Montgomery freshman Hanne Thomsen was seventh in the sweepstakes race at Clovis and could be the runner to beat in Division III at the CIF-NCS Championships on Saturday. (DeAnna Turner photo)
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North Coast Section Cross Country Championships
NCS Divisions are as follows:
NCS CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW
Thank you very much to all the coaches who helped me break down each division. The following is my best attempt to predict the top 5-7 teams and the top individuals for each division (boys and girls) in Saturday's section meet. The teams from this meet that will qualify for the State Meet at Woodward Park in Fresno on November 27th are noted for each division. The top 5 individuals from each race will also qualify to the state meet provided they are in the top 12 when two teams qualify, top 14 when three teams qualify, top 16 when four teams qualify, top 18 when five teams qualify, and top 20 when six teams qualify.
The winning teams in each division will receive plaques. The top 2 teams in each division will receive pennants. The top 3 teams in each division will receive medals. Seven (7) medals will be provided per team of seven. The top 7 individuals in each race will receive medals.
Girls - (Top 2 teams advance to the State Meet)
The best team in this division is Dougherty Valley. I usually try to stay away from words like locks, but if there is one team that seems destined to win, then Dougherty Valley is that team. They finished a super competitive 2nd to another strong Granada team at the EBAL final and will roll to victory here. The race for 2nd and the last qualifying state meet spot will be most exciting and super competitive. At the EBAL final, the Dublin girls were separated from the California girls by one point. It shouldn't be much different here as the smaller field will make for a tiny margin of victory for the 2nd place team. As with every other division, the team that performs best on this day will determine who gets to spend a couple of days in lovely Fresno after Thanksgiving. The next best teams appear to be Castro Valley and Berkeley. They both should finish in the top 5 in this division, and the only question is who will finish 4th and who will finish in 5th place.
The individual favorite will be Dougherty Valley freshman Sabrina Noriega. She won the individual league EBAL title just ahead of senior teammate Rhea Braganza. Those two runners should repeat those finishes in this field as they pace their team to another section title. California senior Madison Chavez will also be in the mix, and Dougherty Valley's Eva Shen and Dublin's top runner, Medha Gowda. :D
Boys - (Top 2 teams advance to the State Meet)
The heavy favorite to win this team race will be the Dublin boys. The Gaels won their first 2 section titles in Division 2 in 2016 and 2017 and then won their 3rd and 4th titles in Division I in 2018 and 2019. They recently won the EBAL title over a strong Granada team, and the only question here is what the winning score will be. The Dougherty Valley boys are pretty familiar with the Dublin team as they both compete in the EBAL. Just as Dublin is a strong favorite to win, DV will be a heavy favorite to finish 2nd and lock up the last qualifying spot. The next best teams appear to be Berkeley, followed by Castro Valley and then San Leandro.
The favorite to win the individual title will be Dublin senior Sharvin Manjrekar. He finished in 2nd place at the EBAL League final and has been Dublin's top runner throughout the season. Chasing him will be teammates Daniel Trampe, Joshua Turpin, and Cole Turpin. Dougherty Valley junior Andrew Richards was the top runner on his team at their league final and will be trying to break up the Dublin pack in order to ensure his team's qualification for the state meet.
Girls - (Top 4 teams advance to the State Meet):
The Granada girls have settled into Division II and have resorted to owning this division with 5 section titles in a row. That streak does not appear to be in jeopardy this year as they will be favored to add more section hardware for their trophy case. Their main challenge should be a familiar one in league rival Monte Vista. The MV girls finished in 3rd place in EBAL and will hope to close the gap here. They should also keep an eye on the Redwood girls who finished in 2nd place in the MCAL final and aim squarely for a top-two finish. The last state meet berth should go to another EBAL member, Amador Valley. They finished in 4th place at the EBAL final and seem to be a safe bet to the state meet ahead of San Ramon Valley.
The favorite to win the individual title will be Granada junior Jana Barron. She finished in 3rd place at the EBAL final behind Dougherty Valley teammates Sabrina Noriega and Rhea Braganza. Close behind should be teammates Kerrigan Sauder as well as Kinsey Pogue. Keeping them honest will be Redwood junior Audrey MacLean, the MCAL champion and looking to start her team's scoring with a very low stick. Granada's Elizabeth Melcher should also be part of the front pack. Granada's lead runners will be on full display from the start of the race.
