In the preseason, our numbers indicated that Great Oak's Junior Varsity squad would finish second in the division to their own varsity squad! Those came to fruition as the Wolfpack utilized their second group to capture their fifth straight title by 96-145 margin over Crescenta Valley. Fellow Pacific League rival, Burbank placed fourth behind CV but one of the main stories of 2019 featured the Mustangs of Roosevelt putting aside distractions to place third at the Division 1 finals! Long Beach Poly qualified for another State Championship. While La Serna claimed the sixth spot, this was their first trip to the State Meet while Vista Murrieta returned back for the first time since 2012. In a crazy season in projecting the teams behind Great Oak, there were eleven teams (the six that qualified, along with Martin Luther King, Mira Costa, Quartz Hill, Arcadia and California) that were projected as State Meet entries at one time or another in 2019.
At the California State Championships, heavy favorite, a well-rested 'A' team for Great Oak captured another state title. We only projected one team from the section to place in the top five, but Burbank moved up well over the last mile to defy the rankings and place fifth while Roosevelt ran to a seventh place finish. As solid as Crescenta Valley was at the finals, they fell to ninth place at the State Meet. In a rare occurance, only four Southern Section boys squads finished in the top ten in Fresno.
Great Oak moved onward to qualify for the Nike Cross Country Nationals (NXN) once again with visions of duplicating the feat of their national championship crew from 2015. While they ran down section-rival Newbury Park at the Clovis Invite in October, they fell just four points short of Newbury Park and came home with a runner-up finish for the second year in a row.
Individually, Great Oak's stars rarely ran in any in-section competitions, focusing on the elite invites. Early season favorite, Billy Atkinson of Mira Costa, lost a month of training to injury and settled for a fourth place finish at the divisional finals. But, he peaked with a fifth place finish at the State Meet. At the divisional finals, with a large pack staying together for the first two miles, the one to emerge to the victory over the last 800 meters was upstart senior (who did not compete in 2018) from Upland, Jeremiah Castellano. Another surprise to be towards the top at the end was Redondo Union sophomore Christoph Waligorski for the runner-up spot while Roosevelt senior Raul Chavez led his crew with his third place finish. Meanwhile, Verdugo and Abbes of Great Oak were the only other two to earn top-10 finishes at the State Meet (along with Atkinson).
Division 2 Team Champions: Newbury Park
The men of Newbury Park stole all of the headlines this season and deservingly so! Possessing the greatest 1-2 combo in the history of the Southern Section, Nico Young and Jace Aschbrenner mentored one of the best groups of underclassmen in the history of California. Not only did they cruise to the another divisional and state title, they held off Great Oak to capture the national title at NXN! They shattered their own team time record for the hallowed Woodward Park course in a head scratching 15:06 per scorer!
Lost in the shadows behind the Goliath that was Newbury
Park, Dana Hills quietly presented one of the top teams in sectional history as
they finished runner-up at the State Meet before rolling onto an eighth place
finish at NXN. They were not in the
national rankings going into the postseason.
Redlands East Valley came up with its best performance of the season in placing a close third, thus qualifying for their first State Meet appearance at the divisional finals. With Division 2 boasting the most talent in the section, Claremont, Loyola, Thousand Oaks and West Torrance interchanged spots in the rankings throughout the season before dominating the scene at the 2019 State Meet in claiming the top six spots! Claremont qualified for its sixth straight trip to Fresno before placing third in Fresno. Meanwhile Loyola, despite graduating most of its squad from 2018, qualified once again for the 13th year in a row! Thousand Oaks moved on for a second straight year while West Torrance, despite losing their top runner for the postseason, claimed that seventh spot in qualifying for the sixth straight season.
Nico Young continued to build his resume as California's
greatest prep distance star, in going undefeated, climaxing with an individual
title at NXN! In shattering the course
record on the Riverside Championship course, he just missed the all-time
Woodward Park course by four seconds (at Clovis and the State Meet) before
setting a new course record at NXN.
Teammate, Jace Aschbrenner also broke the previous course record at the
Division 2 finals and would have won almost every State Meet with his 14:53
clocking! (15:02 had been the best time by a team's second scorer as Sergio Gonzalez ran 15:02 on that 2010 NXN Champion Arcadia squad).
Also from the Miramonte League, Thousand Oaks' Michael Mireles earned an individual berth to NXN while Dana Hills' Carrick Denker stunned us in breaking 15:00 at the State Meet. Dana Hills' Jai Dawson and Newbury Park's Colin Sahlman crossed at two of the best sophomores in the nation as well. These six also covered the first six medals at the State Meet while Claremont's Jack Keough-Lansford exploded for his best race of the season in crossing in seventh. In traditional peaking fashion and competing in his fourth State Meet, Anthony Stone of Loyola crossed in ninth place! NP's Nicholas Goldstein rolled to a 15:17 finish, placing him as one of the top underclassmen in the State, despite being their fourth scorer!
