25 Girls Teams to Watch this Fall: La Canada

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 you want to talk about programs that made the most of the bad situation we had for track this past spring, you have to include La Canada. The Spartans ran an eye-opening 11:48.02 for the Distance Medley Relay, finishing 3rd at nationals! Part of the credit for that success goes to graduated senior Ellaney Matarese, and her absence will be a significant loss to the team.

The Spartans have a blossoming superstar to help cushion that blow: rising sophomore Arielle McKenzie clocked 4:48.96 for 1600 this spring while also winning the CIF-SS D3 title in that event. It will be fun to see how her talent translates to her first high school cross country season (she didn't race this past winter, but has AAU XC experience). Fellow sophomore Katelyn Matarese also had a strong spring with a 5:14 PR, and they will be joined by rising freshman Maya De Brouwer in what could be a potent 1-2-3 combo with three years to develop. (De Brower has an older sister Alex that will also be joining the team this fall after sitting out due to injury this past school year.) Keep your eye on junior Catherine Mispagel, who split 2:22 on that national bronze-medal DMR in her first track season ever.

That brings me to the central item that interests me about La Canada: they have such a young team that they can take time to develop and still have a wide window to contend. Jenna Milbrodt is the only rising senior on the team, so everyone else will be back for at least 2022. That's good, because the biggest challenge for new coach Pete Magill (who you may recognize) will be developing depth. After Matarese there was a sizeable gap back to the rest of the team this past spring, and the team only has 7 or 8 returning runners that recorded a time this past school year.

It's not hard to see this team contending in the Southern Section, and perhaps at the state meet, in the 2022 season. Could they arrive sooner than expected and make a big splash this fall?