30 Boys Teams to Watch this Fall: San Clemente (SS)

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 (jeffrey.parenti@flosports.tv) and we'll make the corrections.

San Clemente (SS/Division I)

Coming into the 2022 season, a seasoned San Clemente crew is ready for another run at the podium after placing fourth at the 2021 Division 1 State Championships. As they placed fifth a week before at the CIF-SS Division 1 Final, improving at the State Meet a week later was a trend that prevailed all throughout their 2021 record-setting campaign.

In qualifying for the State Meet for the first time in school history in 2021, they return four of their five scorers. Senior Juan Chantaca leads the Tritons, running 15:37.6 at the State Meet last year while also rolling to a 15:17.1 at Mt. SAC a week earlier. Junior Brett Ephraim had his best performance of 2021 at the State Meet (15:45.2) with a stellar 15:36.8 on the Mt. SAC course. Incoming seniors Rory Catsimanes and Grant Sestak, 16:05.3 and 16:23.4 at the State Meet respectively.  One of the top returning quartets in California, only five other squads have four returning with sub-16:30 credentials for the Woodward Park 5k course.  

In glancing back to this past track season, the continued development shined even more so as, for the 1600 meters, their top five returners were the fourth-best underclass group in California (averaging 4:24.8) and second in the Southern Section, finishing only behind Newbury Park. Ephraim (4:19.56/9:32.40), Chantaca (4:20.17/9:29.40), and Catsimanes (4:23.96/9:31.37) shined brightest this past Spring.

Junior Pierce Clark returns with valuable postseason experience. At the same time, his top effort came at the CIF-SS Finals (16:21.3) while as their fifth-best returner, he witnessed marked improvement this past Spring with 1:58.04 and 4:34.68 bests.  Those also expected to contribute include junior Taj Clark (1:59.96/4:32.05) while also watch for incoming junior Kai (Taylor) Olsen (4:42.60/10:04.15).  As a freshman this past Spring, Beau Olsen ran 10:07.74. 

No team improved from September to the end of November than what we witnessed from San Clemente's 2021 group. Compared to what their varsity squad did at the Woodbridge Invite in mid-September, their performances at the State Meet were only 23-seconds slower. Most squads range between 50-60 seconds when comparing the two meets.

The Tritons will open the season ranked second in the CIF-SS Division 1 rankings and come in as one of the top five squads in California. Do not expect much in September but they will be there vying for a podium spot in late November!

2021 Returning Times for 5000 Meters
San Clemente (SS) 
1) Juan Chantaca15:37.6025
2) Brett Ephraim15:45.2041
3) Rory Catsimanes16:05.3092
4) Grant Sestak16:23.40150
5) Pierce Clark17:15.50416
Average Time: 16:13.40 Total Time: 1:21:07.00 1-5 Split: 1:37.90
6) Taylor Olsen17:22.50457
7) Taj Clark17:56.40696

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Mark Gardner is a teacher, former coach, in-demand announcer, and a regular contributor to MileSplit.

Photos by DeAnna Turner