Redlands East Valley, which returns the bulk of a lineup that placed fifth at the State Meet in Division 2, now competes in Division 3. (Photo by Patrick Corsinita)
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We move forward with our XC season preview series as it appears there will indeed be some form of a cross country season in the Southern Section this winter.
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Division 3 foes rejoiced upon hearing the news that the 2019 CIF-SS Division 3 runner-up, Royal, was moving up to Division 2. But that welcome news was short-lived as Redlands East Valley and West Torrance were among the teams moving into D-3 and actually making the division much more competitive.
Division 3 in the Southern Section was already going to receive a facelift of sorts. In glancing back to the 2019 CIF-SS Finals, only three underclassmen return from the top 20 finishers. The addition of two of the top squads in the Southern Section only adds to the transition.
Redlands East Valley, one of the most improved programs in the section since 2017, is coming off its best season in school history after placing third in D-2 at the 2019 section meet and fifth at the State Meet. Keep in mind that the two squads ahead of them at the section finals were Dana Hills and eventual state and national champion Newbury Park! As a matter of fact, in the full team merge from the 2019 CIF-SS Finals, REV placed second overall in the section.
With that, they do graduate their top scorer from that squad but return Matthew Hornung, Simon Opsahl (pictured), and Liam Mapes, who all crossed under 15:25 at those same 2019 Division 2 finals. Add into the mix incoming freshman Emmanuel Wallace, who comes with a solid resume of youth success. If last week's two-mile time trial is any indication (where Opsahl ripped off a 9:17!), the Wildcats are ready to roll and assume their role as one of the best in the Southern Section.
West Torrance is back!
Back into Division 3, that is, a season after qualifying for the State Meet in Division II and placing 10th. Head Coach Jason Druten has developed the Warriors' program into one of the best in the Southern Section as they placed second at the 2018 CIF-SS Division 3 finals after earning back-to-back titles in 2016-2017. (They won the Division 2 title in 2015!).
Joshua Murray (Bib 1956 in photo) is one of the top returners in the Southern Section and impressed at the Desert Twilight XC Festival last October to lead West Torrance. He placed 21st at the State Meet. Alex Mainvielle is one of the best in the division and is supported by Hayden Green and Conor Gibson. West rebuilds its teams on a year to year basis as well as any program in the section.
When referencing Division 3 in the Southern Section, the boys of Brea Olinda are always toward the top. They have placed in the top five in the division for the past 10 seasons, with titles coming in 2010, and a three-peat between 2013-2016. In 2019, the Bears placed third, despite not boasting a fully healthy squad. They do return three scorers from the 2019 CIF-SS Finals, with junior Derrick Garcia and senior Luke Stratton leading the way.
Who can possibly challenge Brea Olinda?
Damien and Palos Verdes return enough firepower to compete. The last time Damien finished in the top 10 for the division was all the way back in 2011. Despite graduating their top scorer from 2019, they return the rest of the varsity lineup from that postseason. While Diego Urdiales was one of the top freshmen in the division in 2019, junior Eric Martinez will also provide strong support.
Meanwhile, Palos Verdes also returns enough to challenge the top squads in the division. Always in the conversation, they placed fifth in 2019 after earning the title in 2018. This will only be the second time since 2006 that the program will not compete in the State Meet but Jon Ward (Bib 1244 above) looks to lead the Sea Kings in 2021. Senior Owen Ladinig was PV's No. 2 scorer at both Southern Section and State.
Agoura rolled to the CIF-SS Division 3 title and placed third at State but graduated five from that squad with Ethan Godsey being their top returner. Godsey placed 37th at State. Ben Klepper, who also took the line at State, is scheduled back for Agoura.
St. John Bosco, which fared better at State (fifth) than it did at Sections (seventh) returns two primary scorers in junior Christopher Chavez (31st at State) and senior JT McCoy (45th at State). Moorpark, which placed fourth in the section final and 10th at State, returns seniors Brian Martinez and Matthew Waters.
In addition, keep your eyes on Whittier, Torrance, and Buena.
Individually, the top returner (15:02.5) from the 2019 CIF-SS Division 3 championship meet is Pasadena junior Isaiah Givens (pictured). A two-time Division 3 finalist as an individual, Givens has competed outside state lines on several occasions that past few months and is more driven than ever. He placed 11th at the State Meet.
Placing third, individually, in leading his Arroyo squad to their first State Meet in decades, Saket Sama also returns after crossing in 15:07.1 at the 2019 CIF-SS Finals. He placed 23rd at State.
And in comes those top returners from the powerhouse programs from Division 2 in Redlands East Valley and West Torrance! As referenced above, West's Murray returns with the top performance at the 2019 SS Finals (14:51.1). When reflecting strictly at those 2019 finals, Hornung, Opsahl (who was 26th at State in D-II), and Mapes are three of the top six in the division with West Torrance's Mainvielle also right there with those three.
Also watch for Citrus Hill's Jorge Blanco.
2019 CIF-SS DIVISIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Top-25 Returners from the 2019 CIF-SS Division 3 Boys Championship Race
|2||Isaiah Givens||10||Pasadena High (SS)||15:02.50||0|
|3||Saket Sama||11||Arroyo High School (SS)||15:07.10||2|
|5||Matt Russell||11||*Royal High School (SS)||15:14.90||4|
|7||Angus Fitzgerald||11||*Royal High School (SS)||15:18.90||5|
|15||Jorge Blanco||11||Citrus Hill High School (SS)||15:30.20||11|
|20||Jack De La Rionda||11||*Royal High School (SS)||15:42.80||15|
|22||Jon Ward||11||Palos Verdes High (SS)||15:44.50||17|
*-Royal now in D-2
Top-50 Returners from the 2019 CIF-SS D-2 Boys Championship Race Now In D-3
|11||Joshua Murray||11||West Torrance (SS)||14:51.10||11|
|32||Matt Hornung||11||Redlands East Valley High (SS)||15:13.50||30|
|39||Simon Opsahl||11||Redlands East Valley High (SS)||15:22.70||37|
|42||Liam Mapes||11||Redlands East Valley High (SS)||15:25.50||38|
|44||Alex Mainvielle||11||West Torrance (SS)||15:28.30||40|
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Photos by DeAnna Turner and Patrick Corsinita