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.
Loyola finished their first cross country meet this past February and said, "Well, that's enough for us." That single duel meet was a 2-mile race, so they didn't leave us much information to go on. Data from the 2019 season (counting only freshmen and sophomores then) is a little better, but still not conclusive - a lot of the Cubs' younger runners ran shorter race distances most of the season. We know this is one of the premier cross country programs in the state, a consistent contender that develops talent year in and year out, but we don't have enough cross country times to use for projections into the upcoming fall.
Thankfully, we can look at track results to fill in the gaps, and Loyola had an excellent spring season. They rank 2nd in the state in the returning 1600 team rankings, averaging 4:22 across their top 5 runners (and #6 is right behind them). The Cubs also grade out 3rd in the returning 3200 team rankings, putting 5 guys at 9:52 or faster. These marks show a varsity squad that is shaping up to be at least 6 deep in strong runners, and that's before summer training is factored in!
As usual, the Cubs are going to be loaded with senior leadership. Dylan Bissell leads the way after clocking 9:16 and 4:16 on the track, and he has Richard Moreno (4:20/9:21) and Nathan Mars (4:24/9:36) to help him carry the load. Rising juniors Julian Guinane and Jake Ratkovich also had strong times this spring, which at a minimum establishes a powerful top 5.
Here's the interesting thing: out of those 5, only Moreno was in the top 7 when Loyola finished 4th in Division 2 in 2019. If Dane Utley and Nick Castain, who both ran in that state meet, are back in the mix for varsity spots this fall, then the Cubs will be very deep. They also have rising sophomore Harrison Lavery to count on after he ran 4:28 this spring - it wouldn't be surprising to see him take another big step forward as a junior. Put them all together for a solid summer of training, and you can see why I expect Loyola to continue their tradition of championship contention this fall.