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.
At this point you might be wondering if I'm including Skyline for any reason other than making sure I include a team from every section. The answer is yes, two other reasons, but let's not forget that high school sports are both local and state-wide; including every section and every division is a worthwhile reason in and of itself. Being a fan of the sport means getting excited about all levels of competition - otherwise, you're really just a fan of your team.
Anyway, I always try to recognize programs that are able to engineer sustained success, and the Titans clearly fit the bill. Three straight Oakland Section titles (and therefore three consecutive trips to the state meet) are impressive, but what really jumps out at me is this team's ability to improve from season to season. Over the past 5 years, Skyline has averaged a 1:35 improvement on their top 5 returning average every season! That's ridiculous progression, and it represents continual development of young talent into varsity-caliber runners.
Even more than the team's consistent success, I'm intrigued by the individual talent of Jonathan Simmons. How many high school guys do you know that can run 16:11 for 5K in the fall, then open the spring season with a sub-49 400? With all the extra time in the off season, there's no telling how much he might have improved (he had a PR of 17:37 his sophomore year before breaking through as a junior). We could see a mid-15's 5K and a 47-second 400 in the same 5-month stretch at the beginning of 2021, which would be truly remarkable. So keep your eyes on this team and this runner, because you might see something special.