25 Boys Teams to Watch This Fall: Orange Lutheran

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.

When I parsed our limited data from the last 2 years looking for the top Division 4 teams, I found several contenders. The team that kept popping up in nearly all of the reports, though, was Orange Lutheran. I see that as a mark of consistency over this turbulent time, and that's why I think the Lancers entered the summer in an excellent position to develop a contending team this fall.

The current Lutheran squad began its journey in 2019, when they brought a freshman and three sophomores to the Southern Section D4 finals. That freshman ran #1 for the Lancers that day and pushed them to a 2nd-place ranking among D4 frosh-soph squads that yearTayne Patel continues to lead the team two years later. He ran 9:37.69 for the 3200 in the spring, helping Lutheran to the best returning team 3200 ranking among Division 4 schools. Fellow junior Joseph O'Donnell posted the #2 time on the team, leading a solid pack of runners that includes rising seniors Ethan Pacholl and Noah Lockwood.

Lockwood had a strong winter season, narrowly missing his PR for 3 miles while staying right with Patel. Together they led the Lancers to the #2 returning team 3 mile ranking in the division, which also reflects the team's strong depth.  Lutheran has better returning 5, 6, and 7 runners than any other D4 team from this past school year: they put 7 returners under 11 minutes for the 3200, and the same number ran 17:03 or faster in the winter.

Patel could hold the answer to the Lancers' biggest weakness: they give away quite a bit of time to the contenders that have elite individuals up front, like Albany's Sean Morello and Scotts Valley's Jeremy Kain. If Patel can make the junior-year leap forward that so many boys take (and his 3200 time seems to indicate that possibility), then Lutheran will be a state title contender. If he is still a year away, though, the floor for this year's squad is a legitimate chance at the Southern Section title, and that's not bad at all.