* Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series looking at the state meet-bound Davis High cross country squads and visiting with Blue Devil head coach Bill Gregg about what makes the local program so popular and successful. Wednesday’s installment looks at the boys team.
With hundreds of runners competing from dozens of California high schools, predicting what a certain cross country team might do on a given day is hardly an exact science.
But after winning its ninth Sac-Joaquin Section title earlier this month, Davis High is sending an emerging corps of harriers to Fresno on Saturday to see if it can crack the state meet top 10.
The Blue Devil boys — with two-time CIF champion Jack Scranton leading the way — finished 15th last year at Woodward Park, as Scranton finished 27th overall.
Arcadia High, according editor Rich Gonzalez of PrepCalTrack.com, is clearly the cream of the Division I crop. But after that? Let DHS cross country mentor Bill Gregg set the stage:
“We’re taking nine guys … seven will run … the lineup is pretty much set, but we have two guys training like everybody else, so we want them to be race-ready just in case.”
In addition to Scranton, the Devil lineup should include Sugal Sutter, Paul Mohr, Jasper Laca, Daniel Rowen, Gavin Monges and Brian Song. Those “two guys” Gregg spoke of, John Testerman and Alex Arnheiter, will be waiting in the wings.
In DHS history, the fastest time at Woodward Park is shared at 15:17 by Matt Petersen (2008) and Corey Coates (2009). Scranton’s 15:36 last year represents the school’s seventh-best outing.
“Right now, I think he’s a top-20 guy again,” Gregg says of Scranton. “He set a certain goal for himself … a time goal that revolves around being the fastest Davis runner at Woodward Park.”
Will Scranton’s leadership be enough for DHS to hit the three-team awards podium — or does any Blue Devil have a shot at making the 10-person individual medal stand?
“We have guys that you know something (more) is there, you just never know when it’s going to come out,” Gregg continues. “Paul (Mohr), for example, is an incredible talent, so if he ran the race of his life, sure … I just don’t know what’s going to pop out.”
Sutter (16:23) finished eighth in the Nov. 10 section race at Willow Hill (Folsom). Song (16:27) ran ninth with Mohr (16:28) a tick behind in 10th. Laca, Rowen and Monges all were top 25.
Paced in 2006 by Brendan Gregg (15:21) — Bill’s son — and Patrick Lynch (15:33), Davis’ top five qualifiers ran a team-record 79.09 on the 5,000-meter layout. The effort was the 41st-best time in California annals and good enough for the locals to finish third in the state.
The Blue Devil 2008 squad holds the 49th-best outing (79.20), thanks to Coates’ 15:17 and Gregg’s repeat of his ’06 effort.
Bill Gregg has been the Devils’ head coach since 1998. As far as practice for the 2012 state meet, rain redirected his runners from their traditional Muller Ranch visit to Brown’s Ravine Trail in the El Dorado Hills near the easternmost tip of Lake Folsom.
The veteran coach said the challenge of steeper hills than what his team has seen this season provided a good workout and helped bring his teams together.
While the guys were winning the boys title, DHS’ girls were running to a second-place section finish behind powerful St. Francis.
After last Saturday’s workout at Brown’s Ravine, Gregg said both squads bonded further and looked back at their practice in a torrential downpour with the feeling of “what a great day … what a great run that was.”
Notes: Woodward Park is a hard-packed primarily dirt surface with some grass and asphalt elements. The D-I boys hit the trail at 9 a.m.; the girls are off at 10:05 a.m.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-747-8047.