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.
--Sometimes all it takes to bring a season to an early finish is an off day at the worst possible time. That seems to be what happened to Bella Vista at the SJS Finals last fall, as they failed to advance to the state meet from the Division 2 race despite a promising season. The good news: the Broncos return their top 5 runners from that race, along with six of their top eight overall from 2019.
Leadership shouldn't be a problem for this Bella Vista squad, as eight of their projected top 10 for this winter are seniors. That's enough talent to put this team in the running for an SJS title this fall, especially if they make as much progress this off season as they did from 2018 to 2019. Bruce Marlatt leads the senior class and the varsity pack, followed closely by junior Sean Lacey and fellow Class of 2021 runners Connor Harrod and Ashton Cobabe. That front group of four is separated by only 14 seconds!
Behind the lead pack, there is a small gap back to the rest of the varsity. There is a deep pool of runners that should be competing for the remaining spots in the top 7 this year, but the second group as a whole needs to close up on the front four to help the Broncos reach their full potential. This team could be off the radar for anyone not digging deeply into their 2019 results, so I'm naming them as a sleeper candidate in the Sac Joaquin this winter.