25 Boys Teams to Watch This Fall: Ayala

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.

Normally, I wouldn't profile a team that finished its last full cross country season by failing to make the section finals. On the other hand, all but one of the Ayala runners that raced in the 2019 CIF-SS prelims have graduated, so they're pretty much starting over with a blank slate. That's why I find it intriguing that they finished 6th in the returning team 3 mile rankings from this past winter. It looks like the Bulldogs discovered a new core of talent, and it was enough to beat Claremont soundly in the Palomares League Final with only 2 seniors in the top 7.

In contrast with our last Southern Section team, Crescenta Valley, Ayala is shaping up to be a classic pack-running squad this fall. The Bulldogs posted a 39-second 1-5 split in the winter with their top 5 runners all under 16 minutes for 3 miles. They also sport the state's 7th-best returning team 3200 ranking, with their top 5 separated by 31 seconds there.

Rising senior Mason Ma leads the way after clocking 15:17 and 9:45, with rising junior Nathan Tsai right there with him (15:24/9:38). Sebastian Contreras joins Ma in the Class of 2022, while Malachi Morris and Matthew Carcamo bolster the junior class.

Depth is the main issue that needs to be addressed; in both XC and track rankings from this past school year, Ayala shows a front group of 5 with a gap to the rest of the team, although it's worth noting that the 5th runner is different in each case. It would be a huge help if runners like seniors Dominic Ruiz and Evan Seki or juniors Christopher Sydnor and Joshua Aguayo could close up on the lead pack. The Bulldogs have a steep hill to climb in the Southern Section Division 2 race, but it looks like they entered the summer ahead of a lot of their competitors