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.
After several years of steady improvement, Redlands East Valley finally broke through to the state meet in 2019, finishing 5th in the Division 2 race. This puts them right on track for what I predicted in last fall's countdown. The Wildcats return 5 of the 7 runners from that race, including 3 current seniors whose experience and leadership should be a major benefit this winter.
If you only look at times from the state meet, there is a glaring weakness on this team: a major gap of almost 40 seconds between the top 2 and the rest of the returners. Looking at 3 mile data improves this picture, though, as the Wildcats have a solid top 6 separated by under a minute, including a top 4 with a spread of just 25 seconds. That's a strong core to build around, although depth is clearly still a need if REV is going to meet or exceed last year's standard.
Simon Opsahl leads the team and the strong group of seniors, followed closely by Matt Hornung and Liam Mapes. Juniors Alexander Miller and Corey Ford round out the returning top 5, although senior Anthony Ramos can definitely push for a spot as well. There is a significant drop-off after that, but the team also has a large supply of candidates who could step up if they have had a strong off season.
REV will move to Division 3 this winter, and that makes them clear contenders for a podium finish. With a breakthrough season from one top 5 runner, this could be a sleeper team for the D3 title.