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.
Although Granada lost the closest thing they had to a cross country championship meet last winter (40-49 to De La Salle at the Tri-Valley Meet of Champions), one glance at those results shows you why I'm high on their prospects for the upcoming fall season. Their top three runners from that race return (and two of them are just rising juniors this year), giving the Matadors a very strong trio to build around. They also showed enough depth during XC to rank 9th in the state in the returning team 3 mile, although their times show a moderate gap after that front three.
Part of why I like this team is the progression they showed from February to April. On the track, Granada put 7 returning runners under 10 minutes for the 3200 (with an 8th at 10:04), and only one of them is in the Class of 2022! That would be Jacob Bauman, who has been a consistently strong performer for the Matadors his whole career and clocked PR's of 15:20 and 9:38 in the spring. The core of this team is in the rising junior class, led by Roland Ruckmann-Barnes (14:53/9:21) and Farin Soriano (15:20/9:46) with Liam Manley, Dheeraj Gurusamy, and Luther Hart close behind.
One more interesting thing: Manley was the leader of this Class of 2023 crew for Granada in 2019, when he ran 15:46 for 3 miles and 16:23 for 5K as a freshman to lead Granada to the 16th-best group of 9th and 10th grade runners in the state. If he can join the top three from this past year to make a potent four-man lead group to go with their excellent depth, the Matadors will be very hard to beat. And of course, losing only one senior in the coming school year makes them definite contenders when 2022 rolls around, especially if rising sophomores Eshaan Singh and Jacob Shin can make the leap and contend for spots in the top 5. Unlike so many boys contenders, that allows Granada to be patient in their training; my experience says that will help not only down the line, but also in the immediate future.