Going into the season, Brea Olinda returned most of its crew
and were favored to earn the title. But,
the Chargers of Agoura had other plans and by mid-September, had established
itself as heavy favorites to coincide with Brea Olinda losing the services of one of its top
scorers. Although not at full strength
at the Division 3 finals, Agoura earned the 98-129 title over the upstart,
Royal will be the 2020
preseason favorites as the possessed a squad of all underclassmen while
qualifying for their first State Meet appearance since 2009, when the school
was still competing in Division 1! These
three squads went in opposite directions once arriving at the State Meet with
Agoura holding on for a third-place finish, Royal gathering valuable postseason
experience with a seventh place showing while Brea Olinda, in their 11th
straight State Meet appearance, faded back to a 12th place
Led by divisional champion, Keith Murray, Moorpark placed fourth while Palos Verdes rebuilt their group in a hurry with their fifth place finish. For the Sea Kings, this was their 13th appearance in the past 14 seasons. Not quite meeting preseason expectations after moving down from Division 2, Arroyo qualified for the State Meet for the first time since 1990 while St. John Bosco worked their way back to Fresno and what a trip it was. Going in, not ranked anywhere close to the top ten, the Braves exploded for their best race of the season in placing fifth at the State Meet, finishing higher than five squads that beat them the previous week.
Individually, the aforementioned Murray of Moorpark never let anyone close to him over the last mile in romping to a 13-second victory for the title. Pasadena sophomore Isaiah Givens became accustomed to competing against strong talent in the Pacific League and was runner-up. Our pre-meet favorite, Saket Sama of Arroyo placed third just ahead of Agoura's Beau Bordelon, who shined in his sixth-place State Meet finish the following week. His teammate, Ryan Koepnick was our favorite going into the postseason but was not at full strength, placing as his team's fourth scorer. Shining with their best races of the season as individual qualifiers, Baldwin Park's Eduardo de Paz placed eighth at the divisional finals but rolled to a third place finish at the State Meet. Gahr's Kishan Patel reached the podium with his 10th place finish while Brea Olinda's Shane Gaffikin put behind his 42th place finish at the divisional finals in exchange for an eighth place finish in Fresno.
Coming into the 2019 season, the race for the team title leaned towards Cathedral, who had finished fifth in 2018 after earning the title in 2017. Meanwhile, Laguna Beach was in rebuilding mode after graduating several of the top runners from their 2018 State Championship squad, which was considered as the best Division 4 squad in California history.
But, by mid-season, third-place the past two seasons, the Dragons of Foothill Tech emerged as the favorite despite boasting all underclassmen! Led by juniors Josh Villasenor (third place) and Oliver Pick (seventh place), Foothill Tech earned their second title in the past four seasons, holding off Cathedral, 99-138. Laguna Beach developed enough talent to place third. Meanwhile, coming off the radar in late September, Wilson of Hacienda Heights leapfrogged onto the scene and backed it up with a fourth place finish at the divisional finals. This was a team that had not qualified for the finals ever! They tied with Oaks Christian but earned the nod on having a faster sixth scorer. El Segundo placed sixth while we witnessed a resurgence from Barstow, who qualified for its first State Meet since 2008!
At the California State Meet, Foothill Tech was aggressive in the first mile to take a commanding lead and held on for the State Title! In its fourth straight appearance, Laguna Beach placed sixth. Oaks Christian placed ninth while El Segundo earned a tenth-place finish. Cathedral and Wilson were in the top four at the mile mark, but both trailed off to place outside the top ten.
Individually, this was the Anthony Grover show! After cruising to the divisional title, Grover ran away from the competition in the last mile to claim his third consecutive State title. After qualifying for the Footlocker Nationals in 2018, Grover was invited to NXN in 2019! Logan Brooks of Laguna Beach crossed in third while his underclass teammate, Mateo Bianchi made the podium with a tenth place finish. Bianchi was runner-up the previous week at the divisional finals. Foothill Tech's Villasenor was the division's fastest underclassmen with his fifth place medal while another junior, Bryce Hill, of Burroughs (Ridgecrest) peaked well with a ninth-place finale. Glancing back at the divisional finals, Big Bear sophomore Max Sannes came in off the radar for a fourth-place finish, just ahead of Hill.
