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.
Two-time defending Division 5 state champion Lick Wilmerding is back to try for the three-peat, and they have the credentials to pull it off. The Tigers did lose two key graduates from their title-winning squad in 2019, including their top finisher in that race. However, there is enough young talent in the pipeline to be confident this team will contend once again.
Maya Lacamp is the top returner and the only senior in the projected top 6. Behind her, Cate Kreutzen leads a four-junior pack separated by only 14 seconds. If that group can close the gap on Lacamp, this is a formidable returning 5.
Of course, 5 runners is rarely enough to win a championship, and Wilmerding has a depth problem to overcome. The gap from their returning 5th runner to the rest of the team is a minute. If the Tigers want to be able to support their scorers and have runners in position to step up in case of injury or illness, they will need to develop some of their young talent. Finding a new varsity-caliber freshman wouldn't hurt, either.
Fortunately, this has been one arguably the best-improving program in the state over the last 3 years (when you adjust for school size). That kind of consistent progress from year to year gives me confidence that the depth will be there when they need it. For that reason, I can definitely see a third consecutive title as a possibility this winter - and the Tigers might be even better next year.