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.
If we were having a competition for which team lost the biggest opportunity when the pandemic cancelled the 2020 cross country state meet, you would have to consider St. Francis Mountain View as a possibility. The Lancers had a loaded senior class this past school year that never got the chance to defend their CCS title and take another shot at the Division 2 state title.
Despite the graduation of such a stellar group, though, St. Francis has managed to develop a strong returning squad for the fall season (no small feat under the circumstances). The progress of rising senior Christel Elkins has played a huge part in that: she will be in contention for top individual in the Central Coast Section and could become one of California's elite runners next year. Discovering rising sophomore Lillian Kaelber certainly helped, as well,
The Lancers will now anchor around a large rising junior class to try to capitalize on another two-year window for success. Led by Briana Valdes and Anna Fawcett, that core group was strong enough to produce the top returning 3 mile team in the CCS during the winter. Hinako Yamamoto came on strong during track season, helping the Lancers earn the 3rd-best returning 1600 team in the section as well.
Depth is the main concern for St. Francis, as can be expected when you lose such a strong senior class. After their top 6 returners from the winter the times drop off sharply, and you can spot big gaps in their returning 1600 and 3200 lists, as well. Given the strength and consistency of this program in recent years, though, it's not hard at all to imagine the Lancers developing the 1 or 2 more top 5 quality runners that they need to rise to the top of the Central Coast once again. Getting back to the top 5 in the state might be a tall order this fall, but keep your eyes on this junior class and where they might be come 2022.