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.
Sometimes you just have to wait your turn when you're a young team, and I think it's Sanger's turn in the Central Section Division 2 race this winter. After missing out on a state meet berth by a scant 17 points last year, the Apaches return their top 6 runners. That includes the junior duo of Emanuel Salas and David Deloera, who both have a chance to improve significantly over their strong 2019 seasons.
Senior Jayden Olea heads the Sanger pack, followed by classmates Adrian Cuellar and Benjamin Awad - they are separated by only 23 seconds by PR's. The runner that intrigues me the most on this team is sophomore Myles Nicacio, who ran top 7 for the Apaches last fall. If he can develop into a top 5 runner (and his age makes that likely), then this team could do more than just make the state meet this winter.
That spells out a strong top 6, which might be enough to succeed this winter, but depth is a serious issue behind that lead group. Sanger needs some 18-minute runners to develop into high-16's runners to reinforce the varsity squad, and that's a tall order for any team. Since my Improvement Rating metric takes finish at the state meet into account, this team doesn't score well - but they have made very consistent progress in their top 5 average over each of the last 3 seasons ( As constructed, the Apaches are a dark horse candidate to be top 10 in Division 2, and with one more strong varsity runner they could be better than that.