PREVIEW Fast Times On Course For 43rd Clovis Invitational

The top-ranked and defending national champion Newbury Park boys cross country team, led by seniors Leo Young (left), Aaron Sahlman (center), and Lex Young, will compete for the first time in an invitational this season when they take the line in the boys championship race at the Clovis Invitational on the 5K Woodward Park course in Fresno. (DeAnna Turner photos)

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With the temperatures predicted to reach the mid-90s, those early-session championship races will conclude before it reaches the 70s. The girls are set to go off at 8:55 am with the gentleman taking to the Woodward Park course at 9:30 am.   





As a freshman, Ventura's Sadie Engelhardt (left) battled Newbury Park senior Samantha McDonnell to the very end of the Girls Sweepstakes race at the 2021 Clovis Invitational. (DeAnna Turner photo)
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In their backyard so to speak, the nation's top squad in Buchanan (CS) comes in as the heavy favorite. With Woodward Park being their home course, the Bears will be using this as a tune-up, returning to also run their league and sectional finals before defending their Division I State title the last weekend of November.  Led by senior Sydney Sundgren (16:14.7), sophomore Elliana Lomeli (16:15.3), and freshman Kynzlee Buckley (16:19.6), they boasted three of the top six California finishers at the Woodbridge Classic. With three others crossing under 17:15, Buchanan bested some of the top squads in the nation. In the most recent MileSplit50 national team rankings, they are perched on top!   

In what may be the best squad in California state history, Buchanan would have scored 56 points to JSerra's 152 and Newbury Park's 233 in a California-only merge at Woodbridge.  Now while the all-time Woodward Park course record of 89:13 (Great Oak, 2015) may not happen this weekend, definitely keep the record in mind as Buchanan is strong enough to break the 89-minute barrier by the State Meet.  

Looking to use the brisk pace of Buchanan to further validate why they should be ranked among one of the top squads in the nation, JSerra (SS) is determined to build their resume. Sophomore Brynn Garcia leads the defending Division IV state champs while two of the top freshmen in California, Summer Wilson, and Kaylah Tasser, provide ample support.  All three crossed in under 16:45 at the Woodbridge Classic. JSerra is currently ranked No. 15 in the nation.  

Newbury Park (SS) was the Division I State Meet runners-up in 2021.  But, in 2022, the Panthers have moved to Division II and at the mid-season point, are the favorites for the State title with the duo of senior Ailish Hawkins and sophomore  Tiffany Sax leading the Panthers. Freshman Sophia Grant has also added top-end depth to the squad.  

Chasing Newbury Park in that battle for the Division II crown, Ventura (SS) and Los Altos (CC) are also vying for a podium spot next month. Ventura is led by one of the nation's best in sophomore Sadie Engelhardt.  State Meet runner-up a year ago, Engelhardt is the top returner and could very well take down the Clovis Invitational meet record of 16:54 (Corie Smith, Buchanan, 2019).   She is ranked second in the nation in the most recent MileSplit50 national individual rankings.   

Meanwhile senior, Lauren Soobrian is currently undefeated in 2022 and leads Los Altos. The Eagles dominated the Lowell Invitational last month as Emily Soobrian has shown tremendous improvement.  Also providing a preview for next month's Division II State Meet battle out of the Central Coast Section, St. Francis of Mountain View features Anna Fawcett and freshman Lauren Draper up front.   

Both representing Division II from the Sac-Joaquin Section, not much separates the powers of Granite Bay and St. Francis of Sacramento.  Led by the trio of Carly FosterEmily Allison and Grace Baxter, Granite Bay placed third in the division at the 2021 State Meet.  Meanwhile, the Troubadors of St. Francis are led by Paige Quigley and Kayla Towne.  

A consistent force on this course over the past decade, Great Oak looks to rebound from a tough showing at the Bob Firman Invite.  Primed to earn another podium spot next month, senior Kelli Gaffney looks to improve upon her 17:59.1 lifetime best on the Woodward Park course while coming off a strong showing two weeks ago. Fellow Southern Section foe, Santiago of Corona makes the trip as well. Sophomores Rylee Blade and Audrey Buckley look to leapfrog Great Oak in the rankings.

