All of The562’s cross-country coverage for the 2021-22 school year is sponsored by Bryson. Visit BrysonFinancial.com to learn more.
Earlier this spring, the cross country season brought high school sports back with a fervor. Millikan freshman Jason Parra impressed from his first varsity race all the way until he claimed victory at Moore League Finals, but it was Long Beach Poly’s depth that prevailed to earn the program’s 14th consecutive Moore League title.
The Jackrabbits held off Millikan by just one point (27-28) to win the team title, showing just how even the two teams were. In fact, Parra’s only loss last season came against Poly’s Cameron Rhone, who caught him just before the line with the help of a raucous home crowd. That moment was one of the highlights of the spring sport season, but Parra got his revenge at the final meet of the year, claiming the individual title with a time of 15:06.99, nearly 10 seconds ahead of the field.
Long Beach Poly will be looking for a 15th straight league title, and appear poised to do so with a ton of experience coming back. The Jackrabbits were young last season under first-year head coach Cameron Ford, but with a solid group of returning runners and competition within the ranks, he expects the team to be even stronger this time around.
“They’re all returning, and they knew what the results were after league; one point is not as comfortable as we would like,” Ford admitted. “At the end, it’s just win or lose, that’s all that’s going to show up really. But I think that feeling of just winning by a point, I see that the guys right now are running stronger as individuals. We had a very inexperienced group last year–and yeah, we won–but we’re even more prepared this year.”
The Jackrabbits are ranked No. 10 in Division I in the preseason CIF-SS cross country rankings, making them the only team in the city to earn a preseason ranking. Poly will have Rhone back as a junior leading the way, and he’ll have a group of veteran runners on his heels.
“If (Rhone) is healthy, he’s our solid number one. No question,” Ford said.
Fellow junior Luke Larson and senior Robert Guerrero should also be among the top finishers for Poly this season. Ford also singled out junior Mason Lindsay, who has made tremendous strides over the summer. His sister, Camille, is the top runner on the Poly girls’ team and the fastest distance runner in the city, and Ford sees Mason rounding into that type of form as he continues to develop.
The Poly lineup will also include some talented seniors to round it out: Jaedon Rufo, Brandon Perry, and Eric Brannon are all expected to contribute. Ford believes that having a full schedule of non-league meets and invitationals–rather than the dual meets of last season–will allow for better development from his runners who will get to see more consistent competition and more crowded fields.
The Millikan boys’ cross country team has not won the Moore League championship since 1992, but that doesn’t mean that longtime head coach Pedro Ramirez and his team haven’t been gunning for it. This year, with the top returning runner in the league, the Rams are ready to unseat Poly’s 14-year run of dominance.
“Our goals and expectations are the same, to win league and enjoy the running experience,” said Ramirez.
The Rams have a deep and talented team back, returning six of their top seven varsity runners from last year: Jason Parra, Jacob Fujimoto, Jaden Tsai, Cole Rippon, Emmett Wechsler and Dylan Ball. The Rams also feature some talented newcomers who will push for spots including Eric Plascencia.
Parra was The562.org’s Freshman of the Year for 2020-21 after winning the Moore League individual title in his high school debut last season. He ran a 15:24 in his first varsity race, and lowered his time to a 15:04 over three miles at league finals, winning the individual championship by a 10-second margin. His Rams finished second to Poly by just a point, but are poised to challenge this year. Parra’s sophomore season has gotten off to a blistering start already. He ran a 14:19 at The Great Mini Cow Run to finish second, then won the individual title at the Rosemead Invitational a week later.
The Wilson Bruins are hoping that the experience gained in the spring and a return to normal training will help them be better prepared at the end of the year, after training together for the last 11 months.
“We’ve been really consistent with our training and everyone is looking like they’re progressing at a similar rate,” Wilson coach CJ Brewer said. “There’s a bell curve that you need to follow in your mileage in training so you can peak at the right time. I think we saw a lot of kids (in the spring) peaking at weird times because the training wasn’t normal. We’re trying to set personal records at the end of the season when it counts.”
The Bruins are led by Nico Colchico who had a breakout year as a multi-sport athlete on the basketball and track teams. Brewer said his strength is his closing speed, and his goal is to break his personal record of 15:29.
Colchico isn’t the only multi-sport athlete looking to have their best cross country season. Riki Moscoso is a soccer player and Gus Hollister is a wrestler.
Over the summer, Moscoso lived with his family in the mountains of Peru where he was training at over 10,000 foot elevation. Brewer said he’s a very hard worker who is really looking forward to the return to the Signal Hill race where he wants to break 16 minutes.
Hollister is a new edition to the Varsity squad and is still learning the sport but improving very quickly.
Brewer said that Issac Ruiz and Zak Lopez are the runners who have improved the most since the spring season. Ruiz has been part of the program for four years, and Lopez has flourished in the regular training schedule. Brewer said Ruiz and Lopez are key to adding depth to the squad in order to have a closer pack of runners in the league meets.
At Lakewood, the Lancers will need to replace some departed talent, but head coach Daniel Sorenson has some runners who could make their mark this year.
“We graduated a lot of key athletes last year, but our strength is from our underclassmen this season,” Sorenson said. “We might be a younger team, but they are ready to be out on course getting new PRs.”
Seniors Sean Goltra and Aiden House will lead the Lancers this season, with support from juniors Matthew Yell and Alan Crisp, plus freshman Gabriel Rojas.
Outside of the Moore League, St. Anthony head coach Michael Canas says he has a really tight-knit group of runners who have bonded well over the summer. His top boys’ runner will be sophomore Ryan Kennelly, who has already stood out in his limited time with the Saints.
“He’s spent this summer working diligently every day in order to develop his conditioning and strength,” said Canas of Kennelly. “Although he is only a sophomore, Ryan is our team leader and sets the tone and pace for the boys’ workouts.”
Sophomores Connor Barrett and Quinn Donoghue have also impressed Canas and should be key runners for the Saints this season and beyond.
The Moore League cross country season gets started on Wednesday with the El Dorado meet, and The562 will have full coverage of the varsity races.