30 Girls XC Teams to Watch this Fall: Newbury Park (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.

Key scorers in 2021, Tiffany Sax (940) and Ailish Hawkins (934) bring big-meet experience in leading the Newbury Park lineup this cross country season. (Raymond Tran photo)

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Newbury Park (SS/Division 2)

On paper, one would look and see that the CIF-SS Division 1 champions graduated three of their top five. Add in the fact that head coach Sean Brosnan has moved on to take over the reins of the UCLA Cross Country and Distance program, many may be surprised by our inclusion in this series of the Newbury Park girls. 

The reality is that the Panthers are not going anywhere and now with their move to Division 2, they seek their third consecutive team title in as many seasons as they earned the D-2 title in 2019 as well.  

Looking at being their only senior in their top seven in 2022, Ailish Hawkins takes over the reins up front for Newbury Park. Her 17:45.9 on the Woodward Park 5K course is one of the top returners in the state.  She witnessed great success this past spring, with 4:53.66 and 10:44.70 lifetime bests on the oval.  

Representing the Class of 2025, Tiffany Sax was one of the top freshmen in California with her 17:57.0 seasonal best on the Woodward Park 5K course.  She moved onto the spring where she recorded 4:53.83 and 10:29.15 seasonal bests on the track.  

Juniors Danielle Brotcke and Samantha Spaulding also return. The former performed well at the State Meet with a 19:16.8 while Spaulding crossed in 19:36.1.  Brotcke shined this past spring with a 5:05.50 best for 1600 meters and 11:21.92 for 3200 meters.  Adding to their depth, juniors Norah Lehto and Maya Natarajan stepped in during the 2021 CIF-SS prelims, running 19:44.6 and 19:56.6, respectively.  

Incoming freshman Sophia Grant will make an immediate impact on the varsity squad. Coming in with an 18:52.0 on a 5K course from last November, she also shined in the spring running 5:16.26 for the 1600 meters and 11:42.40 for the 3200 meters.  Her older sister, Elyse Grant, has transferred from Oaks Christian and brings postseason experience. She ran 19:49.8 at the 2021 State Meet and was the Lions' No. 4 scorer at the Southern Section D-4 Finals.

Glancing at this past track season, Newbury Park ranked sixth in California for returning 1600-meter times, averaging 5:07.42. For the 3200 meters, they ranked 10th with an 11:25.73 for their top five returners.  These do not include incoming freshman Grant's stellar marks.  

The battle for the Division 2 title at State will be intense with a major transfer providing a HUGE boost to Anaheim Canyon (SS).  When you add in that Granite Bay (SJ) returns their entire squad from placing third at the 2021 State Meet, among other challengers statewide, Newbury Park will have its work cut out for them.  But, these Panthers are battle tested with post-season experience, making this one of the more intriguing storylines to follow this fall. 

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2021 Returning Times for 5000 Meters

Newbury Park (SS) 
1) Ailish Hawkins17:45.904
2) Tiffany Sax17:57.008
3) Samantha Spaulding18:35.9231
4) Danielle Brotcke19:16.8071
5) Norah Lehto19:44.6098
Average Time: 18:40.04 Total Time: 1:33:20.22 1-5 Split: 1:58.70

Scoring is against all Southern Section teams with returning girls.

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

Photos by Raymond Tran