Behind JSerra in that fight for the Division IV state title, next month, Oaks Christian and La Canada both match up against one another at full strength. Junior Payton Godsey elevated herself into the national spotlight with her 15:52 performance at the Woodbridge Invitational and is poised to lead her squad to a top-five finish with Grace Geyer providing support.     

La Canada (SS) and La Jolla (SD) are two other powerhouse teams representing Division IV.  Maya DeBrouwer and Katelyn Matarese headline for La Canada while freshman Chiara Dailey and Kirra Fisk battled it out with those two in the Woodbridge Classic Rated race.  

Ashlyn Leath of Clovis North (CS) is all too familiar with the course as she placed as she also steps to the line with a 17:48 lifetime best for Woodward.  The group is ranked second behind Buchanan in the Central Section and impressed at the Lowell Invite last month, finishing ahead of Granite Bay (SJ) and Monte Vista (NC) in the overall merge.  

Can anyone challenge Engelhardt? 

Our answer is yes!  Montgomery (NC) sophomore Hanne Thomsen, has been on an absolute roll this season, as evidenced by her 16:49 wire-to-wire win at the Nike Portland Invite.  We project Thomsen flirting with the 17-minute elite standard.  Currently ranked 14th in the nation, her best is 17:38 from her Division III State title effort from last year.  Meanwhile, do not discount Scotts Valley (CC) junior Ashlyn Boothby, who comes into the race with a 17:28 best from placing third at the 2021 Division IV State Meet.  Meanwhile, Oaks Christian's Godsey was only nine seconds behind Engelhardt as Woodbridge!

Other individuals to watch for Huntington Beach's Mackenzie McRae, who shined in rolling to a 17:23 top time at the Laguna Hills Invite last month.  Coming in with veteran experience, Brianne Smith of Quartz Hill is a two-time State Meet qualifier.  She placed seventh at the 2021 State Meet with a best of 17:48.  Ashlyn Leath of Clovis North is all too familiar with the course as she placed as she also steps to the line with a 17:48 lifetime best for Woodward.  Finally, most of the Dana Hills squad will rest this one out but senior Allura Markow will compete, looking to improve upon her 17:52 best from the 2019 State Meet.  


Woodward Park course records are 14:24 for boys and 16:31 for girls. Will either one fall this year?

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As a junior, Clovis High's Christopher Caudillo placed sixth at the 2021 Clovis Invitational, running 15:00.00, equalling the No. 11 time among CA boys at the meet over the last decade. (DeAnna Turner photo)

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We finally get to see the nation's top team, Newbury Park, revealing its full roster this weekend!  With last year's squad storming its way to a 73:39 team time (14:43 average), the new elite standard of excellence was established.  With seniors Leo Young (14:28) and Lex Young (14:31) running the Woodward Park 5K course at the State Meet to move that time down to 73:25. Senior Aaron Sahlman also returns with a 14:44 best that he ran at last year's Clovis Invite and the trio owns the three fastest junior times in course history.  The senior transfer from Florida, Brayden Seymour will get his first crack at the Woodward Park course while junior Dev Doshi brings a 15:41 best as well.  

As Newbury Park tops the charts for Division II, Great Oak's boys are ranked atop the Division I CA team rankings.  Gabriel Rodriguez, along with Ramses and Mark Cortes, highlight the Wolfpack, but Nathan Lennox had a breakthrough performance two weeks ago to lead the crew.  They are currently 12th in the nation on our MileSplit50 National Rankings.  

But Granada (NC) placed ahead of Great Oak at the Woodbridge Invite and as the top California squad at Woodbridge, the Matadors are ranked tenth in the nation!  Seniors Dheeraj Gurusamy and Roland Ruckmann-Barnes were the only California teammates to run under 14:30 at Woodbridge. Junior Eshaan Singh also crossed under 14:50 with two others under 15 minutes.  

In an early mid-season sneak peek, we get to see how San Clemente (SS) and Crescenta Valley (SS) match up against one another as both are interchangeable in our CIF-SS overall team rankings.  While the Tritons have the early season nod with their front-running trio of Juan Chantaca, Brett Ephraim, and Rory Catsimanes, this will be their first head-to-head contest of 2022.  With Parker Simmons projected for a top-10 finish, the Falcons of Crescenta are also shooting for a top-five finish this Saturday. 

