CROSS COUNTRY '22 in REVIEW - Sac-Joaquin Section

Topping the headlines out of the SJS during the '22 cross country season, the Oakdale boys repeated as Division 3 section champions and then went on to win the State Meet title and place second at the Garmin RunningLane Nationals. 

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Three Sac-Joaquin Section Storylines

Trading Places - Whitney won the Division 2 title in both 2018 and 2019 but Vacaville captured the championship last season. Who would it take it in '22? Vacaville senior Donovan Cheruiyot, the top D-2 returner after placing third in '21, made it hold up with a 15:55.70 clocking to win the title - dropping 21 seconds from '21. But it was Whitney returning to the top of the podum with a 15-points win over Vacaville. Senior Nick Herrmann (16:07.40), junior Noah Lopez (16:10.30), and senior Mateo Delgadillo (16:18.90) went 2-3-4 for Whitney. Junior David Hurren placed 10th (16:33.00) and senior Callum Turner was 12th (11th among scoring runners) in 16:41.30 as the Whitney program won both the boys and girls D-2 titles.

Stunner at the Top - In the Division 1 final, Jesuit was the assumed favorite to win its fourth consecutive title, 14th in D-1, and 30th overall. But Lincoln High of Stockton went out and won its first -- by all of one point! Seniors Daniel Gonzalez (third in 15:41.5) and Jansen Gillig (sixth in 16:00.30), juniors Jeffrey Overgaard (14th, 12th among scorers, 16:37.70) and Logan Neuner (16th/14th, 16:47.10), and senior Keith Mertz (26th/24th, 17:10.90) scored for Lincoln. Senior Brandon Moreno placed fourth in 15:50.30 to lead Jesuit, which ran without standout soph Chase Cressman, who was ill and unable to compete. 

Small School Star - Sacramento Country Day sophomore Andrew Burr defended his Division 5 title, running 16:18.70, with junior teammate Aakash Arumugam second in 16:42.40. Burr was 74 seconds ahead of the third-place finisher in a dominant performance. A year after winning 10 races as a freshman, Burr continued to be one of the state's best in his class with five race wins and PRs for 5K (15:42.28 for ninth at the State Meet), and 3 miles (14:54.50 for third in his race at Woodbridge). 

Boys All-Sac-Joaquin Section XC Team

Omar Alsaidi (Oakdale/Jr.) - Swapped No. 1 spots with senior Dax Daley in the season-ending meets, running No. 1 at SJS (placing second in 15:37.9) and No. 2 at State (placing fifth in 15:19.8, a 5K PR) as Oakdale won both SJS and State division titles. Alsaidi, a transfer from Ripon, closed out his season with a ninth-place finish at the Garmin RunningLane Nationals in Huntsville, Alabama, running the 5K course in 15:22.20 as the Mustangs placed second in the team race.

Josh Chu (Ponderosa/Jr.) - Won the SJS Division 3 title, running 15:36.3 to place fourth in the section merge a year after placing second in the D-2 race as a sophomore. Josh placed sixth in the State Meet, running the Woodward Park course in 15:24.5, a PR fo 5K. He won five of nine races and placed second, third, and fifth in three others.

Dax Daley (Oakdale/Sr.) - Senior leader for the two-time SJS D-3, and '22 State Meet team champions. He placed third in the section final in 15:43.6 and second in the State Final in 15:17.9, a PR for 5K. He was 19th in the merge at State. Dax won four races and placed among the top six in five other races.

Daniel Gonzalez (Lincoln/Sr.) - The top runner for Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 championship team, running 15:41.50 for third place in leading a one-point upset victory of perennial section champion Jesuit. His time ranked sixth in the merge. Daniel placed among the top six eight times In 12 races. 

Broen Holman (Sonora/So.) - A year after tying senior teammate Adin Dibble for the SJS D-4 title, Broen won it it outright in '22, running 15:32.7, the fastest time on the course at the section championship meet. He went on to place third at the State Final, running a 15:12.34, a PR for 5K. He was the top sophomore at the Clovis Invitational, running 15:17.1 on the State Meet course. Broen closed his season as a member of the Champs West Region team competing at the National Championships where he was the top sophomore at the meet.

Ryan Mitchell (Davis/Sr.) - He placed second in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 race, running the 5K Willow Hills Reservoir course in 15:36.2 - third overall in the merge. Ryan won seven of 10 races including Lagoon Valley, Tom Laythe, and Flat SAC. He placed fifth in the championship race at Clovis in 15:04.2, the No. 5 time in the meet merge. 

Nathan Short (Folsom/Sr) - (pictured above) He won the SJS Division 1 title, running the 5K Willow Hills Reservoir course in 15:35.8, second in the meet merge. Nathan won seven on 10 races and was runner-up in two other races. Other wins included Josh Ruff, Jessup, Clovis, and league. 

Boys Team of the Year

Oakdale - Repeating as the Division 3 champions in the Sac-Joaquin Section just wouldn't do for these Mustangs, so they went out and won the division title at the CIF-State Championships.  Juniors Omar Alsaidi and Jackson Oliveira, and seniors Dax Daley and Caleb Cavanaugh led the overwhelming performance at the SJS Final -- a 50-point win over Ponderosa with a 16:12 average and 81:03.7 team team, which also was the top result in the merge. At State, Daley placed second overall in the division race, with Alsaidi third among scorers, Cavanaugh fifth, and Oliveira ninth as the Mustangs ran 78:31 and put up 56 points to beat runner-up Campolindo (NC) by 53 points, that slotted fifth in the merge. Sophomore Jacob Cavanaugh was a consistent No. 5 for the Mustangs in both races. They closed out the season with a second-place showing in the elite Gold Division race at the Garmin RunningLane Championships in Huntsville, Alabama.

