XC Preview: San Diego Section Girls

Among the top returners for the 2021 winter cross country season in the San Diego Section are (from left) Sydney Weaber of La Costa Canyon, Bella Longo of Mission Vista and Stormy Wallace of Sage Creek. (Photos by DeAnna Turner and Patrick Corsinita)

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This article was updated 1/23 to reflect teams that have changed divisions for the 2020-21 season.

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We move forward with our XC season preview series in the hopes that there is some form of a 2020-21 season and out of respect and appreciation for all the athletes and programs whose past results and future prospects warrant recognition.

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Like every other section, the San Diego Section is at the mercy of the California Department of Public Health and COVID-19 with the first day of a possible season right around the corner. San Diego has moved the starting date for cross country back a week to Feb. 1 and maintains the potential of a section championship on March 27, according to SDS Commissioner Joe Heinz.

Once the CDPH Stay at Home order is lifted for the Southern California Region, cross country may take place even if the county remains in the widespread (purple) designation under the state's colored tier structure indicating the degree of impact of the virus. Additional county and school/school district approvals would still be required but clearing the SAHO is the first big step to getting athletes back on the line and back in competition.

With that we take a closer look at returning girls in the San Diego Section.


Thing is, cross country is a sport that really given as little as four to six weeks might still produce some fine performances, even without a state championship. Nothing normal about this desperate attempt to give thousands of runners a chance to compete, as long as it is deemed safe.

Somehow, though, you had to figure something would go wrong for La Costa Canyon's Bill Vice.

Vice is considered one of the most successful cross country coaches in the state. Year after year the Mavericks are among those mentioned to be contenders for state team titles, either boys or girls-or both.

In the last 10 years, he has guided the Mavericks (boys and girls) to nine top-five finishes. Six of those were second places, including a gut-wrenching three-point loss to Aptos in 2015 despite running the sixth-fastest girls team time ever in Division III.

But something has always happened to prevent Vice from capturing his first championship.

The last full season, 2019, illness and injury slowed three of the top five girls runners to the extent that the Mavericks finished third in Division II at the section meet.

There was hope, however, as every single varsity runner, led by section champion Sydney Weaber (17:44.9), returned. Oh, and there was a good chance LCC, which has bounced back and forth between Divisions II and III, would get back to Division III where they are most competitive.

As usual, the Mavericks had some newcomers -- transfers and freshmen -- who would push the Magnificent Seven.

Fate, that cruel four-letter word, stepped in again and Vice's team won't capture the state Division III title this year. No school will since the state CIF has eliminated all of the sports that normally participate in the fall from state championship competition because of COVID-19.

Vice's reaction?

"As far as the State Meet, it's out of our control," he said. "We are focusing on the things we can control. I told the kids running is about moving forward. The last nine months we've been given an opportunity to either sit around or continue to train. The kids have been great at moving in the right direction. We're ready. Someone just needs to tell us it's official."

Obviously, there is a real air of mystery even now since none of the schools has had tryouts and that is expected to impact a team sport like cross country. And there are always freshmen who make an immediate impact. 

Here is a look at the top returning girls individuals and teams by division in the SDS.


Canyon Crest's Carlie Dorostkar not only captured this division in 2019, she went on to win the state title with the fastest time of the day. She led the Ravens to the section team title as well.

However, only three of the Ravens runners who participated in the San Diego Section meet return, with runner-up Elizabeth Emberger (17:47.7 for 3 miles) leading the way. Emberger (pictured) placed ninth at the State Meet as a sophomore.

Another Dorostkar, Carlie's sister Nikki, who placed 11th as a freshman, gives the Ravens a nice 1-2 punch.

But the teams that appear, on paper, to have the most returning are Del Norte and Rancho Bernardo. RB might have the stronger front-runners, if healthy.

Current senior Ashley Learn was fifth in 2019 at 18:19.1 and soph Emma George was eighth at 18:38.9. But 2018 individual runner-up Jayce Farmer (18:11.8 for 2.96 miles), now a junior, is hopeful the injuries that prevented her from competing at that elite level last year are behind her.

Veterans Audra Sutherland, a sophomore, and Mia Stephenson, a senior, round out the returnees giving the Broncos five solid runners.

That's one more than Del Norte.

Soph Hannah Riggins placed third (18:07.5) and senior Sara Earney 13th (19:12.5) as the Nighthawks finished second. Junior Summer Stevenson and soph Emma Hong are solid returnees in support.

South Bay powerhouse Eastlake returns five of its seven varsity runners, led by soph Amanda Challburg (7th in18:32.7) and junior Savannah Kipp (17th in 19:17.0).