Boys - (Top 4 teams advance to the State Meet)
Great programs seem to reload year after year, and one such program is Granada. They won the section title in 2018 and lost an epic battle to league rival De La Salle in 2019. After rolling to a solid 2nd place finish in the EBAL final, the Granada boys now have the best team in this division. Monte Vista appears to be the next best team, followed by the defending champions, De La Salle. The Redwood boys finished a very competitive 3rd in the MCAL championship race and will show they belong with the best east bay teams. Amador Valley and College Park are the next best teams and will need the already mentioned teams to have an off day in order to qualify for the state meet. Another team that should be mentioned is San Ramon Valley. They were missing their top three runners at their league final, but if they recover in time to race, here could make their team a factor and a dangerous threat.
The favorite to win the individual title will be College Park junior Alex Lamoreaux. He's been impressive all season and won the individual title at his league final. His primary challenger should be De La Salle senior Oscar Gomez, who was the 2021 EBAL champion. Redwood junior Daegan Cutter finished a very competitive 2nd in the MCAL final and will keep both runners very honest. Granada teammates Dheeraj Gurusamy and Roland Ruckmann-Barnes race together and will definitely be part of the front pack as they attempt to lead their team to victory.
Girls - (Top 4 teams advance to the State Meet)
The Campolindo girls have won 7 straight section titles starting in 2013 and ending in 2019. The meet was not contested last year due to COVID. They will be heavily favored to win another section title this year which would tie them with the University girls for most titles with 18 overall. Their strongest opposition should come from a rapidly improving Tamalpais team that just dominated the MCAL final. The 3rd best team appears to be Maria Carrillo following their 17th straight league title. The last qualifying spot should come down to Las Lomas and Carondelet. The Alameda girls will also be a factor coming off a league championship in the WACC, also held on the section course at Hayward HS.
The favorite to win the individual title will be Montgomery freshman Hanna Thomsen. She ran 17:39.9 at the Clovis Invitational and won her league final race on the Spring Lake Park course in 17:17, which is the 2nd fastest time all-time for a freshman. She will have Campolindo junior Ellie Buckley in hot pursuit. Buckley won the Rough Rider large school varsity race in 17:54.5. Two runners who will be in contention for an individual berth to the state meet are Amelia Stacey of El Cerrito and Angelina Gomez of Livermore. Campolindo's Shea Volkmer should also keep up with the pursuit pack and Brianna McInnis and Emma Dunmore of Tamalpais.
Boys - (Top 4 teams advance to the State Meet)
Over the last seven years, Campolindo has won 5 section titles, with Maria Carrillo interrupting their streak in 2017 and 2019. The Cougars will be favored once again, but this gets interesting. The Campolindo Cougars won the 2019 state meet after finishing in 2nd place at the section meet. The Newark Memorial Cougars have their best team in school history and just claimed their first league title in 36 years. They will need another historic effort to take down Campo, who seem to be hitting their stride again in November. The Maria Carrillo boys will be back following their historic 2019 season and appear slotted for 3rd place here. The team that seems to be in a position to lock up the last spot is Tamalpais. They chased the Archie Williams boys at the MCAL and will need to repeat that effort to qualify for the state meet once again to stay in front of a rapidly improving Northgate team.
The individual favorite should be Tamalpais senior Caden Carney. He was the only runner in the MCAL to dip under the 16-minute mark on the challenging Indian Valley College course. Keeping him honest will be the top two Campolindo runners, sophomore Alexander Lodewick and senior Rhys Pullen. Montgomery junior Jude Devries ran for Victory Christian Academy in 2019 as a freshman and finished in 2nd place in the Division V race. Other runners that will be in the mix up front include Newark Memorial's Chance Tokubo and Tad Kawabata and Maria Carrillo's Jacob Donohue and Noe Vieyra.
Girls - (Top 3 teams advance to the State Meet)
This division may have several teams with dreams of winning this team battle. For now, I am going with the Miramonte girls who finished in 2nd place in 2019. They also finished 2nd in their league behind a strong Campolindo team. In that same race, Acalanes finish in 3rd place and will be looking to pass their league rival here. The 3rd team in the mix for the section title will be the St. Mary's Berkeley girls. They have been a consistent contender in this division for many years, and it will not be any different this season. With three teams advancing to state, those three schools may have those positions locked up, but that doesn't mean a team behind can't score the upset. The Piedmont girls have also been one of the stronger teams in this division and are very familiar with the Hayward HS course. Albany will be led by one of the strongest runners in this division and will try to break in the top 5 at the very least. The Marin Catholic girls will also contend for a top 5 finish and perhaps more with a good day out of their squad.
