It's time to get fired up for cross country! Our traditional XC countdown is back, although it will look a little different this time around - we just don't have as much quality data to approach it the way we have in the past. Instead, we will look at 25 boys and girls teams that we think will have an impact this fall in their section, in their division at the state meet, or even nationally. Unlike past countdowns, this year we're going to start with the clear contenders and then work toward some programs that might not be on your radar screen. As always, if you catch an error or have updated information for us, email editor Jeffrey Parenti (email at the bottom of every MileSplitCA page) and we'll make the corrections.
It's not just the fact that Buchanan was able to narrowly defeat Great Oak for the 2019 D1 title, it's how the Bears did it. A timely infusion of young talent provided three 9th-graders that ran in their top 5 at the state championship, compared to only two seniors that graduated. Those 2019 freshmen are now juniors, and they form the core of a squad that has the potential to be California's best this upcoming fall.
You wouldn't come to that conclusion by looking at 2020 cross country results, however. The Central Section season was so limited that Buchanan only had 4 dual meets over a one-month competitive period, and consequently their statistics aren't terribly impressive (although they did still manage to post the 11th-best returning 5K team in the state). Going back to 2019 shows a clearer picture, as the Bears rank 2nd in returning rankings for both 5K and 3 mile (counting only 9th- and 10th-graders from that year). This past track season also helps get a feel for where the team is: they recorded the #2 returning team 1600 ranking in the state, and finished 6th on the returning team 3200 list.
Rising senior Kaylee Elliott (5:10 this spring) is the veteran leader of the team, backed by that monster junior class. Sydney Sundgren ran PR's in the 800, 1600 (4:49!), 3200, and 5K (17:21!) in 2021, putting her firmly in the conversation about the top individual stars in California. Grace Hutchison clocked 10:40 and 4:55, while Caroline Mendyk chipped in with a solid 5:12 in the 1600. That makes for a very potent top 4, as good as anyone else in the Golden State - but no matter which distance you check, there seems to be a pretty significant drop-off after that lead group.
So, who can the Bears count on to step up and reinforce the top 7? Junior Korin Meyer and sophomore Stefania Sesock are candidates. Incoming freshman Elliana Lomeli could certainly help, as well, after running 2:15 and 4:56 this spring (not to mention a 10:51 3200 time trial back in December). Word is, there are other potential varsity contributors in the rising 9th grade class, as well, which reminds us of that 2019 team. Given the ongoing depth and strength of this program, it's not at all hard to imagine Buchanan reloading and once again establishing themselves as the team to beat in California.