30 Girls Teams to Watch This Winter: St. Francis MV (CC)

For the last several years I've done a Countdown to XC feature in the 30 days leading up to the start of the fall season. This strange school year will be no exception! However, the usual format for the countdown won't work this time around - it depends heavily on spring track data (which we don't have) to evaluate championship contenders and try to predict emerging challengers. So, instead of a rankings-style countdown, I'm going to feature 30 boys teams and 30 girls teams that I think will have a significant impact on the upcoming, unique winter cross country season. We'll begin with the obvious contenders state-wide and in every section, and then work our way to some potential sleepers.

As has been the case for the last few years, untangling the intensely competitive and deep group of Division 2 girls contenders is quite difficult. Our next two teams went 1-2 in that race last fall, and they have followed nearly identical paths over the last two seasons. Both have rocketed up from relative obscurity (at least on a state-wide level), taking the top two spots in 2019 after both failed to even make it to states in 2018.

Unlike the defending champs, who we'll come to in our next profile, St. Francis Mountain View returns all seven runners from their runner-up squad. The Lancers have a deep and closely-spaced pack, returning a 25-second 1-5 split and a remarkable 38 second 1-8 split (using 5K data). That means they don't need returning #1 Isabelle Cairns to develop into an individual star, although she very well might - she ran 2:12 for the 800 runner in both her freshman and sophomore track seasons, which indicates she can be one of the most well-rounded runners in the state. She has the luxury of having Christel Elkins and Vanessa Cabello right with her, as either can handle front-running duties in any given race.

With such strong depth on this St. Francis team, it's not hard to imagine one of the returning 4-8 runners making the leap to contend for a spot in the top 3, which would make this squad extremely formidable. In the only data we have since the end of the 2019 cross country season, a 3200 race in early March that looks like it was a team tempo run, 4 candidates are clear: Alexa Barton and Claire Callon both ran 11:58, with Roxane Thomas and Hinako Yamamoto only one second behind. 

All indications point to a team still on the rise, and with 6 seniors in their top 8 this is the year for the Lancers to make that count. It won't take the kind of meteoric improvement they displayed between 2018 and 2019 to get it done, either; even a modest improvement of 10-15 seconds in their top 5 average time could be enough to separate them from the rest of Division 2, and anything more than that could put this team in range of the two D1 powers.

St. Francis Mountain View Stats:

*3 Mile times run at Crystal Springs and Golden Gate Park