The individual battle here should be terrific. Albany senior Sophia Nordenholz (pictured) has been the best distance runner in this section over the last year. She had an epic spring track and field season that included a section record in the 3200 with a time of 10:05.91. In most seasons, Nordenholz would be the clear outright favorite, but there is a runner with a puncher's chance for the win. Acalanes sophomore Olivia Williams has consistently finished in the top 3 of her races this year and tamed the Hidden Valley Park course with a spectacular time of 16:55.5. She will keep Nordenholz in her sights, especially early in the race. A runner that will vie to qualify as an individual will be Renae Searls of Alhambra. She will be in the mix with other runners that will have teams in contention for the state meet berths, and those runners are Kate Riley of Miramonte, Ellie Black of Piedmont, and Milan Jackson of St. Mary's Berkeley.
Boys - (Top 3 teams advance to the State Meet)
For those of you trying to keep up with all the school name changes, Sir Francis Drake is now Archie Williams School. Mr. Williams was a beloved teacher as well as a former Olympian in Track and Field. The school, regardless of name, has been the dominant team in this division recently and will attempt to continue that today. Albany has been equally as impressive this year and will need a supreme effort from their entire lineup to give the former Pirates a scare on the Hayward course. The Piedmont boys won the WACC team title and appeared to be right in the mix for a state meet qualifying finish. The teams looking in at this point are John F. Kennedy and a team that is very familiar with Piedmont, Bishop O'Dowd.
The individual favorite will be Albany junior Sean Morello. He rolled to a new course record at his league final and recorded a 15:20.5 time on the Woodward Park course at the Clovis Invitational. He will dictate the pace up front on his own with a chase pack trying to keep him in their view. That pack will include Mateo Malko-Allen of St. Mary's, Berkeley, Jacob Hupke of Moreau, and Jack Stein of Piedmont. Archie Williams has a strong trio upfront with Nate Wolford, Evan Lee, and Eric Overaa. Some others that may also be in the range of the leaders are Lucas Cohen of Albany, Jack Connor of John F. Kennedy, and Tyler Hunt of Acalanes.
Girls - (Top 6 teams advance to the State Meet)
I will first start with the easy part of predicting this race. The favorite to win here will be the Lick-Wilmerding girls. They are the defending section and state champions and have been the top-ranked team in the state throughout the season. The 2nd best team in the section are the University girls who have posed the biggest threat to L-W. Now for the tricky part. Who will finish right behind Lick-Wilmerding and University? Multiple teams have dreams of qualifying to the state meet, and for some of them, a 6th place finish will be a great accomplishment. College Prep seems to be the best of the next group of teams as they conquered the BCL East. Urban had the pleasure of chasing L-W and University throughout the season and looking for a top 4 finish here. Head Royce and St. Joseph Notre Dame were the next two best teams in the BCL East and will be hoping to join their league rival at the state meet. The last qualifying spot could come down to a tight battle between San Domenico and Athenian.
Unlike 2019 when Harper McClain was the clear favorite to win, it appears that there are a couple of runners who could be listed as a co-favorite. The first runner in BCL West champion, San Domenico junior, Hayley Ballard. The other runner is the BCL East champion, Head Royce senior, Ona Ortiz-Gudeman. Both runners have been their league's best runners and will now vie for section supremacy on the Hayward HS course. The next group of runners should include Lick-Wilmerding's top runners, Amelia Maltz and Kaira Shiplak, as well as College Prep's Talia Green and Branson's Adeline Johnson.
Boys - (Top 5 teams advance to the State Meet)
The clear favorite to win the team title here is Lick-Wilmerding. Their team has the best individual in the field as well as the best supporting cast. They may also be the favorite to win the state title and use this race to set themselves up for the following week's race. The next best team is University who has consistently been one of the best teams in this division. The next best team should be a battle between BCL East champion St. Joseph Notre Dame and BCL West 3rd place finisher Urban. The last two qualifying spots for the state meet could come down to a tight battle between Convent & Stuart Hall, College Prep, and Branson. The North Coast Section has been one of the best sections at the state, which is why they get five qualifiers, and the road to state has always been super competitive for so many contenders.
The individual favorite will be Yale-bound, Lick-Wilmerding senior Alex Mader (pictured). He will be one of the favorites to win the state meet and is the class of this field. A tight pack of runners will give him plenty of room and should include BCL East champion Owen Irving of College Prep, Jack Gaitley Of University, Nick Miller of Urban, and the Lick-Wilmerding train led by Felix Fein.
Albert Caruana is the head coach at Crystal Springs Uplands and a regular contributor to MileSplitCA.
Photos by DeAnna Turner