Three of the top returning individual cross country runners in the San Diego Section are (from left) Kenan Pala, Jyden Schmid and Blake Levy. (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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The San Diego Section has had its moments in boys cross country.
Runners like San Diego High's Meb Keflezighi and Marc Davis, El Camino's A.J. Acosta and University City's Mac Fleet have left their marks in the section, state, national and international record books.
But there has been a drought of late, with the last team state champion being the 2016 Joaquin Martinez de Pinillos-led Cathedral Catholic Dons in Division III and the most recent individual being Torrey Pines' Tal Braude in 2013 in Division I.
Although there won't be a State Meet this season (can't say year because is it 2020 season or 2021?) under COVID-19 restrictions, it doesn't mean the section might not be able to make some noise.
Two teams -- Cathedral Catholic (Division III) and Francis Parker (Division V) -- would have been state champion contenders as the Dons return all but their No. 1 runner and the Lancers go one better, having all seven back after finishing third in the state a year ago.
Parker will be led by junior Kenan Pala, who placed fourth in the state a year ago and is the No. 2 returnee behind champion Jackson Adelman of St. Margaret's. While a longshot, Mira Mesa's Jyden Schmid was the fourth-fastest returnee in Division I.
Here is a division-by-division look at returning boys in the SDS:
Schmid was a bit of a surprise at the State Meet because he only placed third in the section championships last year at 15:26.9, a full 11 seconds behind San Diego's Henry McClish (15:15.8) and three back of Oceanside El Camino's Antonio Dinis (15:23.6).
Clearly, a big-meet performer, Schmid like almost everyone else, never had a chance to show what he could do on the track.
Patrick Henry's Aiden Davis figures to be more motivated than most after placing sixth 15:34.4. The problem was the top five individuals qualified for state and everyone who finished above him was not on one of the top two teams.
Torrey Pines' Sebastian Barclay (bib 1794) led the Falcons to the team title with his seventh place in 15:36.7 and returns for the Falcons who return four of their top seven. Junior Jonathan Hidle (20th), senior James Cusack (32nd) and Cormac O'Brien (51st) form a solid quartet, especially in this division.
Patrick Henry not only has Davis, but four other returning varsity runners in Charlie Dunnigan (11th), Preston Bowlds (31st), Caden Romaine Gleim (50th) and James Brumley (58th). Bowlds, Gleim and Brumley are now juniors.
El Camino's Sam Jones was a 2020 AAU Western Regional champion at 16:21 for 5K.
Olympian's Carter Stuhlmacher, the impressive winner of the freshman division at the Mt. Carmel Invitational, an 11th-place finisher in the section meet and a national level triathlete has moved to Florida.
Here are other top-25 returners from the 2019 SDS Division 1 final
(Athlete's class is current)
|17||David Millan||12||Mira Mesa||16:06.6|
|22||Levi Taylor||11||San Marcos||16:16.7|
Poway won this division in 2019 but five of its top seven runners were seniors, with only Manny Johnson (13th) and Jake Beckwith (16th) returning. The Titans, though, have one of the stronger programs each year, so don't count them out.
Scripps Ranch placed third and four of those runners return led by the 1-2 punch of Giancarlo da Silva (5th in 15:34.0) and Caden Farrow (7th in 15:49.4). Farrow (bib 1554) and Da Silva placed 57th and 59th, respectively, at the State Finals.
Here are other top-25 returners from the 2019 SDS Division 2 final
(Class is current)
|19||Owen Connor||11||Mt. Carmel||16:19.9|
Exactly one minute separated Cathedral Catholic's Nos. 2-4 behind section champion Max Wilson (15:38.8), who graduated.
Right behind him was current junior Blake Levy (2nd in15:47.8), who is the clear favorite in this division after moving on to finish 33rd at the State Meet (pictured).
Annually coach Dan Geiger has his runners at their best at the end of the season and you can expect Ivan Seegmiller (18th in 16:31.2), Ryan Sweeney (20th in 16:33.7) and Matthew Martinez (27th in 16:47.8) ready to make big improvements their senior year.
