CROSS COUNTRY '22 in REVIEW - Central Section

Buchanan's girls, led by Grace Hutchison, Kynzlee Buckley, and Elliana Lomeli, rolled to a defense of Central Section and CIF-State Division I titles, and ended the season as the No. 3-ranked team in the nation. 

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Top Central Section Storylines

San Luis Obispo's 2022 Central Section title in Division 1 erased the sting of last year's one-point (33-34) team loss to Sanger in the Division II section final. SLO, which moved up a division this year, edged 2021 D1 section champion Madera South by three points, 65 to 68. 

Tulare Western won its second straight Central Section team title, scoring 46 points with three runners in the top six -- seniors Carter Mendes (third, 16:09.54), Santiago Basurto (fifth, 16:32.85) and Joseph Flores (sixth, 16:35.57). Tulare Western was the Division 3 champ in 2021 and moved up and captured the Division 2 title in 2022.

• If not for Yosemite's 1-5 sweep to win the Division 5 CS title with 15 points, Matilda Torres would have the lowest team score of any CS champion this year. Nineteen points is what Matilda Torres had to claim the Division 4 title once scoring was configured sans non-team participants. Freshman Benjamin Fernandez was first (16:08.65), sophomore Noah Felix Andrade third (16:40.50), freshman Hunter Hannah fourth (16:49.16), junior Ozzy Hernandez fifth (16:54.27), and junior Alvino Diaz 12th (17:25.74). Matilda Torres then finished sixth in the CIF-State Division IV Championship race with its top five runners finishing among the top 76.

Buchanan finished fourth in the CS Division 1 team standings, but its 1-5 split was a razor-thin 15 seconds, lowest among all CS teams regardless of division in the section final. Zach Weaver was 13th (16:00.24), Noah Ray, 16th (16:04.44), Michael Pritsky, 19th (16:05.88), Andrew Escobar, 22nd (16:09), and Luke Sanders, 25th (16:15.44). 

All-Central Section Boys XC Team

Christopher Caudillo (Clovis/Sr.) - The Cal Poly SLO-bound runner repeated as Division I section champion in 15:01.98, shaving nearly 17 seconds off his 2021 section final title time. He finished second in the 2022 CIF-State Division I race, moving up from sixth in 2021. He put together a stellar cross country high school career and now looks ahead to another strong track season in distance events.

Milo Skapinsky (San Luis Obispo/Sr.) - He's heading to Stanford next fall, but in 2022 he helped lift his team to the Division I section title, a big feat as SLO moved up after winning the Division II State title in 2021. Skapinsky was runner-up to Caudillo in section final (15:13.30) and fourth in the State Division I race (15:10.85). He ran two more meets, Champs Sports' West Regional and Champs' National XC Championships, where he was second in the West and 27th in the national race. 

Joshua Bell (Templeton/Jr.) - Won the Central Section Division 3 championship (15:31.64) and placed third at State (15:18.21). He was sixth in the Champs Sports West Regional (15:33) and was 19th in the Champs National XC Championships (15:31.90). 

Alazar Teffra (Fresno Central/Sr.) - Won the Central Section's Division 2 individual title in 15:58.22. He was the top Central Section DII runner at CIF State, finishing 27th overall in 15:47.03.

Carter Spradling (Clovis East/Jr.) - Finished third in the Division I Central Section race (15:16.30 PR) and placed seventh in the CIF-State Championship Division I race in 15:17.92. He ran in the Champs Sports West Regional, finishing 82nd in 16:59.

Quinn White (San Luis Obispo/Sr.) - Fourth-place finisher (15:26.35) and second SLO runner to cross the finish line en route to the team's section championship win. He was 14th in the CIF-State Division I race in 15:28.55. 

Benjamin Fernandez (Matilda Torres/Fr.) - Captured the Division 4 Central Section individual title in his first season, posting a 16:08.65 to win and help Matilda Torres claim the section team title. He then finished 21st overall in the Div. IV CIF-State Meet in 15:53.75.

Central Section Boys Team of the Year

YosemiteNo better example of a Central Section team effort than to clearly show it by competing in the section's premier showcase race. Yosemite sophomores Ben Olney, Jack Olney, Ford Stegge, junior Noah Graffigna, and another sophomore, Anthony Ruiz, finished 1-5 in this order to pull off a sweeping CIF-Central Section Division 5 championship performance. They were then third place in the CIF-State Division V final. This was Yosemite's second straight section title, having won Division 4 last year. Read more about the Yosemite program in this November 2022 archive article!

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Top Central Section Storylines

Buchanan's success has many layers. Veteran runners who utilize their experience and play a major role. Newcomers who fit right in, providing depth and, before long, producing a necessary spark. And there's plenty of those in the middle who contribute, too. The results from Fall 2022? League championship No. 28. CIF CS title No. 24. State championship No. 4. The current streaks? League title: Every year since 2000. CS titles: Each year since 2016. State: Three in a row since 2019 (no championship meet in 2020 due to Covid-19).

Atascadero sophomore Frannie Perry won the CS Division 3 section title in 19:12.10. The title was a fine accomplishment and showed in the time improvement alone between 2021 and 2022. Last year, she finished 12th overall and ran the 5K CS race in 20:48.56, a time that she made a more than 90-second improvement on in 2022. This year, she not only won a section title, she also advanced to her first State meet and improved on her section time at Woodward Park, going 19:08.79 for 36th place, best among all CS Division III runners.

