'22 CROSS COUNTRY PREVIEW - Central Section


From left, Buchanan senior Grace Hutchison, sophomore Elle Lomeli, and senior Sydney Sundgren lead one of the elite girls cross country teams in the U.S. (DeAnna Turner photo)

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All California cross country teams have something in common, both when the season begins and when it ends. The goal is to be running in late November at Fresno's Woodward Park, site of the CIF-State Championships.

"The end goal is November, that's what we're shooting for," says Buchanan senior Caroline Mendyk, a member of the Bears' two-time Division I girls State champions in 2019 and 2021 (the State Meet was not held in 2020 due to the pandemic). "Every day of our summer training is about building a base, running our season races and all while keeping the goal in the back of our minds."

Whether it is Buchanan High, whose campus is less than six miles from Woodward Park or, on the boys' side, where defending Division II State champion San Luis Obispo High is about 150 miles from the site, they are both teams to be reckoned with again in 2022 among the Central Section's best.

There were many others in 2021 who, while not winning a state title at Woodward, still brought home some hardware by winning section titles at the famed cross country venue: Madera South, Sanger, Tulare Western, Yosemite and Liberty-Madera Ranchos on the boys' side and Buchanan, Sanger, Bakersfield Highland, Santa Maria and Central Valley Christian girls teams.

How many of them will be atop their leagues and the section in 2022? Many teams have top returning talent who've experienced success and can be leaned on to ease the graduation losses that inevitably occur, but who has that junior or sophomore who can provide stability? Who has a freshman ready to stand up and provide depth or, perhaps come in like a lightning bolt? 

As the page turns to 2022, a fresh chapter is here to be written, the summer work is wrapping up locally. Teams who get away to bond and go where there's different scenery and an alternate training environment have returned. Early invitationals will start building up Central Section teams and individuals in their quest for success in league and section meets and, if they can qualify, for the state meet at Woodward Park. 

Division Changes for 2022

Boys: San Luis Obispo and Sanger to D-1; Tulare Western, Bakersfield Frontier, and Fresno Central move up to D-2; Porterville shifts to D-3; McFarland drops to D-4; Yosemite, Mission College Prep and San Joaquin Memorial go down to D-5.

Girls: Sanger and San Luis Obispo up to D-1; Bakersfield Highland and Fresno Edison both go up to D-2; Santa Maria and Nipomo both go down to D-3; and Fowler moves up to D-4.

Central Section Championships (Divisions 1-5)

Thursday, November 17 at Woodward Park, Fresno