Several days before the first day of school, cross country teams from San Lorenzo Valley and Scotts Valley high schools were running in the 90-degree heat to prepare for the season.
Scotts Valley’s Vanessa Fraser, the reigning Division IV state champion, hopes to repeat as the title holder, while the Cougar’s girls team — which finished a close second for the state title in 2011 — returns its top runners and will challenge for the title in 2012.
San Lorenzo Valley High
With 30 girls and 15 boys, the SLV program has strong numbers heading into the season.
“The girls are going to be really good,” said head coach Rob Collins.
Coming off their second-place finish at the state championship meet last season, the Cougars return top runners Anna Maxwell and Claire MacMillan, along with Jessica Germany, Abby Sherman, Jessica Jensen and Emily Lamb as key runners.
A number of other runners will challenge for the top 10 positions on the deep Cougar squad.
“Between my sixth and 10th girl, it could be anybody,” Collins said. “It has been very exciting seeing who has been in the top seven.”
Maxwell said the team has high expectations.
“Our goal would be to win CCS and win state and to improve as a team,” she said. “(The state meet) was really close last year. I think we definitely have the depth this year (to win).”
Maxwell hopes personally to win each race she runs in, including the section and state championships. She also hopes to compete in the Foot Locker Invitational for a third year in a row as one of the top 15 runners in the nation.
The boys team, led by defending Central Coast Section champion Cody Johnson, Jacob Hicks and Matt Abernathy, hopes to improve on its fifth-place finish at CCS last season.
“The boys haven’t lost a league meet in three years,” Collins said. “They will probably be pushed by Scotts Valley and Aptos.”
Carl Johnson, Ian Campbell and Eli Young, along with Mitchell Kamau, Jake Anderson and several others, will round out SLV’s top 10.
“Everyone’s pushing it really hard,” Johnson said. “Matt and Jacob have been running really well. Everybody’s been stepping it up. I’m really excited.”
Scotts Valley High
Led by reigning state champion Fraser, Scotts Valley’s team has strong numbers and a strong will. The team has 45 runners as the school year begins, and many trained all summer to prepare.
“It’s pretty hard to make (our) top seven,” said head coach Doug Chase.
The team’s captains are Colin Abel on the boys side and Fraser and Olivia Gonzales on the girls side.
“I think the team dynamic has been so much better this year,” Gonzales said. “We are very united, and there has been good team bonding.”
Gonzales said the girls team is focused on making the state meet for a third consecutive year. The boys are aiming for their first state qualification in school history.
On the girls side, Fraser, Gonzales, Shannon Youmans, Valerie Morrison and Hayley Herberg are expected to lead the team. The other two spots in the top seven are still to be determined.
“There are other upperclassmen and a couple of frosh- sophs who are clearly good runners,” Chase said.
Fraser, however, is the unquestioned leader on the team after winning the state championship in 2011.
“We’re looking for incremental improvement (from her),” Chase said. “Ten to 15 seconds. I’m hopeful that she’ll continue to gradually improve.”
He added that he thought it would be possible for Fraser to finish third in the section, as she did last season, and go on to win the state meet again.
For the boys, Scott Edwards, the team’s top runner a year ago, returns. He is joined by sophomore Nick Heath and junior Cody Giguere as the Falcons’ top male runners.
“We have nice depth,” Chase said. “It will be a question of whether the frontrunners can compete with the big boys.”