The Dons will get an added boost by the return of their No. 1 from last year, Sebastian Radilla, who participated in one race and then was injured for the remainder of last season.
LCC moving to this division will not be impact it would have been a year or two ago, however, as the Mavericks were a senior-laden team in 2019.
Point Loma's Jake Richardson (3rd in 15:28.2) and Hilltop's Jimmy Byland (4th in 15:32.6) were Top 10 finishers in the section and 44th and 45th at state, separated by one second. They make this division much stronger individually.
Another veteran program that moved, this time up, is St. Augustine, which has a solid group of five veterans led by Joseph Legg (17:01.0) and Michael Butcher (17:12.7). The Saints will have to run well as a pack.
Returning individuals who finished in the Top 10 include El Capitan senior Parker Dixon (7th in 16:15.5) and Ramona sophomore Travis Petton (8th in 16:16.3). West Hills' Mark McCowin (11th in 16:23.7) leads a trio of veteran runners.
Here are other top-25 returners from the 2019 SDS Division 3 final
(Class is current)
|15||Daniel Monganga||12||El Cajon Valley||16:30.3|
|21||Dylan Miramontes||10||Castle Park||16:33.7|
|24||Anthony Halbert||12||Castle Park||16:43.8|
Everyone knows about two-time state champion Sage Creek's girls, but the boys may be joining them atop the victory stand with five returnees led by section runner-up Bryce Gilmore (15:56.2) who is a junior.
Gilmore (pictured) is no slouch as he finished 13th in the state meet as the section's first runner.
Joining him will be junior Cameron Schmitt (22nd), sophomore Shervin Bahmanpour (23rd) soph Brian Maweu-Smalls (28th), senior Max Unger (35th) with 9th-grader Aiden O'Toole clocking a best of 17:00 as an eighth-grader.
Crawford is the defending section champion but only two of the Colts return.
Here are other top-25 returners from the 2019 SDS Division 4 final
(Class is current)
|14||Joaquin Hernandez||11||Del Lago||16:46.2|
Francis Parker placed five of its seven runners in the top 17 and they, along with the other two runners, return.
Pala (15:32.7), now a junior, is the lone section boys champion returning, and his fourth place at state shows the Lancers have a quality front-runner. The seven varsity runners have worked hard since the end of last season and can't wait to get on a course, any course.
Seniors Spencer Seay (3rd in 16:08.4) and Ian Lillie (8th in 16:26.7) gave Parker three Top 10 finishers and junior Jesse Smith (16th in 16:55.1) and soph Quinn Spieker (17th in 16:56.4) pushed each other into the Top20.
In normal years, Santa Fe Christian would be eyeing a top five finish at state after placing second in the section meet and eighth in state in 2019.
All seven of the Eagle varsity runners return as well.
Leading the way will be junior Alex Bobowski (4th in 16:08.8) who made dramatic improvement in 2019. But just a little nudge from junior Mark Trammel (12th in 16:41.0), senior Ryan Todd (15th in 16:51.7), senior Ryan King (17:24.7) and junior Matthew Lubke (17:40.9) would allow the Eagles push Parker in both the Coastal League and section. Bobowski (pictured) was 11th overall at the State Meet and is the No. 7 returner from that race.
Here are other top-25 returners from the 2019 SDS Division 5 final
(Class is current)
|13||William Shinkle||12||Calvin Christian||16:41.3|
|18||Micah Sanchez||10||Liberty Charter||17:07.3|
|19||Kaleb Kaye||11||Guajome Park||17:19.3|
|20||Brannigan Stone||12||San Diego Jewish Academy||17:24.4|
|22||Ayush Gupta||10||Pacific Ridge||17:25.1|
|23||Daniel Hoefer||12||Maranatha Christian||17:25.1|
|24||Colin Kirkwood||12||Pacific Ridge||17:25.4|
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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 Pat Rhames.