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.
I've been accused of being too stats-dependent before, and it's true that you can't just look at a list of times and teams and get the full story. Take defending San Diego Section D1 champs Torrey Pines, for example: if you just glance at their 15th place finish in Division 1 in 2019 and see that they graduated three seniors from that squad, you might wonder why they belong in a preseason watch list.
Look deeper, and you see that the Falcons' performance last November was an aberration. The team only had 6 finishers: Sebastian Barclay, the team's #1 runner at the SDS Finals the week before, did not record a time. With him, Torrey Pines could have finished as high as 11th.
Replacing three graduates from your top 7 is never an easy task, but it's better when you return your #2-5 finishers and have several candidates to step up. Barclay leads a strong, deep senior class that also includes Cormac O'Brien and James Cusack, who anchor the projected top 4 in conjunction with junior Johnathan Hidle. There are no fewer than four other seniors (and another junior) who can legitimately compete for the remaining spots on the varsity squad, although they will need to make a significant step forward to close the gap on the front 4.
Although this program has posted strong improvement over the last three years in terms of top 5 average, it has yet to result in breakthrough into the top 10 in the state. With as many as 6 seniors among their projected top 7 this winter, now is the time for the Falcons.