The Otay Ranch High School cross country program quickly established itself as one of the South County’s premier programs under the guidance of veteran coach Ian Cumming. Despite all the accolades earned over the past several years, the Mustangs accomplished something last year they hadn’t yet in school history: win both boys and girls Mesa League championships in the same season.
Otay Ranch’s 2009 unit was strong across the board, with the Mustangs ending the season with a fourth-place finish in the San Diego Section Division I boys championships and the school’s girls team recording a highly respectable eighth-place finish.
Despite the loss of all-league runners Jacob Roach, Carlos Hernandez, Luis Medina and Vivi Martinez to graduation, Cumming believes Otay Ranch’s 2010 squad should once again be highly competitive.
“Our girls and boys teams are both returning many key performers from last year and should be among the contenders for Mesa League championships,” Cumming said. “The girls team is especially strong with only one person out of our top 10 from last season graduating. Most of our key returners have trained consistently throughout the summer and we should continue to improve throughout the season, especially since both teams are especially strong.”
Cumming pegs the Otay Ranch girls team as “one of the better teams,” in his words, in the San Diego Section.
“Our boys could also rise to that level as we have quite a bit of depth and talent to tap on both the boys and girls sides of the team,” he said.
The Mustangs pulled in a No. 7 ranking among boys teams in a preseason coaches poll — two points behind sixth-ranked Bonita Vista. The Otay Ranch girls team, despite Cummings’ beliefs, failed to crack the preseason top 10 (coming in at No. 14).
But that’s nothing new: South County teams annually have to earn respect from their peers.
The Mustang boys team out-pointed Bonita Vista 26-44 at the Mesa League championships and 143-151 the following week at the ensuing San Diego Section Division I finals. Otay Ranch placed all five of its scorers among the top 10 finishers at the league championships. Among that group were two underclassmen: Zachary Velasquez (fifth as a sophomore) and Gus Tunks (ninth as a junior). Two of Bonita Vista’s top five finishers also were underclassmen: Shin Agbede (second as junior) and Jason Hardin (14th as a junior).
Otay Ranch’s girls team was underclassmen heavy in 2009 and the same will be the case in 2010. Of the Mustangs’ top five scorers at last year’s league finals, all were underclassmen: Carina Gillespie (third as a freshman), Catie Ledesma (seventh as a freshman), Andie Ledesma (eighth as a freshman), Blanca DeLaRosa (ninth as a sophomore) and Katie Coleman (10th as a junior).
The Mustangs out-pointed runner-up Eastlake in the team standings 37-64.
Cumming said it was difficult to assess the crop of incoming talent, with practices having only started this week. But, as in past years, he said he expects the top newcomers to begin to step forward as the season progresses.
Otay Ranch steps off the 2010 season by hosting the Mustang/Phair Invitational on Sept. 10 at Rohr Park. The South Bay Invitational, the area’s other regional-draw invitational, is scheduled Sept. 24 at the same site.
2010 San Diego Section Cross Country Schedule
4: Vaquero Stampede at Lindo Lake
4: Asics Cougar-Wildcat Six-Mile Cross Country Relay at Cal State San Marcos
10: Mustang/Phair Invitational at Rohr Park
11: Bronco Round-up at Kit Carson Park
18: Mt. Carmel/Movin’ Shoes Invitational at Morley Field
24: South Bay Invitational at Rohr Park
25: Showdown at Sundown at Mission Hills High School
1: Saints Small School Invitational at Morley Field
16: Southern California Invitational at Guajome Park
23: Jaguar Invitational at Kit Carson Park
Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Torrey Pines 156
2. (tie) Poway 149
2. (tie) Rancho Buena Vista 149
4. Rancho Bernardo 98
5. La Costa Canyon 77
6. Bonita Vista 50
7. Otay Ranch 48
8. Patrick Henry 41
9. Mt. Carmel 307
10. Valley Center 31
Others: Mission Hills15, Ramona14, Carlsbad14, Cathedral Catholic14, Fallbrook13
1. Torrey Pines 171
2. La Costa Canyon 142
3. Rancho Buena Vista 121
4. Rancho Bernardo 114
5. Clairemont 84
6. Cathedral Catholic 68
7. (tie) Mission Hills 46
7. (tie) Valhalla 46
9. Mt. Carmel 24
10. Westview 23
Others: Escondido 21,Poway 19, Vista 19, Otay Ranch 18, Coronado 11