Division 2 of the Southern Section is loaded with top athletes like Ewan MacFarlane (left), Jack Keough-Lansford and Jai Dawson (center), and Angus Fitzgerald (right). (Photos by DeAnna Turner and 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. We structure this article with the knowledge that Southern Section and CIF-State championship meets have been canceled and overall competition figures to be limited.
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Division 2 in the Southern Section as a whole has dominated the Division II scene at the State Meet in recent seasons. In 2019, the Southern Section claimed the top six spots while in 2018, five of the top seven squads at State hailed from the CIF-SS.
Newbury Park ended the 2019 cross country season ranked as the best team in the United States! By all measurements and standards, their 2019 squad will go down as the best team in California State history as they motored to the new State Meet team-time record and a new Woodward Park course record, shattering their own marks set at the Clovis Invite seven weeks earlier.
Following a strong fall of out-of-state running as the Newbury Park Athletic Club, head coach Sean Brosnan confirmed to MileSplitCA that is teams are now focusing on the upcoming track season.
Brosnan's boys team graduated the greatest 1-2 punch in Nico Young and Jace Aschbrenner, but what they accomplished this past fall is yet another example of why the word 'unprecedented' is being used in regards to the Panthers!
In early December, running as the Newbury Park Athletic Club, the varsity seven capped off an incredible fall campaign with junior Colin Sahlman (pictured) leading the group with a 14:27.03 on a 5K course while Lex Young set a new sophomore California record with his 14:27.11 performance. ALL FIVE boys dipped under 14:50, which marked the first time in state history for a 5000-meter course!
While NP won't take the line this winter, plenty of other Southern Section Division 2 squads are expected to do what they can to compete.
Dana Hills, one of the most decorated programs in state history, returns a strong core to once again rank among one of the best. This will be only the second time (this century!) that the Dolphins will not compete in a State Meet! And that's only because there won't be a State Cross Country Championships for the 2020-21 season.
Coming off their runner-up finish at the State Meet in 2019, Dana Hills returns five from that squad, headlined by junior Jai Dawson. Brandon Pizano (pictured) and Gianni Viola have both competed in two State Meets and two of the best in the division.
Since Bill Reeves took over the Claremont program, the Wolfpack have been one of the top programs in the Southern Section. Claremont, which qualified to the last six State Meets with top-five finishes, won a CIF-SS divisional title as recently as 2017. Jack Keough Lansford elevated his game at the 2019 State Meet with a seventh-place finish, after placing 12th at the Section D-2 finals. Claremont graduated four from the 2019 squad. Askari Ahad and Rowan Orlijan-Rhyne lead the supporting cast behind Keough Lansford.
With their best squad in over 10 years, Royal moves into Division 2 off a second-place finish at the 2019 CIF-SS Division 3 Finals. A rarity, the Highlanders return ALL seven from that 2019 squad! Matthew Russell and Angus Fitzgerald lead the way, while Jack de la Rionda will provide ample support.
Beyond those top five squads, we find several programs looking to steal the headlines!
Capistrano Valley has been on the rise in recent years and returns some outstanding talent. Junior Thomas Mordy and Nathan Trueman. The Chargers of El Toro just missed the State Meet in 2019 after qualifying the previous two seasons. Daniel Guzman and Anthony Kennen return from that postseason squad and keep them in the conversation as one of the top squads in Division 2. Meanwhile, Thousand Oaks also returns a solid group from their 2019 squad that placed sixth at the 2019 CIF-SS Finals. Michael Cooper and Atticus Hall will lead the way up front. Cooper (pictured) shined with a top-20 finish at the 2019 California State Meet.
Individually, outside the Newbury Park juggernaut, Dana Hills' Dawson is coming off a strong 2019 campaign. Dawson shined brightest at the California State Meet with his 15:09.9 sixth-place finish, leaving the season as one of the top sophomores in the nation.
Watch for Peninsula's Ewan MacFarlane as he qualified as an individual to the State Meet in 2019 with his 14:44.1 sixth-place finish at the divisional finals. Claremont's Keough-Lansford, highlighted above, will be on the division's best along with Cooper of Thousand Oaks.