• Kerman sophomore Ashley Villafana is like a lot of Central Section runners -- Fresno's Woodward Park is a familiar course. This season alone, Villafana ran nine separate meets at the famed venue, some short, some the full 5K, including the CS Division 4 final and the CIF-State Meet in November. True to form, familiarity eventually led to a great result. In the Nov. 17 CS D4 Final, Villafana won the section title in 19:22.52. Nine days later and for the ninth time at the course this fall, she finished 30th overall, but set a PR 5K time of 18:55.78 in the CIF-State Championship race.

• Reedley's Immanuel scored 29 team points to capture the CS Division 5 title. Freshman Clara Riddle (pictured) won the individual title in 19:10.80. Teammate and fellow freshman Lexi Schartmann was sixth in 20:56.49, a trio of juniors -- Sydney Friesen, Sarah Larger, and Gabi Ramirez -- were seventh, eighth and 11th places, respectively. The team's success carried over to the CIF-State Championship meet with a seventh-place showing, led by Riddle's 10th-place finish in 18:44.85.

• Five of the top runners in the section were freshmen, including Buchanan's Kynzlee Buckley and Tayler Torosian, Addilyn Emmons of Clovis North, Clara Riddle of Immanuel, and Cameron Macias of Clovis West. Macias ran 17:28.50 for fourth overall at the Clovis Invitational, which ranked as the No. 5 time in the section, regardless of class, and the No. 2 overall time in CA for girls in the class of 2026. An injury at the CS Finals pre-maturely ended her season. 

All-Central Section Girls XC Team

Sydney Sundgren (Buchanan/Sr.) - (at left in photo) The Cal Poly San Luis Obispo signee had the lowest three-mile and 5000-meter race times among all Central Section female runners and did it in back-to-back September Saturdays. Sundgren ran 16:14.70 to finish 10th overall in the Woodbridge XC Classic Girls Sweepstakes race Sept. 16 and then 17:02.67 to win the 5K Douglas P. Rudolf Invitational in Visalia on Sept. 23.  

Grace Hutchison (Buchanan/Sr.) - Worked her way back from injury to put together three race victories, three runner-up finishes, including Division I section final and State meet, and was the Bears' top runner in the Team Nationals race in Portland. She will attend BYU next fall.

Elliana Lomeli (Buchanan/So) - Team depth enabled her to run and win a few freshman-sophomore invitational races, but she also stood out at big races such as Woodbridge (11th overall, three-mile PR time of 16:15.30), Clovis (third, 5K PR time 17:28.10), John Seaman Invite (second) and she was Buchanan's second finisher at the Team Nationals event in 18:06.30.

Kynzlee Buckley (Buchanan/Fr.) - The newcomer fit right into Buchanan's group, first impressing during summer workouts and then strong finishes at Clovis (sixth overall), John Seaman (third), TRAC championship (third) and winning the Central Section Division I individual title with teammate Grace Hutchison struggling near the finish. Buchanan won the section title and Buckley's 11th place finish in the Division I CIF-State Championship race helped the Bears win a third State DI title.

Mia Torrecillas (Highland/Jr.) - She got off to a slow start, finishing 142nd at Woodbridge on Sept. 16, but when she captured the 5K Waller Park Goose Chase Invitational in a PR time of 17:24.32 the very next week, Torrecillas' season took off. She won league meets, finished eighth at the Clovis Invitational championship race, won the league title, won the Kern County championship and set her three-mile PR (17:01.50) at the John Seaman Invitational. She won the Division 2 Central Section individual title in 18:15.31. It was her second straight solo section title and different division as Highland competed in D3 last season.

Ashlyn Leath (Clovis North/Sr.) - (at right in photo) Being a top non-Buchanan Central Section runner can be a lonely spot, but Leath continuously held her own and battled hard to solid, consistent results. She was sixth at John Seaman Invitational (16:59.28), fourth in the TRAC league final (18:05.15), fourth in the Central Section Division 1 final (18:15.85), and 10th in the Division I CIF-State Championship race (17:54.02). Her season concluded with the Champs Sports West Regional and its national championship race. Leath, after finishing sixth in the west, was 35th in 19:12.50 in the national final.

Sydney Moore (Paso Robles/Sr.) - She was a solid runner-up in the Central Section Division 2 race, finishing in 18:58.91, helping Paso Robles to second place and advance to the State Meet as a team. Moore was the top Central Section runner in the Division 2 State Championship race, finishing the 5K in a PR time of 18:47:59 for 26th place overall. Paso Robles finished 20th in the team standings. She won the San Luis Obispo County Championship's Girls' Open Division in a three-mile PR time of 18:36.14.

Central Section Girls Team of the Year

Buchanan - Everyone knows how hard it is to win titles, be consistent, have some luck and find a way to win. In 2022, the Buchanan girls patched together an incredible season, getting contributions from multiple sources, juggling its top seven lineup, overcame injuries, illness and other obstacles to accomplish notable feats. The team won the Woodbridge XC Classic Sweepstakes race with out-of-state challengers in the field, the TRAC league championship, successfully defended the Division 1 Central Section title and, ultimately, a third straight CIF-State Division I Championship (fourth overall for the program). And, top it off, Buchanan still had enough to add a respectable third-place team finish in the Team XC Nationals in Portland, Oregon on Dec. 3.

Photos by DeAnna Turner

Ryan Blystone is a freelance writer and a regular contributor for MileSplit

California MileSplit State Editor Jeffrey Parenti contributed to this article.