* St. Francis enters as the team to beat in CIF Division 4 on Saturday
Photo Credit: Raymond Tran/MileSplit
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The California (CIF) State Cross Country Championships are set to go down on Saturday in Fresno at the legendary Woodward Park.
It's one last race to settle things in one of the country's most prestigious championships.
Below, we preview the top storylines to watch out for on the boys side, factoring in CIF Divisions I through 5.
Check below to read up more on the top races, athlete matchups and team battles.
Can Jason Parra pull it off?
The Millikan (CA) senior was the top returning runner from last year's state championships (sixth), but it took him six weeks to truly find his way after up-and-down moments at Woodbridge, Clovis and Mt. SAC?
But guess what?
Parra has been on fire since November, as he's won three straight races and is coming off a fantastic race at the CIF Southern Section Finals, which saw him run the second-fastest time among all contestants on the day.
His biggest threats? That would be Clovis East's Carter Spradling, who not only won the CIF Central Section in 15:20, but was only second (as a junior) to Parra at the Championships last year, finishing seventh.
San Clemente's Brett Ephraim may also be saving the best for last. He is a contender in the division as well.
As for the teams, U.S. No. 15 ranked Great Oak will likely be the favorite here, as the Wolfpack have a load of depth and a 15:25 average to boot.
But U.S. No. 14 San Clemente, which was just points back of Great Oak last year and are coming off a win at the CIF Southern Section, are within sight and should offer a stiff challenge.
Trabuco Hills, which was third to Great Oak and San Clemente, could be third in line here.
Great Oak (SS) (CA)
|1) Jack Paradise
|2) Jacob Brown
|3) Jeffrey Cameron) Keene
|4) Gabriel Rodriguez
|5) Michael Rodriguez
Average Time: 15:25.80
Total Time: 1:17:09.00
1-5 Split: 27.30
|6) Westin Brown
|7) Jeffrey Keeney
Ventura's Anthony Fast Horse is the man to beat. There is no question there.
The future University of Oregon athlete leads the state at the 5,000 meter distance (14:32.50) and is ranked second for 3-miles (13:48.10). With no Newbury Park superstars in sight, Fast Horse -- who was fourth last year -- has a chance to get after it and best his time of 14:32.50, which he ran on the same course at Clovis on Oct. 7.
The top 5K in history at Woodward is 14:28.50.
Palo Alto's Grant Morgenfeld, a Foot Locker Nationals qualifier last year, was 18th last year but has the second-best 5K in Division 2.
On the team front, this could get interesting. U.S. No. 36 ranked Ventura has the top average at 15:41 and is expected to win. But will they be good enough to secure a bid to NXN?
Newbury Park, which won Division 2 last year, is in the hunt for a top five placement after finishing second at the Southern Section Finals.
U.S. No. 7 ranked Dana Hills was third in Division 3 last year, but a year later they're the No. 7 ranked team in the country.
No California team has been better over the last two months -- not even Great Oak, which Dana Hills beat at Clovis.
So now comes the crucial moment for this team, which will look toward juniors Evan Noonan and Jayden Hernandez to lead the ship.
Noonan will most likely earn the title here, as he ran 14:44 at Clovis in October.
But Dana Hills will have to worry about Oakdale and Campolindo, which went 1-2 in 2022.
Dana Hills (SS) (CA)
|1) Evan Noonan
|2) Jayden Hernandez
|3) Garrett Woodruff
|4) Logan Harris
|5) Oliver Hunter
Average Time: 15:30.30
Total Time: 1:17:31.50
1-5 Split: 1:26.30
|6) Mike Ayala
|7) Justin Daly
Not only will Los Angeles Cathedral's Emmanuel Perez be chasing after his second straight state title, but he's also got two more things on his mind:
His team was just 21 points back from returning champions St. Francis last year -- though they were fifth at the Southern Section Finals last week and are less likely to contend here. St. Francis is coming off a 37-point win, which included a dominant point total of 82 points.
St. Francis is the team to beat.
But for Perez, there's also a potential Nike Cross Nationals berth on the line if he locks in a performance of a lifetime.
Only Fast Horse has run faster on Woodward this year. Perez clocked a time of 14:42 in October.
Woodcrest Christian's Eyan Turk may be the man to beat here, as he's coming off a win at the CIF Southern Section finals in 14:07.33 -- a race that had him fully in charge by 29 seconds.
He's also the top-returning athlete from last year's state championships, where he finished third overall. But Menlo School's Landon Pretre might have something to say about that.
The junior was fourth last year and currently owns the best time for 5K on the state course from this season, clocking a 14:52 in comparison to Turk's 15:04.
St. Margaret's Episcopal's Everett Capelle and Oakland College Prep's Owen Irving could also be in the mix for the individual title.
When it comes to the team race, Irving's College Prep Pretre's Menlo School and are the top two here. But College Prep's overall average is nearly 30 seconds faster than any other team in Division 5, so that point might also be moot.
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