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. Despite the continued bad news regarding California high school sports, I choose to remain optimistic that we will have a season, and I will keep looking for teams that will have an impact within their section.
--The Lowell girls had their best state meet finish in recent memory in 2019, taking 10th place in the Division 4 race. Of course, moving out of D1 (where they had been classified for years) helped tremendously, but the Cardinals also raced well, and they are returning the bulk of the talent from that squad for another run this winter.
Juniors Elizabeth Holcombe and Jenna Satovsky are on the verge of becoming two of Lowell's best ever, and they may soon rival Sierra Brill and Kristen Leung as the school's top duo of all time. Juliana Chen leads a senior class that may occupy as many as 4 of the top 7 spots on the varsity, bringing valuable leadership and experience to the table.
Depth will be the key to how high the Cardinals can fly this year. They have two big gaps in their returning top 7: after their two stars (which is natural), and also behind returning #3 runner Chen. Sophomore Ali Sorenson and the seniors behind Chen will all need to make significant progress if they want to maximize the team's potential this winter. The good news: Lowell has made huge leaps forward in three of the last four years in terms of improving their top 5 average from year to year. That suggests both the development of returning runners and the discovery of new talent - and one more top 5 caliber runner could make all the difference for this squad.
The cancellation of the state meet hits every top program in California hard, but it might be the most painful for teams like Lowell. The Cardinals are prohibitive favorites to win yet another San Francisco Section title, and now they don't have that crucial additional goal to motivate them. To make the best of what might remain from this strangest of all cross country seasons, the Cardinals will need to run for pride, looking to past Lowell squads to set their milestones.