Returning individuals who fared well include Oceanside El Camino senior Alexandria Boyle (4th in 18:11.2) and Torrey Pines junior Annika Salz (6th in 18:22.3).

Here are other top-25 returners from the 2019 SDS Division 1 final

(Athlete's class is current)

12Mattie Nelson11Westview19:12.4
14Mallory Asis10Mira Mesa19.14.6
20Clarissa Hoffas12Chula Vista19:30.9


Despite La Costa Canyon, Point Loma and Hilltop dropping to Division III, this always super-competitive division remains among the deepest in the section.

Consider that three then-sophomores -- Mt. Carmel's Navaya Zales (2nd in 7:45.3) and Sydney Paul (4th in 18:09.0) and Poway's Mackenzie Rogers (3rd in 18:05.3) -- were right behind Weaber. Zales (pictured) placed 15th at the State Meet and is the No. 7 returner from that race when looking toward the fall 2021 season.

Montana State-bound Madeline Minutelli (18:21.0) of Grossmont placed sixth and she returns for her senior year.

With five of its seven runners back, including soph Breea Selbrede (12th at 18:57.3), Mt. Carmel appears to have the edge in the team race over Poway, which saw four of its varsity members graduate. Although lacking a front-runner, both Steele Canyon (with six of its seven) and Scripps Ranch (returning its top six finishers) could move into position to challenge for the title.

Scripps Ranch is expected to get an additional boost from middle school standout Mallory Grove. The Falcons run a tight group and last year then-freshman Chloe Ellermeyer (18:59.1 in 13th) led the way.  

Here are other top-25 returners from the 2019 SDS Division 2 final

Here are other top-25 returners from the 2019 SDS Division 2 final

(Athlete's class is current)

16Sophia Chittle11Poway19:07.1
17Alina Ruvalcaba12Poway19:07.4
18Graziella Mineo10Steele Canyon19:09.2
19Kate Baranski12Valhalla19:13.7
21Eryka Garcia10Steele Canyon19:24.4
22Delphine Maurer12Scripps Ranch19:25.2
23Anna Exline11San Pasqual19:31.9
24Samantha Nauman11Scripps Ranch19:31.9
25Roxy Hudson11Mt. Carmel19:32.8


La Costa Canyon returns to the division it dominated from 2015-17 but will find plenty of competition waiting in the form of perennial private school power Cathedral Catholic.

The move sets up a potential showdown of 2019 section champions with LCC's Weaber (17:44.9) facing veteran Mission Vista runner Bella Longo (17:39.9), the defending titlist here. Longo, headed to Colorado, went on to finish third in the state in this division.

El Capitan soph Amber Chase (18:14.6, who is pictured competing at the State Meet) surprised many with a second place finish here a year ago with Cathedral Catholic's No. 1 runner, Trang Woolridge (18:21.9) placing fourth. Woolridge led two teammates-Madelyn Basinet (6th in 19:05.3 as a freshman) and Lexi Arambulo (8th in 19:17.9 as a 10th grader)-meaning the Dons have three of the top eight finishers back.

That should give LCC plenty of motivation for soph Georgia Patyna (18:31.3), junior Rebekah Niednagel (18:50.0 and the first Maverick at state), and junior Kyra Compton, who was ailing in this race and the state meet but placed third in Division II in 2018 at 18:24.6 for 2.96 miles.

Doing some fun math based on returnees and times, if everyone ran as they did in 2019, LCC's top 5 returnees would beat Cathedral's returning quintet 24-31. Don't even start with illness, newcomers, transfers, etc.

A reminder that Cathedral Catholic went on to finish second in the state team race. 

Don't overlook Point Loma, led by junior Sophie Compton (8th at 18:28.5 in the Division 2 race) and Jordyn Duby (15th at 19:03.4 in the D-2 race). 

Other individuals here include Santana soph Mikayla Horning (5th in 18:54.5). Seven of the top 20 were freshmen in 2019.

Here are other top-25 returners from the 2019 SDS Division 3 final

(Athlete's class is current)

12Katie Teel12Mission Vista19:23.9
15Jennifer Parker10Ramona19:37.1
17Samantha Mauzy10El Capitan19:42.6
18Sofia Brigida10Our Lady of Peace19:45.0
19Ella Jones10Our Lady of Peace19:45.1
20Sophia Kisir11Cathedral Catholic19:48.0
21Erin McGee10University City10:00.3
22Jenna O'Beirne10University City20:00.9
25Ariel Olvera-Kovacic12Ramona20:08.9


How good was Sage Creek? Ridiculously good.