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Three Sac-Joaquin Section Storylines

Future is Bright - Seven of the top 30 girls in the meet merge from the Sac-Joaquin Section Championships are freshmen. That group is led by Adriana Ingargiola of Oak Ridge, who placed second in the Division 1 race and fourth in the merge for the team champions. Brenna Mannion of Vista del Lago was seventh in the merge and Whitney's Jane Landon was 13th in the merge for the D-2 team champions. The gap between Ingargiola at No. 4 and Avery Wolk of Davis at No. 30 is only 50.5 seconds. In addition, there were three sophomores and eight juniors among the top 30.

Salute to Seniors - Roughly a dozen freshman made an impact on the section level at the 2019 SJS Championships. Many of those girls, now seniors, continued to make an impact throughout their high school career. Whitney's Katie Kopec won consecutive division titles. McClatchy's Anna McNatt won SJS and State Meet titles before an injury shortened her high school career. Her sister, Louisa McNatt stepped in and had a stellar senior season. Others like Quinn Walker of Oak Ridge (who scored on three consecutive section title teams), Norah Dulaney of Davis, Carly Foster of Grante Bay, Daphne Witherell of St. Francis, Kate Kimball of Rodriguez, and McKenna Lechner of Foresthill lead the group of seniors warranting acknowledgement. Lechner, the section D-5 champion as a freshman, won the title again as a senior. 

Battle at the Top - As the season approached, it was clear that Oak Ridge, Granite Bay and St. Francis would not only be among the elites in the SJS, but also warrant rankings consideration on both a state and national level. The outlier was Whitney, which had never won a SJS divisional title. But Whitney was to return five of six who took the line at the 2021 finals, with the addition of Ava Kopec, the junior sister of senior star Katie Kopec. Could the Wildcats challenge powerful Granite Bay and St. Francis in the tough D-2, and Oak Ridge out of D-1 for overall section supremacy? As it turned out, YES, indeed they could and did! 

Girls All-Sac-Joaquin Section XC Team

Brooke Butler (Oak Ridge/Sr.) - Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 individual champion while leading her team to the title. Her 18:47.9 time ranked third in the SJS meet merge, and was nearly a minute faster year-over-year. She also won at Josh Ruff and placed second to Katie Kopec at the league final.

Carly Foster (Granite Bay/Sr.) - She was second in the merge and runner-up in the D-2 race at the SJS Finals, running 18:46.9, and was the section's No. 3 runner on the 5K State Meet course in Fresno running 8:16.6. She twice placed second in the SJS championship race. Carly placed among the top six in five of seven races and was the section's top runner in the division race at State (18:16.54).

Katie Kopec (Whitney/Sr.) - Katie closed out a stellar high school career with a second consecutive Division 2 individual title while leading her team to the SJS title. The Oregon State signee then went on to qualify for the Champs National Cross Country Championships. 

Ava Kopec (Whitney/Jr.) - She had the fifth overall time at the SJS Championships while helping her sister lead Whitney to its first SJS division team title. In 12 races, she was top-six seven times with three third-place finishes and a win in the grade race at the Sierra Invite. 

Louisa McNatt (McClatchy/Sr.) - A perennial front-runner throughout her senior season, Louisa was third in the D-1 race at the SJS Finals, running 18:54.5, sixth in the merge. She was the section's No. 2 runner at the State Meet, rolling to a 18:42.2 finish on the 5K Woodward Park course at State, a PR for that distance. In 12 races, she won three times, placed second four times, and finished among the top five three other times.

Jesse Redding (Colfax/Jr.) - (pictured above) The Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 champion was also the top SJS girl at the State Meet, placing 30th in the merge. She won the D-4 title running 18:59.8, to win by nearly 40 seconds, and followed that with a 17:58.3 PR-performance on the 5K course at State. She won three of eight races.

Anna Soares (Placer/Jr.) - The SJS D-3 champion ran the course in 18:56.5, nearly a 50-second improvement year-over-year. Anna won six of 11 races, including a second consecutive Small Schools Division title at Tom Laythe. She ran her 5K PR of 18:39.50 for 19th at the State Meet, and her 3-mile PR of 17:26.70 for sixth at Woodbridge.

Girls Team of the Year

Whitney - They were the best team on the course at the SJS Championships with a decisive victory in the deep Division 2 race. Senior Katie Kopec won the section title in 18:17.3, with sister Ava, a junior, placing third overall, junior Grace Scott placing sixth freshman Jane Landon right behind in seventh and freshman Addison Ewers closing out the victory in 16th. Whitney averaged 19:02.9, the best of the meet, as was the 95:14.3 team time. Whitney totaled 33 points with the highly-regarded duo of Granite Bay and St. Francis chasing at 71 and 72 points, respectively. In the meet merge, Whitney was 31 points better than Division 1 champion Oak Ridge. 

Photos by DeAnna Turner, James Leash, and Dan Tyree

Jeffrey Parenti is the California State Editor for MileSplit