Defending Division II CIF-State champs, San Luis Obispo (CS) was upgraded to Division I in the Central Section. Milo Skapinski owns a best of 15:37.1 for the Woodward Park course while Quinn White also leads the Tigers.  

Led by Christopher Caudillo and his 15:00 performance from last year's Division I State Meet, the host school Clovis (CS) looks to establish itself as one of the top squads in the state.  

Although not at full strength by any means, Ventura (SS) is one of the top squads in California for Division II with juniors Micah Grossman and Henry Hammell off to a strong start.  Also competing for a podium spot in Division II later next month, Redwood (NC) returns all seven from a squad that placed sixth at the North Coast Section finals in 2021.  Defending NCS divisional champ, Daegan Cutter, is projected for a top-ten finish as he rolled to 14:18.8 at the Woodbridge Classic last month. 

Led by Evan Noonan, one of the favorites to compete for the Division III State title next month is Dana Hills (SS).  Also representing the Southern Section, Santiago of Corona looks to solidify itself among the elite with Van Filek and Dylan Deloyola up front.  Tesoro (SS) is one of the more improved squads in the section, led by the vast improvement of sophomore Griffin Kushen.  

Another one of the top squads, representing Division I, is Madera South (CS).  One of the favorites to earn the Central Section title next month, Adrian Hipolito and Dylan Devine led the group to a strong fifth-place finish at the Nike Portland Invite two weeks ago.

Individuals to look for include Long Beach Poly (SS) senior 
Cameron Rhone, who jumped into the national spotlight with his third-place, 14:59.1 performance at the Nike Portland XC Invite two weeks ago.  Fellow Moore League foe, junior Jason Parra of Millikan (SS) was sixth in the same race after running 13:56.5 at the Woodbridge Classic as the top California finisher.  

Sean Morello of Albany (NC) owns a best of 15:10 on the Woodward Park course in placing third in the 2021 Division IV State Meet.  Meanwhile, West Ranch (SS) senior Bille Issa continues to move up the ranks in California, as evidenced by his 13:57.9 performance at Woodbridge.  

Also watch for Sonora (SJ) sophomore Broen Holman is ready to improve upon the 15:35 that he ran on this course at the Division IV State Meet a year ago, establishing the seventh-fastest time run for a freshman in course history.  Meanwhile, junior Carter Spradling of Clovis East (CS) was one of the top underclassmen at the Woodbridge Classic (14:07) several weeks ago.

Menlo (CC) sophomore Landon Pretre comes in with his 14:07 clocking from the Woodbridge Classic while older brother, Justin will look to keep pace.  Finally, do not overlook Matthew Donis of Highland (SS) who finished just ahead of Pretre with a 14:05 effort at Woodbridge. 

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7:15 a.m. - Division M Varsity Girls

7:40 a.m. - Division S Varsity Girls

8:05 a.m. - Division M Varsity Boys

8:25 a.m. - Division S Varsity Boys

8:40 a.m. - The Bill Buettner Championship Girls report to the starting line for introductions

8:55 a.m. - The Bill Buettner Championship Girls Race

9:15 a.m. - The Rob Brenner Championship Boys report to the starting line for introductions

9:30 a.m. - The Rob Brenner Championship Boys Race

9:50 a.m. -  Division XL Varsity Girls

10:15 a.m. - Division L Varsity Girls

10:40 a.m. - Division XL Varsity Boys

11:00 a.m. - Division L Varsity Boys                                                                                                                    

11:20 a.m. - Division S and M Freshman/Sophomore Boys

11:40 a.m. - Division S, M, and Lg  JV Boys (no championship schools)

12:00 p.m. - All Divisions Freshman/Sophomore Girls

12:25 p.m. - All Divisions JV Girls

12:55 p.m. - Division XL school and Championship school Junior Varsity Boys

1:20 p.m. - Division XL and Lg Freshman/Sophomore Boys

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

Photos by DeAnna Tuner