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.
De La Salle had a legitimate claim to being the best boys team in the North Coast Section in 2019, along with Maria Carrillo and Granada. The Spartans have one thing in their favor those other two don't: a nearly intact returning varsity team. In fact, 11 of the top 12 runners from that squad are back, including an incredible 9 current seniors, all of them under 17 minutes for 3 miles last year. If there was ever a team that needs to win now, this is it.
The Spartans finished 9th in Division 2 last fall and were probably a little disappointed with that result. For a team with only one graduating runner, though, that can be a powerful source of motivation. That's doubly true when you have such a strong senior class. The combination of unfinished business and urgency to capitalize on a talented senior class should push this team to the next level.
Individual NCS champion Patrick Curulla leads the way for De La Salle, and he will be a contender for a state title this time around. Kieran Brown is a very capable #2 runner, and behind him is a solid pack fronted by Nathan Babby. The main issue for the Spartans comes down to how far that pack might be behind Brown - in returning times the gap is 40 seconds, which is too much. If this team can get one runner to make the jump from the 3-6 group and bridge that gap, it will elevate their chances significantly. There is a very deep pool of candidates to contend for spots in the top 7, and that should help the whole varsity squad close ground on their strong front two.
De La Salle will be strong favorites to repeat in the NCS Division 2 race, so the real unknown is how high they can finish at the state meet. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Spartans on the podium come March.
De La Salle Stats:
*Most 3 mile times run at Heyward course