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.
--Despite a move to Division 1 last fall, Saugus continued its run as one of the state's most consistent programs, bringing home a third place finish. This year should bring a sense of urgency for the Centurions, because they are projected to have 5 seniors on their varsity squad. With that level of leadership and experience, it's easy to imagine this team grinding through consistent training during this extra-long off season.
There is plenty of talent coming back to ensure another top finish at the state meet. Hannah Fredericks and Isabella Duarte are a potent 1-2 punch up front, while Julia Pearson and Danielle Salcedo anchor the middle of the varsity team. Saugus needs Natasha Prociuk, Jennifer Thompson, and Ryan Vasquez to improve enough to form a strong pack with Pearson and Salcedo, and it wouldn't hurt if the team could cultivate a new varsity-caliber runner or two for added depth.
If the Centurions just manage the same improvement they've had every off season for the past three years, they will be in contention for a podium finish and a spot among the top 5 teams in California regardless of division. Considering that this team has been third best in the state at season-to-season development over the last 5 years, that seems like a safe bet to me.