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.
We're staying in the Bay Area and in Division 4, but changing sections to profile perennial San Francisco power Lowell. This will be an interesting year for the Cardinals after losing 3 seniors from the squad that finished 7th at the state meet. On the other hand, they also fielded 3 sophomores in Fresno last November, giving them a good core on which to rebuild.
There are three seniors in this year's projected top 7, too, led by Theodore McDonough and Sage Brill. It's the junior class, however, that will determine the ceiling for Lowell this winter. Oliver Witt and Ben Lester are the top 2 returners, and they should be joined by Paolo Canigula in the top 4. The Cardinals have made a habit of reloading every year to stay on top of the SFS and make annual trips to the state meet, and that pattern isn't going to change this time around.
After toiling away in D1 for years, Lowell can now be considered an annual top 10 team in Division 4. Will they be able to break through as title contenders? That might be a tall order for this year, but the groundwork can be laid for a run at the podium next fall.