The San Lorenzo Valley girls cross country team is looking for redemption. After winning the Central Coast Section title in 2012, the highly-touted team finished a disappointing 15th at the 2012 Division IV state championships as several injuries and health concerns derailed the high-flying Cougars in the meet.
But the team is back with a vengeance this season. Ranked No. 3 in the state in preseason polls, the team returns nearly all of its top runners and adds several talented youngsters.
“The varsity team has something to prove,” said Head Coach Rob Collins.
“The girls have a great shot at winning their fifth state championship,” he said. “The team wants it.”
The squad is led by senior captains Anna Maxwell and Claire MacMillan, who return as the Cougars top two runners from last season.
Despite a personal finish of 8th in state in 2012, the disappointing finish to the season weighs on MacMillan.
“As a group, I know we should have done better,” she said. “But it happens. We are a really strong group of girls that will go fight for the win.”
MacMillan said a strong crop of freshmen and sophomore runners, combined with the experienced seniors and juniors makes this year’s 25-runner team extremely deep.
“We’re looking really good,” MacMillan said this week. “We have a strong group of girls and winning state is definitely our goal.”
Personally, MacMillan wants to bring her three-mile time under 18 minutes this year.
Along with the two captains, key runners include Abby Sherman, Kayla Gibson who transferred from Soquel High School, Jessica Germany, Katrina Luque and Addie Pavelko and a handful of freshmen including standout Abbey Meck.
Collins said the top seven runners will likely rotate often as the team grows and matures. He said the team will likely reach several milestones this season, including 100 dual meet wins in his 14-year tenure as coach.
The SLV boys team has 18 boys on the team, but has tempered expectations after graduating several of their top runners. The team has seven freshmen runners and are led by senior captains Jacob Hicks and Matt Abernathy.
Collins said that Aptos and Scotts Valley each have strong teams this year, but his team has the talent to compete during the season.
“The boys have a nice, surprising team,” Collins said. “We can be the spoiler if we run the right race at the right time.”
Collins said Hicks has the potential to be one of the top three runners in the SCCAL this season.
“He has a lot of work to do,” Collins said. “He knows he can run with the big boys, but he as to make that decision.”
Hicks, who took 8th in CCS in 2012 said he hopes to drop his 3-mile time under 16 minutes this season and hopes to push the younger runners so the team can reach the state championship.
Abernathy has one goal.
“Get to state.”
Collins said along with Hicks and Abernathy, the team will count on Jake Anderson and Mitchell San Jose to run well, along with juniors Eli Young, Connor Lydon and sophomore Myro Kuntze.