XC Preview: Southern Section Division 5 Girls

With the transfer of three-time champion Mia Barnett, St. Margaret's sophomore Liesel Blau is the top returner from the 2019 CIF-Southern Section Division 5 Championships. (Photo: Jeffrey Parenti)

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Before we look forward to the upcoming cross country season, let's glance back to the last time we saw these squads compete against one another.  At the 2019 CIF-Southern Section Division 5 Finals, St. Margaret's captured its second straight title with a dominating 54-116 victory over a younger squad from Linfield Christian. Freshman Liesel Blau placed second in leading the Tarters to a fourth consecutive trip to the State Meet.

Fast forward to the upcoming season and the girls of St. Margaret's will have their work cut for them in seeking a third consecutive Southern Section title. Blau (and her third-place State Meet finish in 2019) returns but the group will have to replace three scorers from that 2019 championship squad.  Madeleine Arundale and Claire Mullen look to recruit some help in seeking that third straight title.

Finishing with their best season in school history, junior Ryley Burns leads her Linfield Christian squad that will go into the season as the favorites to unseat St. Margaret's. While Burns' best race of 2019 was her fifth-place finish at the State Meet, they are the only squad to return three girls that eclipsed the 20-minute mark at the 2019 finals.  Diedre Gorian, Emma Lakatos and Hannah Barbieri look to join Burns with their own top-10 individual finishes in 2021.  

Led by Anna Disorbo and her 18:51 performance at the 2019 SS Finals, the Rams of Cate placed third and qualified for the State Meet for the first time since 2005. Disorbo and her crew return enough firepower to once again compete for a top-three spot this postseason. While the entire squad returns, Meena Baher brings sub-20 minute credentials to return and support Disorbo.

Led by Molly May, Xavier College Prep should battle Cate for that third spot. Placing sixth as a squad at the 2019 SS Finals, it was the squad's third straight trip to the State Meet. They return all of their scorers off that team while the veteran coaching of Aron Lyons (eight State Meet appearances in the school's 12-year history) provide more confidence that this group could work their way closer to those top two squads.

Other programs seeking a top-five finish, going into the 2021 adjusted season include Chadwick (head coach George Ramos has led his girls to 14 top-five finishes at the Division 5 finals in this century), Thacher, Geffen Academy, Sierra Canyon, and Santa Rosa Academy.   


Individually, the biggest headline regarding the SS-Div. 5 girls was the transfer of three-time divisional champion and 2019 Foot Locker West Regional champion, Mia Barnett. She moves out of the division from Village Christian over to nearby Crescenta Valley and will now compete in Division 1. With that, we will see a new champion for the first time since 2017.

That leaves St. Margaret's Blau as the top returner as she rolled to an 18:05.6 at the 2019 SS-CIF Finals. Linfield Christian's Burns placed third (18:28.0) while Cate's Disorbo placed sixth in that same race. As a three-time State Meet qualifier, Lily Miller of Webb has finished fifth ALL three of those seasons and is the third fastest returner from those 2019 SS Finals. Isis Diaz of Sierra Canyon looks to regain her freshman form. While placing eighth at the CIF-SS Finals in 2019, she was runner-up to Barnett as a freshman in 2018.  Finally, Xavier Prep's May has placed in the top 10 the past three seasons and seeking her first top-five finish.

Other individuals seeking top-10 finishes include Pasadena Poly's Alessia Checcone and Claire Babbitt of Mary Star of the Sea. Both qualified for the 2019 State Meet as individuals.

As we all sit with fingers crossed for a cross country season to take place in the Southern Section and look ahead to the Division 5 girls outlook, Linfield Christian enters as favorites while St. Margaret's will not back down in battling for that third straight title. Individually, we will see a new champion as the departure of Mia Barnett opens that door.   

QUICK SIDENOTE: Before the cancellation of the State Championships for the upcoming season, it was announced that the number of State Meet qualifiers for the Southern Section was reduced from seven entries to six for the CIF-SS Division 5 Girls.  Only two Southern Section squads finished in the top 10 at the 2018 AND 2019 State Meets.  With that, the CIF State Offices re-allocated a spot to the North Coast Section (who now also has six entries at the next State Meet).