For a second straight year, there won’t be a Burbank All-City Cross-Country Meet to determine which boys’ program is the best within city limits in a head-to-head competition and which individual athlete would shine brightest.
While the hope that such an event will become a reality in 2015, for now each of Burbank’s four high school teams has a different set of goals and expectations heading into the season, which begins Sept. 3.
Aspirations of reaching the season-ending CIF State Meet came frustratingly close, but ended for the Bulldogs at the CIF Southern Section Division I championship at Mt. San Antonio College.
While the Bulldogs took ninth in arguably the toughest division in America and topped stalwarts such as Long Beach Poly, Rancho Cucamonga and California, their position and point total (219) was two spots short advancing to Fresno, which left a veteran squad deflated.
“Our expectation was to make it to the state meet and when that didn’t happen, the guys were pretty down,” Burbank Coach Trevor Marca said. “We had improved on a weekly basis and it was tough to end the year that way.”
Burbank had surged to second in the Pacific League last season in finishing runner-up to eventual state champion Arcadia and defeating Crescenta Valley, 47-63, at the league finals at Arcadia County Park on Nov. 7.
Yet, it was the Falcons who exacted a measure of revenge in finishing fifth at the CIF-SS Division I finals at Mt. SAC and advancing to state for the first time since 2007.
Perhaps the reason why the Bulldogs took the setback at Mt. SAC so hard is that the event concluded an era for Burbank, as five of the racing seven were graduating seniors, including leaders Elliot Choe (28th, 15:25) and Arsen Mkrtchyan (29th, 15:25), the last two ties to the Bulldogs’ 2011 state qualifying team.
With such a loss, the comments made by Marca may raise an eyebrow or two.
“I really think that this year’s team can be better than last year’s,” Marca said. “We’re young and that could be a problem, but sometimes that’s a benefit too. The guys aren’t setting expectations for themselves, they’re not going to over think a situation, they’re just going to run.”
Senior Enrique Vizcaino is the lone returner from last year and was the Bulldogs’ No. 5 runner, placing 71st (16:02) in Division I and 15th (15:17.43) at league finals.
“Yes we’re young, but we’re also a strong team that’s focused,” Vizcaino said. “I really think we can do better than last year.”
Burbank gets a boost in the return of junior Adam Navar, who missed chunks of last season due to different injuries. Navar is expected to be the team’s No. 2 runner.
As for the rest of his lineup, Marca is expecting juniors Ahmand Elziat and Justin Smith and sophomore Sam Gormon to take the next three spots, while the final two positions are still up for grabs between Jonas Macromallis, Tanner Payne, Angel Flores, Josh Cho, Brandon Sugars and Josh Cantong, who recently stepped away from football.
There was a tinge of bitterness for the Indians last year and, in particular, how the team concluded the 2013 season.
Burroughs finished fifth in its CIF-SS Division I preliminaries heat on Nov. 16 at Mt. SAC and was nipped by California, 119-120, for the final qualifying position to the following week’s divisional finals.
If there’s a positive to take from that race, maybe it’s that the majority of the Pacific League fourth-place squad is back.
In terms of individual runners, Burroughs’ Shane Thompson is the No. 2 Pacific League returner this year, behind only Arcadia’s Phillips Rocha, the reigning Pacific League champ.
Thompson finished ninth (15:05.47) at last year’s league finals and is one of four returners out of the Burroughs top six back, as the Indians lost Ricky Mendez and Everth Vargas.
Seniors Elias Hoxsie (15:17.43) and Garrett Boulais (15:25.75), who finished 14th and 18th at league finals, respectively, figure to be in the top five along with junior Justin Villagran.
“They have shown some good things this summer,” Indians Coach John Peebles said, “but understand that their is still much work needed to be done as the season progresses.”
One of the exciting developments this season will be the progress of incoming freshman Alexander Hirsch.
The ninth-grader is coming off a summer in which he competed in the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics in Houston in both the 1,500- and 3,000-meter runs.
Hirsch finished with the 11th-fastest time in his age group in the 1,500 (4:10.83) and was fifth in the 3,000 (9:10.20).
Outside of Hirsch, the Indians are expecting junior Andrew Barrondo, senior Jack Howe and sophomore Timothy Wells to compete for spots.
Improvement is goal No. 1 for the Pioneers as they head into the 2014 campaign.
Providence finished fourth at the Liberty League finals at Rancho Park and placed only one runner within the top 15 during that same competition.
“We just missed CIF since you have to finish in the top three,” Providence co-Coach Michelle Boucher said. “This year we’re hoping to make it back.”
Senior Lalo Fisher, a four-year runner, returns for his final campaign after finishing third at last year’s league finals in 17:00.
Fisher earned advancement to the Division V preliminaries at Mt. SAC as an individual and finished 24th in his heat in 17:44.
Junior Harrison Pyros, who competed in basketball and track, has impressed during his first summer of cross-country and is the team’s projected No. 2 runner.
It’s likely that freshmen Gavin McGroarty and Ryan Donnelly will also take third and fourth on the squad while the last three spots are still open for competition.
Fielding a full team seems to be an annual issue for the Guards, who appear to have just enough runners this year.
“Our goal every year is to have a full squad,” Guards Coach Jim Couch said. “I think the kids want a little more and so do I. We’d like to return this team to where it was in the past, which is competing for league titles. I think we can do that this year.”
The Guards were not a contender within the Santa Fe League last year, but hope is eternal for a squad that will turn to Nick Becerra.
Bell-Jeff’s likely No. 1 runner has had a solid summer and recently logged 70 miles in Mammoth. Couch believes Becerra can get into the high 15-minute mark at Mt. SAC.
“I expect him to dip into that area,” Couch said, “but the exciting thing is that we have other guys who have shown promise.”
Couch is particularly looking forward to seeing the growth of junior Peter Switzer, son of former Hoover High Coach Greg Switzer, who also impressed up in Mammoth.
Outside of those two runners, Couch has a pair of exchange students he believes will turn out to be pleasant surprises.
“I think we’re going to really be able to compete, I really do,” Couch said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
Follow Andrew J. Campa on Twitter: @campadresports.