25 Girls Teams to Watch this Fall: Yucaipa

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.

The argument for Yucaipa's inclusion here begins with their 2019 frosh-soph rankings: they put 8 girls (that are still in high school now) under 19:10 for three miles that year. The argument against their inclusion also starts with those times, which were almost entirely run at either Woodbridge or the ASICS Temecula Twilight meet, both lightning-fast courses. We can see the same dynamic playing out in the 2020-2021 school year. In the winter, the Thunderbirds posted the 13th-best returning team 3 mile ranking in the state, a solid outcome. In the spring, though, the results were not as impressive, although the team did show some depth in the returning 1600 and returning 3200 team rankings.

Rising junior Taylor Becker led the way in both seasons, clocking PR's of 18:21.90 and 5:21.93. Senior Kaitlin Townsend, who led that frosh-soph group in 2019 with a 17:49, was right there with her, setting all-time bests in the 1600 (5:25) and the 3200 (11:23) while running 18:27 in the winter. She has a lot of support from a large Yucaipa Class of 2022, including Savannah Ganter, Erica Mueller, and Marissa Cole - but of those three, only Ganter demonstrated significant progress this past year.

So the question becomes, which Yucaipa will we see this fall? The team that showed so much potential in 2019, or the one whose runners nearly all ran slower than past times this winter? Do the PR's from multiple runners in the spring indicate impending breakthroughs, or are they just the product of finally having a chance to run track after being the denied the opportunity for so long?

I can only provide a partial answer: don't put too much stock in comparisons between the Thunderbirds and other programs during track seasons. Yucaipa hasn't traditionally put a lot of emphasis on that season, and regularly performs better in the fall than you would expect from their times in the previous spring. For example, they made the state meet in 2019 (with Townsend and Cole in the lineup) after posting similar returning track times in the 2018 outdoor season to what we saw this past school year. If promising junior Cali Good and sophomore Kyla Gomez can step up and challenge for spots in the top 5 this fall, I think the Thunderbirds can get back there - and a state meet team from Division 1 in the Southern Section is clearly one of the best teams in the state overall.