One had to go back to the 1990's to find the last time Flintridge Prep had not qualified for the State Meet. In graduating most of their 2018 runner-up squad, the last time they finished outside the top-three at the divisional finals was 2009! Well, after not being ranked in the top three all season long, they came up with the best performance of the season and claimed their seventh Division 5 title in school history in the only upset the 2019 finals!
Ranked atop the divisional rankings all season were St. Margaret's and Viewpoint. Both were unable to match Flintridge Prep at the divisional finals but made up for it at the California State Meet. While St. Margaret's had to settle for runner-up plaques in back-to-back weekends, Viewpoint, at full strength, ascended to the top of the podium for the State Title, in their slim 128-145 victory. Glancing ahead to 2020, St. Margaret's returns the majority of their varsity squad.
While Flintridge Prep placing fifth at the State Meet, Midland surprised with a sixth place finish, after taking fourth the week before. Thacher qualified for a fourth year in a row, while Pacifica Christian (Santa Monica) earned the trip to Fresno for its first time. Snagging that seventh spot was Crossroads, matching its same effort from 2015.
Individually, St. Margarets junior Jackson Adelman captured his second divisional title. But, in 2019, he equaled the effort the following week with a wire-to-wire State Title! After his runner-up finish at the divisional finals, Viewpoint's Ronnie Orosky saved his best for last in placing sixth to pace his State Championship crew only to turn around to see teammate, Miles Clark not too far behind in tenth place. Meanwhile, sandwiched in between, Midland junior Will Goddard capped off a great season with a seventh place finish, after placing third the week before.
Below, we highlight our 2019 All-Southern Section Teams. Heavy weight was placed on how well the athlete placed at the State Meet with some consideration also given towards their performance(s) at the SS-Finals.
ALL-SOUTHERN SECTION TEAMS
Jace Aschbrenner, Sr. (Newbury Park)
Billy Atkinson, Sr. (Mira Costa)
Carrick Denker, Sr. (Dana Hills)
Anthony Grover, Sr. (JSerra)
Michael Mireles, Sr. (Thousand Oaks)
Chris Verdugo, Sr. (Great Oak)
Nico Young, Sr. (Newbury Park)
Gabriel Abbes, Sr. (Great Oak)
Jai Dawson, So. (Dana Hills)
Jack Keough-Lansford, Jr. (Claremont)
Ronan McMahon-Staggs, Sr. (Long Beach Poly)
Aric Reza, Sr. (Great Oak)
Anthony Stone, Sr. (Loyola)
Colin Sahlman, So. (Newbury Park)
Mateo Bianchi, Jr. (Laguna Beach); Logan Brooks, Sr. (Laguna Beach); Matthew Casillas, Sr. (Redlands East Valley); Jeremiah Castellano, Sr. (Upland); Raul Chavez, Sr. (Roosevelt); Michael Cooper, Jr. (Thousand Oaks); Nick Goldstein, Jr. (Newbury Park); Ian Gerth, Sr. (Simi Valley); Victor Goli, Sr. (Burbank); Mateo Joseph, Jr. (Great Oak); Ewan Macfarlane, Jr. (Peninsula); Josh Murray, Jr. (West Torrance); Keith Murray, Sr. (Moorpark); Brandon Pizano, Jr. (Dana Hills); Daniel Rodriguez, Jr. (Highland); Cole Sawires-Yager, Sr. (Great Oak); Adam Trafecanty, Sr. (Claremont); Josh Villasenor, Jr. (Foothill Technology); Christoph Waligorski, So. (Redondo Union); Dylan Wilbur, Sr. (Crescenta Valley); John Worthy, Jr. (Great Oak)
Jace Aschbrenner (Newbury Park)
Billy Atkinson (Mira Costa)
Carrick Denker (Dana Hills)
Anthony Grover (JSerra)
Michael Mireles (Thousand Oaks)
Chris Verdugo (Great Oak)
Nico Young (Newbury Park)
Michael Cooper (Thousand Oaks)
Nick Goldstein (Newbury Park)
Mateo Joseph (Great Oak)
Jack Keough-Lansford (Claremont)
Ewan Macfarlane (Peninsula)
Brandon Pizano (Dana Hills)
Josh Villasenor (Foothill Technology)
Daniel Appleford (Newbury Park)
Andres Chavez (Roosevelt)
Jai Dawson (Dana Hills)
Isaiah Givens (Pasadena)
Atticus Hall (Thousand Oaks)
Colin Sahlman (Newbury Park)
Christoph Waligorski (Redondo Union)
Mark Cortes (Great Oak)
John Gathuu (Martin Luther King)
Nathan Lennox (Great Oak)
Hector Martinez (Oaks Christian)
Ethan Romero (Citrus Valley)
Leo Young (Newbury Park)
Lex Young (Newbury Park)