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.
2019 was a year of runner-up finishes for St. Margaret's Episcopal: 2nd by 17 points in a 2019 Division 5 state championship race in which the lowest team score was 128, along with 2nd by 16 points in the Southern Section Finals. With 6 of their top 7 returning, the Tartans will be looking to get over the hump and claim the CIF-SS D5 crown this winter.
It helps to have the defending individual section and state titlist on your team in senior Jackson Adelman, who is joined by fellow Class of 2021 member Calvin Capelle as a strong 1-2 combo. In fact, St. Margaret's boasts a loaded front four when you factor in sophomore Kevin Shen and junior Aiden Momtaz. The Tartans are solid through 6 returning runners, but appear to be quite thin beyond that - developing depth could be their key to success.
That should be within their power to accomplish, because this team has been one of California's best at year-to-year improvement over the past three seasons. Somehow, the Tartans managed to improve their top 5 average by 67 seconds from 2018's returners to 2019's varsity results, despite winning the D5 championship in 2018! That's remarkable progression from a team that obviously already had highly trained runners, who normally improve more slowly than beginners. That's why I feel St. Margaret's is more than capable of giving the state's Division 5 powers a run for supremacy in this strange upcoming season.