It's time to get fired up for cross country! Our traditional XC countdown is back, although it may look a little different this time around - our longtime data analyst Jeff George has moved on, leaving this energizing project to the MileSplit team in CA. Our collective goal is to briefly highlight 30 boys and 30 girls teams that we think will have an impact this fall. We will spotlight one team per gender per day over a 30-day period. Similar to past countdowns, we will provide a cross-sampling of teams from all 10 sections without regard to statewide or even division ranking (those will come later, as will articles previewing each section, and returning athletes to watch). As always, if you catch an error or have updated information for us, email CA state editor Jeffrey Parenti (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we'll make the corrections.
Santa Margarita (SS/Division III)
Returning six of their seven from last year's State Meet squad including all five scorers from their runner-up finish at the CIF-SS Finals, the Eagles of Santa Margarita are primed for a championship season in 2022. They are ranked atop our upcoming CIF-SS Division 3 boys rankings and ready to defend their Trinity League Title.
By far, the youngest team to earn hardware at the 2021 CIF-SS Finals, junior Zachary Gibson
has been the catalyst up front since his freshman season. As a sophomore, he ran 15:30.3 on the Mt. SAC course (fifth fastest sophomore in the Southern Section)
as his crew placed second at the 2021 Division 3 finals. Gibson is coming into the summer off a sophomore campaign that included 4:21.74 and 9:18.73 performances.
With their best team performance coming at the Division 3 Southern Section final, incoming senior Eddie Yunker
(16:00.3), and then sophomores Liam Raney
(16:02.6) and Parker Herbert
(16:06.3) crossed together in a pack. Yunker (4:26.75/9:43.01) and Raney (4:31.06/9:42.91) continued into the Spring with strong track seasons.
As a freshman in 2021, Bradyn Thompson
returns with impressive postseason experience and ran a 4:51.34 this past Spring.
In their first season together, the coaching tandem of head coach Mike Powers and assistant Marty Dugard yielded an 18-second improvement over the 1600 meters this past Spring from their top four returners (Gibson, Yunker, Herbert, and Raney).
Those that did not represent their top seven during the 2021 postseason and shined this past Spring included sophomore Owen Ring (5:02.61), junior Michael Ivory (5:03.88), and senior Chase Crandall (5:04.03) while also keep your eyes open as one of the most talented hurdlers, Roman Mendoza, in the Southern Section is also out training with the squad and may make an impact as well.
In the summer of 2021, Dugard shared that this team is a championship squad. We expect that to be the case in November of 2022 as they, along with Campolindo-NCS, will open up the season on top of the California Statewide Division 3 Boys Rankings.
2021 Returning Times for 5000 Meters
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Mark Gardner is a teacher, former coach, in-demand announcer, and a regular contributor to MileSplit.
Photos by Raymond Tran