meet potential, to the valleys that we witnessed at the divisional finals. This was a tough crew to gauge all throughout the season. They finished 12th place at the Division 1 finals.
33. Godinez (Div. 2) -- Solid season that ended with a 12th place finish at Div. 2 finals for the Golden West League champs.
34. California (Div. 1) -- Competing well with State Meet qualifier, La Serna, all throughout the season, this squad also had their sights on a second straight State Meet berth. Unfortunately, things fizzled at the divisional finals, where they placed a distant 13th.
35. Arcadia (Div. 1) -- Competing with the likes of Burbank and Crescenta Valley in the Pacific League, we were shocked by their 15th place finish at the Division 1 finals. As we did feel that they were over ranked by others, we still projected them to finish in the top 10.
36. Palos Verdes (Div. 3) -- Despite only returning one from their 2013 Division 3 championship squad, this group developed well over the course of the season.
37. Arroyo (Div. 3) -- Did not quite meet preseason expectations, which saw them claiming a top-three spot after moving down from the much tougher competition of Division 2. They finished sixth at the divisional finals and 13th at the State Meet.
38. Flintridge Prep (Div. 5) -- With one of the deepest traditions in the section, qualifying for the State Meet in every year since 1999, the Rebels surprised in capturing the Division 5 title (third in the last seven years). They had been ranked in the top three all season long. With that, they could not match the same energy at the State Meet and just missed the podium (by eight points) with a fifth place finish. They finished in the top three every year this decade at the divisional finals!
39. Beckman (Div. 1) -- The Pacific Coast League champions continued to improve but could not match the same performances that we witnessed in mid-October. With that, they did not click on all cylinders and faded to a 16th place finish at the Division 1 finals.
40. Ventura (Div. 2) -- Always off the radar until November rolls around, the Cougars placed 13th at the Division 2 finals.
Others: Cathedral (Div. 4); El Segundo (Div. 4); Glendora (Div. 2); Highland (Div. 1); Midland (Div. 5); Mission Viejo (Div. 2); Oaks Christian (Div. 4); Simi Valley (Div. 2); Walnut (Div. 2); West Ranch (Div. 1); Wilson-HH (Div. 4)