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.
Let's be clear: during the messed-up half-year of competitive running into which we crammed both cross country and track, only two boys teams really separated themselves from the rest of the field, and we've already covered them. After those two teams, the numbers drop off substantially to the next group (no matter which report you look at). From here on out, every team we profile has serious questions still to be answered; we simply don't have enough data to really get a feel for where these squads will be when September rolls around, let alone to project to November. The rest of this series will be an exercise in focusing on a few data points that suggest strengths.
If you ask me which team impressed me the most in the limited time they had to compete this year, I would emphatically reply with Clovis West. After finishing 17th in the Division 1 state meet in 2019, the Golden Eagles displayed one of the deepest and strongest teams in the state this winter (at least comparatively), then continued to run very well in the spring.
Clovis West put five returning runners under 17 minutes for 5K in a "season" that consisted of only 4 dual meets and a tiny invitational. Normally that would put a team in the top 25, but this year it ranks them 2nd in California in the returning team 5K. The Golden Eagles followed that up with the 4th-best group of returning 1600 runners in the state this spring, averaging 4:28 across their top 5 runners - again, not spectacular numbers for a normal year, but better than many traditional powers in 2021.
Rising seniors Benjamin Reyes (16:07/9:35/4:25) and Collin Galaviz (16:11/4:21) lead the way for the Golden Eagles, and Gabe Perez will join them in repping the Class of 2022 this fall. That's a solid core of veteran runners that can help motivate the team and establish the kind of work ethic that will be needed to put this team over the top into contention this fall. Junior Nathaniel Nodal will be pushed by sophomores Sam Dresick and Jacob Rodriguez for the remaining spots in the top 5. That should give Clovis West a strong lead pack, and the addition of rising freshman Nico Palavicini (10:08 as an 8th grader this spring) puts another top 7 caliber runner into the mix.
The upshot of all this is clear: Clovis West managed the pandemic as well as just about any other team out there, and that should give them some positive momentum going in to the summer. Will it be enough to claw their way to the top of the Central Section and contend for a podium spot in Division 1? Time will tell, but I feel good about the depth and leadership of this group.