The intimacy and fraternity of league meets is over, giving way to the CIF Southern Section postseason for cross-country.
For the next two weeks, boys’ and girls’ teams from across the section will compete at the Riverside City Cross-Country Course to achieve their season-long goal of earning a trip to the CIF State championship meet.
It begins Friday, with Divisions 1 and 3 kicking off the prelims at 9 a.m. Among the locals in action will be the Sunset League champion Fountain Valley High girls. The Barons finished the year ranked 10th in their division. They project to get through the qualifying round for the CIF finals, where they will face a much stiffer challenge to get to state.
Ocean View’s boys, who won the Golden West League title for the second year in a row, are the highest-ranked local team competing on Friday. The Seahawks moved up to sixth in Division 3 after besting Santa Ana 27-31 in their league finals last week.
Both the Corona del Mar boys’ and girls’ teams are ranked inside the top 10 of Division 3 as well. A junior-heavy roster that includes Ian Turner, Duncan Taylor, Joseph Cianfrani and Joshua Means is ranked 10th for CdM’s boys. The girls, led by freshman standout Annabelle Boudreau, are considered a bubble team for state, as they are ranked seventh in their division.
There will be 24 teams in each divisional race of the CIF finals on Nov. 18. The prelims will supply the field, but the criteria to be met will vary by division. In divisions that run three heats at prelims, teams must finish in the top eight of their heat to advance. Similarly, divisions that only run two heats will advance 12 teams per race to make up the field of 24 schools.
A way forward is also offered to top individuals of non-qualifying teams. In divisions with three heats, individuals must finish in the top 10 to continue on to the finals. For divisions with two heats, individuals must place in the top 15 to advance.
“There’s  teams there, and they take 24, so you just have to be in the top half,” Sage Hill coach Nate Miller said. “Our boys are right on the bubble, so we have to run our best and our hardest [in the prelims]. We’re tapering for this week.”
Sage Hill’s girls, led by Brooklyn Button, are in a much better position. As the third-ranked team in Division 5, Miller said that his team would do what is necessary to qualify, but Sage Hill will be targeting the CIF finals as a day they go all-out.
Last year, Ocean View’s boys were sorely disappointed with the end result of their season. The Seahawks had been hopeful of a state berth, but inexperience with the demand of the November meets came back to bite last year’s Cinderella squad. They finished ninth at the CIF finals, two spots shy of making the cut for state.
Ocean View is back in a position to make a run. Seahawks coach Daniel Hurtado said the team has been more calculated in its season-long running strategy this year.
“Last year, even on races that we could have taken easily, it was like, ‘Oh, just go at it and go as fast as you can. We have nothing to lose,’” Hurtado said.
In fact, they did have something to lose — the ability to run their best race at season’s end. Hurtado hopes that meet management has left something in the tank for his team this time around.
“We wanted the league title, but our ultimate focus is state,” said Hurtado, who noted that his team sometimes ran at a tempo pace in league meets this fall. “I was content getting second place at league finals, but making state, that’s just the ultimate goal.”
Laguna Beach’s boys’ and girls’ teams swept the Orange Coast League team titles. The Breakers are joined by the Costa Mesa boys’ and girls’ teams in Division 4.
Mustangs sophomore Diane Molina could be a contender for an individual berth into the state meet, which will be held on Nov. 25 at Woodward Park in Fresno.
Alexis Garcia accomplished the feat as a sophomore last year. His Newport Harbor boys’ team is among those competing in Division 2 in the prelims on Saturday morning.
CIF Southern Section preliminaries
When: Friday and Saturday
Where: Riverside City Cross-Country Course (1011 N. Orange St., Riverside, CA 92501)
Fan Info: Tickets are $8 for general admission and $5 for students with a current high school I.D. and children ages 5-13. There is a $10 fee to park in the main lot off Orange Street.
Race schedule (locals only)
Girls’ Division 1, Heat 1, 9 a.m.: Avery Dorff, Edison, Sr.
Girls’ Division 1, Heat 3, 9:24 a.m.: No. 10 Fountain Valley
Boys’ Division 1, Heat 1, 10:04 a.m.: Cody Groom, Edison, Jr.; Esteban Prado, Fountain Valley, Sr.
Boys’ Division 1, Heat 2, 10:15 a.m.: Lars Mitchel, Huntington Beach, Jr.
Girls’ Division 3, Heat 2, 10:52 a.m.: No. 7 Corona del Mar; Ocean View
Boys’ Division 3, Heat 1, 11:38 a.m.: German Ramos, Los Amigos, So.
Boys’ Division 3, Heat 2, 11:55 a.m.: No. 10 Corona del Mar; No. 6 Ocean View
Girls’ Division 4, Heat 2, 8:01 a.m.: Costa Mesa; No. 6 Laguna Beach
Boys’ Division 4, Heat 2, 8:53 a.m.: Costa Mesa; No. 6 Laguna Beach
Girls’ Division 5, Heat 2, 9:21 a.m.: No. 3 Sage Hill
Boys’ Division 5, Heat 2, 10:16 a.m.: Sage Hill
Boys’ Division 5, Heat 3, 10:31 a.m.: Pacifica Christian Orange County
Girls’ Division 2, Heat 2, 10:56 a.m.: Marina
Boys’ Division 2, Heat 1, 11:36 a.m.: Marina