The Scotts Valley High boys’ cross country team lost numerous seniors from last year’s group including Ryder Brabo, Austin George, Drew Bryson and Jeremy Kain, a three-time Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League and the 2021 Central Coast Section individual champion.
They were instrumental in helping the Falcons capture their fourth-straight league team title in November 2021.
Scotts Valley coach Todd Hoffman said team captains Aiden Boothby and Jack Brownfield are now in charge of having the boys’ team setting goals.
So far, things are looking up for the Falcons.
“They’re going to do well. It’s going to be fun to watch,” Hoffman said. “They’re going to be more of a pack-running team this year.”
Boothby said a lot of runners are just hoping, because it’s their junior and senior year, to run fast and keep improving themselves for college recruitment.
“Just getting better times and having a breakaway season, you would say,” he said.
Hoffman has seen big improvements from Mason Lantz, Loic Gramkowski, Eli Granados and the George brothers—Ben and Spencer since last year. The Falcons also have four freshmen who are looking good, Hoffman said.
“The younger guys are coming up strong, their track season surprised me and they’ve been working hard,” he said.
Hoffman expects another close race for the SCCAL championship. He said any team within the league should be saying this is their year for a title run.
Hoffman knows Santa Cruz High will be a tough opponent with the return of senior Jim Ratliff and sophomore Eli Fitchen-Young. The Cardinal duo helped them place second at the SCCAL championships and a trip to the CIF State Championship.
Boothby said the Cardinals might be considered the favorite to win the league title but the Falcons are hoping to at least give them a fight for it.
Scotts Valley will compete against Santa Cruz, Aptos, Harbor, Soquel, San Lorenzo Valley and Mount Madonna.
Boothby said every school has a runner that’s extremely competitive and there’s always going to be a fast runner from each school.
“I’d say we have a pretty competitive league, especially this year again,” he said.
Scotts Valley’s girls’ team will be strong with most of the team returning including senior Rafaela Putnam, junior Diana Alivov and the Boothby sisters—Amber and Ashlyn, the reigning SCCAL and CCS champion.
They also had eight freshmen that decided to join this year, adding depth to a Falcons team looking to repeat as SCCAL champion.
“But I’m not putting that pressure on them,” Hoffman said.
Teams within the league will be looking to dethrone the Falcons. Hoffman told the girls this is a new year and there’s no crystal ball to foretell the future.
“Other teams can get other runners coming in and you just never know,” he said. “We just gotta do what we do: work hard, work together as a family and just do our best.”
Putnam said the biggest goals are to repeat as SCCAL and CCS champion, as well as a top-10 finish at the CIF State Championships.
She’s also excited about all the new talent coming onboard this season.
“They’re super strong already,” she said.
The Falcons went on a trip to Donner Lake that included underclassmen and incoming freshmen. Putnam said she wanted them to get a good gist of what’s in store for the upcoming season.
Since then, they’ve been rocking out to music, sang karaoke and played the video game “Just Dance” as part of the team bonding experience during the summer.
Boothby said she thinks it’s important to have team bonding moments because cross country itself is a really difficult sport.
“Having the team being bonded and being friends with everyone, just having fun, is really important to keep spirits up even in this hard sport,” Boothby said. “People just run better when they’re having fun.”
Putnam added they’re not just a team but more like a family. She said if people have that trust in each other and the aspect of it, they’ll be able to work out harder and push during a grueling meet.
“You have that trust in other athletes because you’re not just working for yourself, you’re working for the rest of the team,” Putnam said. “Every point matters and you’re pushing for them.”
Hoffman said he’s aware both the boys and girls’ teams have some lofty goals set in place. But he believes that there’s enough talent on both squads to accomplish them.
“They want to defend their titles and they’re focused, ready to go,” he said. “So far, they’re just having a great time. That’s all I want, let’s just make it fun.”
The Falcons will compete in Monterey Bay Invitational at Toro Park in Salinas on Sept. 10. Then they’ll host San Lorenzo Valley High and Aptos High for the SCCAL opener Sept. 15.