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 top tier teams state-wide and in every section, and then work our way to some potential sleepers.
--A team that finished 10th in Division 2 last fall and lost two seniors from their top 5 in that race would not normally be noteworthy. In the case of West Torrance, though, there are several things that I find very interesting.
First and foremost, the Warriors actually had four seniors post top 7 times for them in 2019, not two. Injuries appear to have shortened the seasons of the other two, which included 4:12 miler Jake Parker, who finished 15th in the state meet in 2019. That loss was a curse but also a blessing: it prevented the team from finishing in the top 6, where they belonged, but it also opened the door for some younger runners to get experience. A one-year move into Division 2 certainly didn't help them, either.
That opportunity is already be paying off in the improvement of Alex Mainvielle and Conor Gibson, who ran PR's of 15:05 (!) and 16:15, respectively, earlier this fall. (Yes, the 15:05 was run on a ridiculously fast course, but it's still a 32-second PR and a strong indication of his potential this winter). Mainvielle will join fellow senior Joshua Murray as a potent 1-2 combo up front, while Gibson bolsters a pack that includes Hayden Green, both of them juniors.
This is also a traditionally deep program, and there are several candidates to step up and compete for the 5-7 spots. My Improvement Rating metric echoes the Warriors' consistent development of talent from year to year: they rank among the top 10 schools in the state over the last 3 years and are just outside the top 10 for the past 5. Will that be enough to push West Torrance back into contention for a Southern Section title as they move back to D3? I think it will.