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.
Is Cathedral Catholic positioning for another run at the Division 3 state title? The Dons finished 4th in 2019 and return 5 of their top 7; they won in 2016 after finishing 7th the previous season. This year's team is very different from their championship squad, which featured Joaquin Martinez de Pinillos (15:16 for 5K the season before).
The 2019 varsity lacks an individual contender on that level, but that may not be necessary - the Dons' current hallmark is their depth. Junior Blake Levy leads a squad with a 1-5 split of 37 seconds and a 1-7 split of 57. Seniors Ivan Seegmiller, Matthew Martinez, and Ryan Sweeney will anchor the top 5 and provide leadership. Just outside the returning top 7 are three juniors that could step up to push for varsity spots, which would strengthen the team significantly.
Also in their favor: using 3 mile data, this has been one of the top 3 programs in the state for year-to-year improvement over the past 5 seasons. The Dons also have a knack for finding freshmen who can crack their top 5 and help elevate the team (Levy was one, and so was last year's #1 Max Wilson). With returning runners only, Cathedral Catholic has the 4th-best returning team in the division using only state meet times, and 2nd-best using 5K Pr's. That puts them firmly in podium contention this winter, and with one more top 5 runner this team could be a challenger for the title.