The562’s season previews for the 2022-23 school year are sponsored by Vertical Raise, the official team fundraising partner of The562.
The562’s coverage of cross country and track and field is sponsored by Bryson Financial.
The Moore League has experienced some increased parity over the last four girls’ cross country seasons. Since 2018, Wilson, Millikan and Poly have all claimed the team championship, snapping a 14-year title run for the Jackrabbits.
With a wealth of new and returning talent from last year’s title team, Long Beach Poly again looks like the team to beat in 2022, but as we’ve seen recently, they’ll need to fight off a few quality challengers to go back-to-back.
The Jackrabbits will be coached by both Gabrielle Bournes and Cameron Ford this season, and both coaches are bullish about the team’s experience, chemistry, and talent. The Jackrabbits were ranked third in Division 1 in the CIF-SS preseason rankings, so expectations are high for this group.
Certainly, senior Camille Lindsay projects to be a major contributor for Poly. She is the defending Moore League individual champion, and will look to claim that title for the third time in her high school career. Lindsay was also able to represent the Jackrabbits at last year’s CIF State meet, but perhaps she’ll have some more company this time around. The Poly girls’ team hasn’t made it to State since 2015, but they just might have the pieces to make it happen this year.
“That’s always the end goal and what we look forward to,” said Coach Bournes. “We have the core group, and it’s exciting to see their chemistry and what they’ll be able to put together this year. But definitely, State is always a priority.”
Lindsay leads a senior core which has been running together for the past three seasons and should have plenty of healthy competition throughout the lineup. The only thing that has slowed Lindsay during her career has been injuries, and the team’s depth should allow her to manage her miles as needed to be at her best for the most important races of the year.
Included in that group of returners is Alexa Bryson, who finished third at league finals last season. plus Maile Quinn, Brynn Jolly, and sisters Evelyn and Alexa Hernandez-Lujan.
The Jackrabbits also have some new faces like sophomore Emmie Chun who has looked good so far this offseason. Senior Paige O’Dell had been a soccer player for the Jackrabbits and has already posted some solid times as a first-year cross country runner.
But the most notable newcomer for the Jackrabbits is freshman Avery Peck, who made quite a statement during Poly’s preseason “Bun Run”. Peck finished in a time of 17:44, breaking Poly’s course record at Los Cerritos. Posting times like that before she’s ever stepped on campus will rightfully create some hype, but since she’s joining a strong, experienced team, there won’t be too much pressure placed on her shoulders.
“We knew she was good because she won the middle school meet, but you just don't know, especially as a freshman, how they're going to adapt to everything,” said Bournes. “The sub-18 was definitely a shocker, but in a good way. Her hard work is paying off. She's lucky to have Camille, Alexa, Evelyn, Maile and the older girls around so she doesn't have to feel that stress or pressure. She can just be a freshman.”
Wilson also has an experienced lineup set to go in 2022, with a standout core of juniors who’ve been on varsity the past two years.
“Our experience factor is there, they’re not scared when they go into races,” said Wilson coach CJ Brewer. “They’ve been there before and that really helps. We’ve told them since they were freshmen they were gonna be good, and this year we told them, ‘Today’s the day.’ They’re excited this year to execute and make it all happen.”
Junior Natalie Maahs should be the top runner for the Bruins after finishing second at league finals last year. She had a successful track season in the spring and is targeting a sub-18 three-mile this season.
Classmate Natalie Seymour won the Moore League individual title as a freshman and has consistently been among Wilson’s top finishers. The rest of the junior class includes returning team captain Chloe Brodsky, Abbey Pierson, and Sofia Alvarado, who is back from a knee injury suffered during her freshman year.
Seniors Amber Shanks (team co-captain) and Isabella Elsesser should also be in the Top 7 for the Bruins this season after each having productive offseasons.
Wilson alum Bruce Perret, who has been an assistant on the boys’ team for the past three years, is taking over as head coach of the girls’ program this season. He replaces Ed Hauck, who retired after a long career with the Bruins. Hauck’s son, Bobby, will be an assistant cross country coach this season.
“I’m basically going to continue the work that Coach Hauck did for the past 35 years,” Perret said. “For this year, my plan with the girls is to focus inward rather than on other teams. I want them to focus on themselves and running their best times, then the results will come.”
After winning back-to-back league titles in 2019 and 2020, graduations hit Millikan hard, and head coach Angela Ibarra is working with an inexperienced group that features just one senior in the program and only two varsity returners.
Raelyn Ponce is the only 12th grader for the Rams, and she’ll be joined in the lineup by juniors Nina Mungcal, Alma Perez and Maribel Perez, plus sophomore Yamile Rodriguez.
“Our goals for the season are to try to run as a team, trying to close the gap between each of our runners,” Ibarra said. “Since this team is fairly new at the varsity level, we are working towards being competitive throughout the race, not just at the start or the last 100m of the finish.”
Lakewood also features a bunch of underclassmen and head coach Daniel Sorenson is excited to see them compete this year. Juniors Caleeya Jackson and Brooklyn Marquez have been leading the way over the summer for the Lancers and should be among their top runners in 2022. Senior Jessica Monh, sophomore Bailee Carpenter (sixth place at last year’s league finals) and freshman Elysia Larios are also expected to be key contributors.
Jordan has a young group of runners this season as they look to build up a distance program under head coach Sharaud Moore, who also coaches track for the Panthers. Esmarelda Larios and Maria Monroy should be top runners for J-Town this season.
Outside of the Moore League, St. Anthony will be a largely inexperienced squad under first-year head coach Alejandro Salinas and his assistant, John Nelson. Seniors Annika Ramirez and Olivia Medina should be top runners for the Saints, along with junior Olivia Alvarez-Knapp who is getting her first experience in the sport.
The first Moore League meet of the season will be held at El Dorado Park on Sept. 28, with league finals scheduled for Nov. 2 at Heartwell.