The Bobcats not only swept the top five spots, they added sixth and seventh for good measure. No wonder Sage Creek dominated the state championship with a team record time of 1:31:56  that shattered the previous best by almost three full minutes.

Four of those runners return and based on a couple of fall meets in Arizona, junior Stormy Wallace, who finished second to sister Skyler a year ago, might very well be ready to give the state's top two returnees here -- Foothill Tech's Brooke Secreto and Mayfield's Audrey Suarez -- a run for their money. Both of those ladies are seniors, leaving Wallace and sophomore teammate Malia Leupold (pictured) as the top two returners from the 2019 State Meet heading into the fall of 2021 season. 

Leupold, last year's frosh sensation, was fifth at the section final (18:55.3) and ninth at State (18:13.90, 9.40 seconds behind Wallace). Junior Madeline Mack (6th at the SDS Final in 19:04.5) and senior Katya Sumwalt (7th at 19:07.8) give the Bobcats depth to go with the front-running Wallace.

Every year Sage Creek has had a freshman in the mix and new head coach Robert Muschek says Kaya Scuba is one to watch.

Although La Jolla was well back in third place, the Vikings expected to return their entire team but the Vikings lost their top two runners -- Sarah Swendsen (11th in 1926.2) moved to Hawaii and No. 1 runner, Monica O'Brien Saez (9th in 19:20.6) to COVID-19.

Mission Bay senior Gina Queck (8th in 19:2.7), Escondido Charter 12th-grader Rachel White (10th in 19:22.6), Coronado's Abigail Hundley (13th in 19:38.7) and Liberty College-bound Sofia Van Arsdale of Coronado, who badly twisted her ankle at the section championships in 2019, are individuals to keep an eye on.

Here are other top-25 returners from the 2019 SDS Division 4 final

(Athlete's class is current)

12Gioia Ternasky12Clairemont19:26.4
14Sharon Giron12Valley Center20:07.8
17Dana Jennings10Coronado 20:16.4
18Jazmin Soria12Del Lago20:23.3
19Tania Reyes11Del Lago20:33.3
20Alexis Noble10Clairemont20:42.4
22Abigail Cotton10Valley Center20:57.7
23Sasha Backus11La Jolla21.08.8
24Jocelyn Quintero11Del Lago21:12.1
25Hannah Nightingale12La Jolla21:14.1


The top 10 individuals in this division are back for another season led by defending champion Alaina Zamorano, a senior from El Cajon Christian who is headed to Baylor, has won three consecutive section titles -- a real rarity in the SDS. Zamorano (bib 315) placed eighth at the 2019 CIF-State Championships.

In the section final, Zamorano (18:14.7) won by almost 30 seconds over Santa Fe Christian's Eloise Martenson (18:43.4) but Martenson was able to celebrate a team victory and four of the top five scorers return for the Eagles.  Right behind Martenson in third was then freshman Revere Schmidt (18:50.1), soph Jenny McMillen (9th in 19:54.0) and current senior Chloe Krome ( 14th in 20:28.4), giving SFC quite a 1-4 punch.

The Steer sisters of Pacific Ridge, Clara and Elsa, placed a 10th of a second apart in fourth and fifth and for each other as training partners, no one would be surprised if they moved up. Elsa was ninth and Clara 10th at the State Meet, 0.60 seconds apart while crossing just behind Zamorano and one spot ahead of Schmidt. Of the top 13 at the State Meet D-V race, six were freshmen, including these three San Diegans.

Bishop's Madeline Cramer (19:20.1) led five runners under 20 minutes at the section final. The rising junior placed 16th at State.

Here are other top-25 returners from the 2019 SDS Division 5 final

(Athlete's class is current)

7Stella Gladden11NC High Tech19:40.3
8Jaden McDaniel12La Jolla Country Day19:53.5
10Landon Torres12Liberty Charter19:59.2
12Alexander Midler11Bishop's20:24.3
15Jade Kingston10Mesa High Tech20:37.9
17Shanyce McCullough12Pacific Ridge20:48.1
18Vivian Benishek12Francis Parker20:59.3
21Maya Krolik10Bishop's21:07.9
22Bethany Mapes11Liberty Charter21:10.6
23Yo-Jin Dittrich-Tilton12Pacific Ridge21:23.3
25Amanda Strahm12Holtville21:38.2

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Steve Brand is a regular contributor for MileSplitCA and serves as its San Diego Section editor.

Inserted photos by DeAnna Turner and Patrick Corsinita.