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.
This is shaping up to be a quintessential pack-running team, but one that comes with a fundamental question: does Oak Ridge have enough depth to be successful with that strategy?
The Trojans do rank 3rd in the returning team 5K rankings, but they show a pretty sharp drop-off after their top 5 runners there. Likewise in the returning team 1600 rankings, where they grade out 4th in the state. Their returning 3200 team rankings look a bit deeper, but still only through 6 runners. Clearly, this team needs to cultivate some young talent this summer.
On the other hand, if they can stay healthy. the top 6 may be strong enough to win with as is. Oak Ridge had three girls post 5K times in the mid-18's this past semester: rising senior Ava Maier, junior Quinn Walker, and sophomore Samantha Liaty. Maier and Walker both clocked 5:02 this spring, with Walker also leading the team in the 3200 at 10:52. Brooke Butler, a junior that didn't crack the top 7 in cross country this winter, came on strong in the spring with times of 5:06 and 11:09. Senior Kayla Rutz and junior Loralye Clements both look like solid top 7 runners that could push for spots in the top 5 with a good summer. If Lauren Olson can also progress by the time the fall season starts, the Trojans could have a potent top 7.
Despite the school's well-known ability to develop top-tier individual runners, Oak Ridge hasn't traditionally been super deep. That hasn't stopped them from putting up strong teams, though - the Trojans were 9th in 2019, and this team has the potential to be better across the board. I expect this team to control the SJS D1 race, and with a good summer they might have a shot at the podium in Clovis.