The championship portion of the Orange County cross country season starts this weekend.
It is essentially the midpoint of the season. The O.C. Championships, set for Friday, Oct. 13, and Saturday, Oct. 14, at Oak Canyon Park in Orange, are the first opportunity for teams to be tested against the best of the best and perhaps earn some major hardware.
Then comes the illustrious Mt. SAC Invitational, on Oct. 20 and 21, followed by two weeks of league finals and then three weeks of CIF competitions.
So it’s a good time to do our first Orange County rankings for the season and to look at how the county’s top teams stack up at this point:
GIRLS O.C. TOP 10
1. Capistrano Valley: The Cougars still possess the best one-two in county girls cross country in Haley Herberg and Alyssa Bautista. Herberg has been as good if not better than previous, while Bautista has struggled during the the opening weeks of the season. She might get her mojo back this week. Bautista finished fourth as Herberg won the county title last season.
2. El Toro: The Chargers lost one of the county’s best to graduation, but Ashley Messineo has stepped up and more than filled the void. El Toro is ranked fifth in Division 1 as the rest of the group has stuck together.
3. Mission Viejo: The Diablos come in ranked just behind league rival Capistrano Valley in CIF-SS Division 2, considered this season’s toughest. Capo Valley can’t be too careful, as Mission Viejo has been bolstered by Kelli Hines’ return from injury and the continued development of Ashley Johnson.
4. Canyon: The Comanches have one of the county’s best in state bronze medalist Sara Leonard. Leonard was also third last year at the O.C. Championships, and she has a strong group of returners around her that could push Canyon onto the team podium.
5. Dana Hills: The Dolphins continue forward with a team concept that is as strong as any found in the county. Leila Keyvan, Marisa Gaitan, Sarah Meng and Anna Fodor make a strong…