25 Girls Teams to Watch This Fall: St. Francis (SJ)

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.

One of the few programs that seemed to at least try to get good value out of cross country this past semester, St. Francis leads the state in the returning team 5K rankings. We've seen this coming for a while, though: if you go back to 2019 and look at just freshmen and sophomores, the Troubadours graded out 3rd in California for 5K and 4th for 3 miles. While they don't have eye-opening track results from the spring (more on that later), these returning rankings are more than enough indication of the deep talent pool that they have been developing for the past two years.

It all starts with rising senior Cate Joaquin, who set a PR of 10:44 in the 3200 in March before shutting down for the year after only three total races. She is on the verge of stardom, boasting PR's of 16:25.70 for 3 miles and 17:15.80 for 5K; she finished 4th in the D2 race at the 2019 state meet and also earned a trip to Foot Locker Nationals as a sophomore. That 3200 in the spring is a good indication that she was in great shape, and hopefully her lack of racing was a deliberate choice for training purposes rather than forced by illness or injury. Assuming she is healthy, she gives the Troubadours a potent #1 option up front.

Fellow Class of 2022 runners Tatiana Cornejo and Claire Silva provide strong support for Joaquin and also veteran leadership for the whole team. Cornejo has a 5K PR of 18:09 to go with a new best of 5:10 in the 1600 this spring, and Silva seems to have closed the gap between them with her 5:17. St. Francis also boasts a strong rising sophomore class: Kayla Towne ran 5:10 and 2:18 in her first high school track season (indicating her potential to go well under 19 this fall), while Grace Dunham and Ryann Strawn both look like solid top 7 runners.

Depth is a concern for the Troubadours, but in reality it's a concern for nearly everyone after the last 18 months through which we've collectively struggled. Given the traditional strength of this program, however, it's not difficult to imagine them filling in with solid varsity runners and returning to challenge for the D2 podium this fall.