Anthony Monroy led a talented Burroughs High boys' cross-country group last season.
The Indians finished second in the Pacific League behind a sensational Arcadia team that went on to win a state championship. Burroughs also advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division I finals for the first time in 30 years.
Individually, Monroy advanced to the CIF-State Cross-Country Championships. In the competitive Division I race, Monroy placed 19th in 15 minutes, 22.07 seconds over the 5-kilometer course.
Monroy's effort was the 10th-best among all the Southern Section runners in Division I and 15th among Southern Section runners across all five divisions. In addition, his time was 27th overall out of 971 runners across all five divisions, including the No. 7 time for a junior (all from Division I).
Monroy — an All-CIF Southern Section honoree and 2010 All-Area Boys' Cross-Country Runner of the Year — earned a spot in the State Meet by running well in the Southern Section Division I finals at Mount San Antonio College. In the Division I race, the junior placed sixth in 15:46. He also took part in the CIF preliminaries at Mt. SAC, placing second in 15:19.
He was looking to transition that success from the cross-country season into the track and field campaign, and get back to the CIF Masters Meet in the 3,200 meters, something he accomplished as a sophomore.
But a foot injury hobbled Monroy during his junior season, and he wasn't able to advance into the postseason in track.
Burroughs Coach John Peebles said he is expecting Monroy to have a strong senior season, and again be ready to make another push to state cross-country competition.
"Basically, we're looking to make sure he's ready to go come postseason time," Peebles said. "That's the main emphasis for him, to make sure he's really ready to show his stuff come the end of the season."
Burroughs, along with Burbank, Bellarmine-Jefferson and Providence, all have their share of quality returning runners, along with some aspiring young talent.
Here is a look at how the teams are shaping up.
The Indians boys' team returns five seniors from last season's squad, including all-league standout Charlie Camacho. Other runners who will be asked to contribute are Brandon Andrade, Zach Beimford, Kamal Chahal and Anthony Monroy.
"The talent is definitely there, but they have to turn that talent into results," Peebles said. "We need runners two through five and runners six through 10 to step up and make things happen for us as a team. It is no use having a pretty cake if you do not get to eat it."
On the girls' side, the Indians — who advanced to the postseason last season — have a good mix of returning runners and some promising newcomers.
Returning are seniors Giovanna Carrasco and Rita Murphy and juniors Brice Edrington, Gracia Innocentia and Ashley Velasco. They will be joined by senior Sarah Rodriguez and junior Sammantha Fajardo
"Even though the top seven are all juniors and seniors right now, I would not be surprised to see three younger kids crash the party once we start racing," Peebles said.
The Bulldogs program is dealing with the departure of 2010 All-Area Girls' Cross-Country Runner of the Year McKenzie Paul, who graduated and is at Sacramento State.
Despite the departure, both the Burbank boys' and girls' squads — which both qualified for the postseason in 2010 — should have talented groups, as both return five of their top seven runners from a year ago.
The top returner is all-league senior Christina Shamirian. She will be joined by fellow seniors Griselda Pereyra, CJ Chua and Kristen Fregoso. Rounding out the top seven will likely be juniors Kayla Martil and Victoria Sanchez, along with sophomore Daisy Ignacio. Also vying for a spot in the top seven will be Allsion Suchy, Myriam Gonzalez, Rebecca Serrano and Arlette Movsesyan.
"Since there is no individual star on the girls' team, the girls have been working hard to run as a pack over the summer," Coach Trevor Marca said. "They know their success will be a direct reflection on how tight they can keep their pack from week to week. If runners one through five can run within 15 to 30 seconds of each other, they will be a formidable group."
The boys' team returns a pair of all-league performers in junior Sergio Fraire and Jacob Jun, as well as talented sophomore Isaiah Amos, who qualified for the track and field postseason as a freshman last season in the 800.
They will be aided by Bernie Corea, whose consistent 80-mile weeks this summer has made him the most improved runner on the team. Senior team captain Zach Solomon and Jonathan Stoll lend stability to the top runners.
After that, there is a log jam for the final varsity spot among Andrew Wernstrum, Marko Neskovic, Derek Itagaki and Mustafa Nguyen. Two sophomores, Elliot Choe and Arsen Mkrtchyan, figure to spend most of the season running on the freshman/sophomore level, but could be promoted to varsity by season's end.
Burbank's wild card this year could be Chris Huezo, who after a successful track campaign, suffered a serious knee injury early in the summer, but has bounced back and looks to be making a bid for a varsity spot.
"This group has the talent; they have put in the work," Marca said. "Now, it's time to prove themselves on the race course."
There was a time in which the Guards fielded top-notch cross-country programs, and the teams were some of the most successful at the school.
But the teams have fallen on hard times in recent years. Last season, the Bell-Jeff girls' team had just two runners. That was surprising for a program that won Santa Cruz League championships from 2006-08 and even qualified for the CIF-State Cross-Country Championships in 2007.
Called in to revive the program is veteran Coach Jim Couch, who helped build the track and cross-country programs from the 1980s and '90s through the early part of the this century.
"It just broke my heart to see what had happened to the cross-country program at Bell-Jeff," Couch said. "It takes so long to build up a program, but it just takes a short time for that program to crumble.
"We are definitely moving in the right direction, and we are doing the things now to build the program back up to where it once was."
On the girls' side, last season's two runners — sophomores Sarah Alasviana and Sarah Poblano — should anchor the squad. Last season, Alasviana placed second in league. A trio of freshmen, Jessica Pereyra, Emily Arrue and Mckenzie Dowling, will all be expected to contribute.
Returning for the boys are sophomores Nathan Guzman and Gabriel Ellman, who ran to a 10th-place finish at last season's Santa Fe League finals. Complementing them will be junior Javier Molina, giving the Guards a solid 1-2-3 punch.
Also looking to step up are senior Jerry Zapata and sophomore Charles Salomon.
With a small squad, the Pioneers should have something they haven't had in quite some time this season: senior leadership.
"We will have some very good senior leadership on the boys' team and the girls' team," Providence Coach Michelle Boucher said. "It's nice to have that. Not only do we have some good runners, but they are good kids as well."
Pacing the boys' squad are seniors Rafael Deligio and Andrew Carrillo.
"They both took turns being our No. 1 runner in different races last season," Boucher said. "They are really close in running ability."
Two seniors will also lead the girls' team: Jaii Jiang and Madeleine Garibaldi. Jiang is also a track and field standout and Garibaldi is a four-year varsity runner.