XC Preview: San Francisco Sections Boys - Girls

Elizabeth Holcombe and Oliver Witt lead returners for Lowell. (Photos: DeAnna Turner)

- - -

With continued optimism for some sort of a cross country season in 2020-21, we move our season preview series up to the Bay Area where the state's two smallest sections reside, Oakland and San Francisco, with fewer than 40 schools between the two sections and just a combined 21 that were represented at the 2019 section finals.

This article focuses on the San Francisco Section.

Currently schools in San Francisco County are prohibited by the county health department from participating in any physical activity unless the schools have an approved plan for in-person learning, per an update on the section website

As of the latest map breaking down COVID-19 impact statewide, all counties in the Bay Area remain in the widespread (purple) tier. The state department of public health (CDPH) has indicated cross county may take the line after Jan. 25 while still in the purple tier but to move forward with competition still requires approval from county and local health authorities as well as school district sign-off. The Bay Area, with a 0.7% ICU capacity, remained under a Regional Stay At Home order as of Jan. 11. 

Hope for competition depends on a decline of cases from the post-holiday surge. 


In looking ahead, we have to look back to the last CIF cross country competition, which was November of 2019. 

SF had 11 teams with representation at its 2019 championship with eight teams that scored in the boys varsity competition and six in the girls. 

In San Francisco, it was the same old story with the boys and girls from Lowell adding to the program's rich legacy. No cross country program in the state dominates its section like Lowell does the SF.

Running on the 5K course at Golden Gate Park, Lowell won the boys title for the 13th year in a row and 29th time over the past 33 years. The Cardinals' girls won for the ninth year in a row and 40th time over the last 42 years. Burton Academic was second among the boys and George Washington was the runner-up in the girls team competition. 



Zachary Parker placed sixth overall at the CIF-State Championships in leading Lowell to an eighth place finish out of 24 teams on the 5K course at Woodward Park in Fresno. 

Parker has graduated but that doesn't mean Lowell will be any less formidable. Returners for the Cardinals from the State Meet are juniors Oliver Witt, Ben Lester and Paolo Canigula and senior Theodore McDonough. Three of those scored: Witt was 41st overall (27th among scoring runners), Lester was 78th (55th) and McDonough was 91st among scores. Sage Brill, a rising senior, was 10th at the All-City section final as the dominant team's No. 6 runner. 

Further evidence of Lowell's dominance in the SF is that the top five from the Freshman 5000 at the section final were all members of the Cardinals' juggernaut. Canigula's time of 17:46.80 would have placed eighth in the varsity final and the other four boys all ran times that would have slotted among the top 20 in the varsity race. Those in line to push for top-seven varsity spots include junior Jonah Waldman, sophomore Bruno Bartalos, and juniors Hayden Kim and Eric Liao

  • (Inserted DeAnna Turner photo of the tight Lowell pack at the 2019 CIF-State Championships includes returners Theodore McDonough (913) and Paolo Canigula (909) running with Owen Choy (911), a 2020 graduate.)

Theo Saunier, a rising junior at Lycee Francais de San Francisco, was the top non-Lowell runner in that Freshman 5K. He placed sixth followed by Tonkhla Dankul, a rising junior from ... you guessed it ... Lowell.

The Open race was also dominated by Lowell. The winner, rising senior Ali Aldala, put down a time faster than the 12th-place finisher of the varsity race. 

While the varsity boys from Lowell competed in Division IV at State, Jamison Smallwood, a rising senior at Burton Academic, competed in the D-III race and Charlie Moore, a rising senior at Lincoln, was an individual qualifier who ran in the D-I race in Fresno. Smallwood was fifth overall at the SF Section final and Moore was sixth. 

Other returners among the top-20 at the section final are: Galileo Academy -- senior Thomas Lin (ninth at sections), sophomore Mathias Camilli (13th), and junior Jeffrey Dang (16th); George Washington -- junior William Chun (11th), senior Alexander Janetos (12th) and senior Kyler Simmons Ayala (19th); Burton -- junior Alejandro Jimenez (18th); Lincoln -- sophomore Shogo Aizawa (17th). 


Lowell placed 10th among 24 teams that took the line in Division IV at the State Meet in November of 2019 and returns the top three scorers and five overall who competed at Woodward Park.

That group is lead by rising junior Elizabeth Holcombe, the defending section champion, who placed 21st at State in the Division IV race. Another rising junior, Jenna Satovsky (pictured), was next across the line at State for Lowell, placing 38th. Holcombe is the No. 13 returner from that D-IV championship and Satovsky is No. 23. 

Rising senior Juliana Chen also scored for Lowell at State and two others in the Class of 2021 also took the line at State: Hannah Chou and Claire Low. Rising senior Sophia Ladyzhensky, took the line for Lowell at the SF final, placing 17th overall. 

As with the boys, Lowell's depth was on full display at the section final with six of the top seven finishers in the Freshman 5000 led by ninth-grader Ali Sorenson, whose time was equal to that of the No. 9 finisher in the varsity race, and rising junior Mia Doherty, whose time was equal to the top 12 fastest in the varsity field. 

Lowell also had the top 11 finishers in the Open 5K led by rising senior Eleanor Paik, whose time was equal to the top 17 in the varsity race.

Three other returning girls from the SF who placed among the top eight at the section final, took the line at State: Rising junior Lilian Emelife (Burton Academic) was fifth at the SF final and ran in the D-III race in Fresno; rising senior Maia Piomelli (Galileo Academy) was sixth at the section meet and competed in D-I at State, and rising junior Naomi Manuel (Academy of Arts & Sciences) was eighth at the SF final and competed in D-IV. 

Here are 12 other returning girls who placed among the top 25 in the SF Section Championship race (grid includes place, last year's grade, athlete time, and scoring place):

12Carmen Li10Galileo Academy of Science & Technology (SF)22:46.0011
13Amy Zhang10Washington (George) High (SF)22:54.6012
14Julia Dinh10Washington (George) High (SF)22:55.8013
15Freya Wehrheim10Galileo Academy of Science & Technology (SF)23:10.0014
16Justice Mchenry11Washington (George) High (SF)23:22.5015
19Sydney Lopin9Academy of Arts & Sciences (SF)24:26.0018
20Ashley Li9Washington (George) High (SF)24:37.1019
21Abigail Ault11Lincoln (Abraham) High (SF)24:55.1020
22Darby Mendoza10Galileo Academy of Science & Technology (SF)25:25.0021
23Nicole Lee11Wallenberg (Raoul) Traditional High (SF)25:26.5022
24Phoebe Guinchard9Academy of Arts & Sciences (SF)25:29.0023
25Xara Alexander10Lincoln (Abraham) High (SF)25:33.1024