Bartholomew’s optimism is based mainly on the guy who ran with or right behind graduated No. 1 Paul Matejcek last year – senior Dylan Winn, who has taken over the top slot. At the 2010 North Coast Section meet, Winn was the second Bay Valley Athletic League runner (to Matejcek) to cross the finish line.
“I think Dylan has the most passion and the most endurance of anybody,” Bartholomew said.
Other key returning male athletes for the Wolverines include seniors Keith Lowry and Josh Potter. Deer Valley’s huge crop of newcomers is led by freshman Jacob Evans.
Bartholomew is also excited about the potential of his girls team. Led by sisters Stephanie and Jessica Siemens, the coach believes the girls could turn in some solid results. Stephanie, a senior, is a four-year varsity athlete. Jessica, a sophomore, ran varsity last season as well. Both were first-team all-BVAL selections last season.
Seniors Cande Salazar and Jamie Burchett will lead the team, and sophomore Mariam Issa is also expected to perform well.
“My girls team is probably as strong or maybe stronger than the boys,” said Bartholomew.
Last season, Freedom’s girls cross country team was one of the most talented in the section, placing 10th at the final meet.
The future of distance running success looks bright for the Falcons, who return one of their best runners from 2010 – Lisa Tilcock. The junior finished 12th at the NCS meet – highest of any BVAL runner – and second in the previous BVAL meet to teammate Carmen Martinez, who graduated last year.
“To think that she still has another year after this is pretty promising,” said head coach Alicia Wiley. “We need somebody to step in, and she stepped in a few times last year. So I’m confident she’s going to be able to do it again this year.”
Freedom also returns fleet-footed runners such as junior Fiona Lehmann, senior Marissa Higgins and sophomore Monique Paris.
The Falcons’ top two male runners return as well – senior Michael Valdez and junior Joey Fajardo, both second-team all-league selections. Juniors Ezra Zamora and Emmanuel Marzan look to strengthen Freedom’s distance core.
Newcomers such as senior Alex Byrd, who developed a taste for distance running as a track athlete last year, and freshman Mateo Maldonado could also make an impact.
Liberty looks forward to another strong season, improving on a BVAL-best 12th in the boys NCS meet. The Lions’ top runner, Jesus Morales, returns for his senior season. Morales was a first-team all-BVAL athlete last season, a campaign capped by a team-best 43rd at the section championship.
Liberty’s boys team includes returning varsity athletes Aaron Lenci, a junior, and sophomore David Horne. The squad will be helped by sophomore Cody Mayer, who ran track and field for the Lions last year. Head coach Michael Mundy feels that Mayer could be a future star. Freshman Giovanny Colchado will also be in the mix.
Much like the boys squad, the Lions female runners also welcome back one of their most talented athletes – Cora Williams. The senior took first place last year in a meet against a tough Freedom squad and second place against Deer Valley. She was also the top Lion finisher at NCS.
Senior Alyssa Hansen looks to capitalize on a solid junior season, one that earned her first-team all-league honors. Hansen placed first against Antioch last year and finished 10th overall in the Yoshaany Rahm Invitational. Newcomers for the girls team include sophomore Taylor Rodarte and juniors Ashley Caruso and Camille Roque.
“They’re a young group, but they’re led by two seniors who have trained for the last four years to get to this point,” Mundy said. “They have good leadership up at the top.”
Heritage head coach Kevin Bain likes what he sees so far from his boys team, which will be led by junior Noah Peña, a first-team all-league selection. “I feel very strongly about Noah,” Bain said. “He’s going to do a good job.”
Peña was one of the Patriots’ top runners last season and came in 48th at the NCS meet. The boys team will be bolstered by sophomores Solomon Demeko-Ousman and Frank Kurtz – two young athletes who Bain has said look strong in practice so far.
Freshman Jacob Drees could also earn a spot on the varsity roster and make strong contributions.
The future for the Heritage girls team looks bright. Bain likes what he sees so far from freshmen Annjellica Nubla and Alejandra Hinojosa, competitive soccer players who are trying out distance running.
“They’re just doing a really good job on the cross country course,” Bain said. “They’ve got a nice stride and an aggressive attitude.”
Sophomore Sarah Toelkes was the 800-meter champion at the BVAL track meet in the spring, and Bain feels that her talent will translate nicely on cross country courses. Juniors Taylor Johnson, a second-team all-BVAL selection, and Dakotah Schwartz should also make an impact.
Pittsburg’s girls cross country team made a successful showing at the NCS meet, but the top two runners – Marcie Torres and Christina Georgopoulos – have both graduated. Still, senior Crystal Keppel, sophomore Margarita Gonzalez, junior Marisa Mota and senior Celina Fernandez are a formidable force. Keppel and Gonzalez both earned second-team all-league honors last season.
The Pirates’ boys team will remain largely intact up front. Edgar Martinez, a junior, and senior Gabriel Rodriguez showed talent last season. Martinez was Pittsburg’s best runner at NCS. Both Martinez and Rodriguez were first-team all-BVAL athletes in the 2010 season.
Though the Panthers are still looking for a couple more runners to round out their squads, head coach Elizabeth Lopez is convinced that Antioch has a solid base of talent. The Panthers return five starters on the girls team and four on the boys.
According to Lopez, the talent of her five returning girls gives one of them a shot at cracking the top 10 at the NCS meet. The Panthers will rely on seniors Maricor Panaligan and Sandra Lee-Freeman, as well as juniors Abagail Rivera, Savannah Sellers and Michelle Ocegueda.
Sellers projects to be Antioch’s No. 1 runner. Lee-Freeman looks to bounce back from a case of anemia, which hurt her toward the end of last season.
Newcomer juniors Mairani Rosales and Meriah Barajas could crack the varsity lineup this year and make contributions.
The boys team should post a solid season as well. Lopez feels that senior J.R. Abad, sophomores Jorge Sandoval and Randy Thomas, in addition to junior Luis Guiterrez, will form a talented core. The coach was impressed by the sub-20-minute finishes at NCS by Sandoval, Thomas and Guiterrez – results she’s confident they can surpass.