30 Girls XC Teams to Watch this Fall: Westlake (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.

Among the huge group of returners making Westlake a definite team to watch this fall, are sophomore Michelle Navarro (1747) and senior Ava Basile (1740), two scorers from last November's CIF-Southern Section Finals. (Daniel Hernandez photos)

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Westlake (SS/Division II)

At an initial glance, one would not see Milesplit CA featuring a squad that placed 13th at the 2021 California State Meet for Division II.  But, diving deeper into the numbers and players involved, the girls of Westlake return eight of their top nine, along with what may become a valuable addition to the squad in 2022.  

Competing in perhaps the toughest leagues in California, the Marmonte League continues to sharpen the competitive skills of Westlake. Co-head coaches Troy Burns and Chad Scott are confident as the squad projects for a top-five finish at this year's State Meet while also competing for hardware at the CIF-SS Division 2 Finals, where they placed fifth a year ago.   

Junior Laura Castagna (18:58.4) was their top finisher at the 2021 State Meet and improved down to an 11:22.29 for 3200 meters this past spring.  With her best performance coming at the CIF-SS finals, Kalista Traversa finished just ahead of Castagna with a lifetime best of 18:38.9.  The incoming senior comes in off a solid track season where she PR'd with a 5:23.28 best for the 1600 meters.  

Injured for most of the track season, senior Alyssa Wood was Westlake's third scorer during last year's postseason run.  Her best performance of 19:07.5 came at the CIF-SS Finals.  Meanwhile, incoming senior Ava Basile (20:11 at the 2021 State Meet) also returns while posting lifetime bests of this past track season.  

Playing a pivotal role in 2021 as a freshman, Michelle Navarro was the squad's fourth scorer at the State Meet (19:59.2). Her 5:30.92 for the 1600 meters provided additional confidence coming into the summer.

Two names not representing Westlake during the 2021 postseason expect to play huge roles here in 2022. Kenna Bradley is coming off a breakout track season where as a freshman, she posted 2:22.28 best for the 800 meters to go along with breaking 5:28.65 for the 1600 meters. 

Meanwhile, incoming junior Alexa Pinon transferred over from Oak Park with a strong postseason resume from last year. She ran 19:58.8 in the State Meet Division III race and improved this past spring with a best of 5:28.78 for the 1600 meters.  

Westlake is one of only four girls' squads, along with Granite Bay (SJ), St. Francis (CC), and Newbury Park (SS) for Division II, boasting five girls with sub-20-minute histories on the Woodward Park 5K State Meet course.  Equipped with last year's postseason experience, Westlake projects to finish much higher than what they achieved in 2021.  

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2021 Returning Times for 5000 Meters

Westlake (SS) 
1) Laura Castagna18:58.40114
2) Alyssa Wood19:43.60233
3) Kali Traversa19:44.50234
4) Michelle Navarro19:59.20287
5) Ava Basile20:11.00332
Average Time: 19:43.34 Total Time: 1:38:36.70 1-5 Split: 1:12.60
6) Sophie Atkins20:50.70515

Scoring is against all returners on girls teams in CA.

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

Photos by Daniel Hernandez