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On paper, it's CBA and F-M for the wins

NXN Top 10 boys team predictions:

1. Lincroft XC Club (Christian Brothers NJ)

2. Carroll XC Club (Southlake Carroll TX)

3. American Fork XC Club (American Fork UT)

4. Columbus XC Club (Columbus North IN)

5. Manlius XC Club (Fayetteville-Manlius NY)

6. Arcadia XC Club (Arcadia CA)

7. North Spokane XC Club (North Central WA)

8. Latham XC Club (Shaker NY)

9. Davis XC Club (Davis UT)

10. Gig Harbor XC Club (Gig Harbor WA)

Christian Brothers Academy NJ (Lincroft XC Club) placed fifth here last year and returned four varsity runners, more than anyone ahead of it in 2010. All season they have dominated teams on tough courses while setting all-time marks on each course. This team is battle-tested, has shown consistency, and has a history of running well at this meet. All those factors point to CBA being the favorite going into Saturday's championship, but the stiff competition they’ll face is their greatest challenge to date. Southlake Carroll TX (Carroll XC Club) returned everyone from their NXN qualifying team last year and have had a few others step up and add to the depth. The undefeated NXN South champs destroyed their competition throughout the season and are so deep they can afford an off race by a runner or two and still finish on or near the podium. Two of the three teams that had the biggest races at NXN last year, Columbus North IN and Fayetteville-Manlius NY, return for another round with lots of big-time meet experience and look to impress on the big stage once more.

Arcadia may have lost its state meet, but the defending national champs were strong at the Southern Section championships and beat several top teams throughout the season. Most of Arcadia's varsity has run here before. The team revealed itself early this fall at the Bob Firman Invitational as a “tough, gritty, grind-it-out” type team that excels on challenging courses. North Spokane is another club with ton of experience, having qualified every year since 2007 and also entered the JV in the open race each yearl.

With consistently good finishes, don’t be surprised to see North Central in the top third of the race yet again, despite not having one senior on the varsity seven.

Utah teams, over the past several years, have struggled at NXN, perhaps due to the grueling course or perhaps the fact that their state meet race is in mid-October. Whatever the case, both American Fork and Davis are capable of podium finishes but have something to prove. Top-10 might be more likely. Shaker NY struggled at NXN last year as well, and has also had injury

issues plague them this season, but the team is running well late in the season and could surprise with a top-five finish. Gig Harbor is the lone newcomer in the top 10 but produced tremendous results at the Washington State meet and NXN Northwest. It is not unrealistic to think the Tides can finish near North Central for the third time in three tries. Tradition and experience seems to be

a defining characteristics of the top teams this year.

Girls Top 10

1. Manlius XC Club (Fayetteville-Manlius NY)

2. Kinetic XC Club (Saratoga Springs NY)

3. Wilmington XC Club (Tatnall DE)

4. Glen Head XC Club (North Shore NY)

5. Newhall XC Club (Saugus CA)

6. Carmel XC Club (Carmel IN)

7. Wilmette XC Club (New Trier IL)

8. Fort Collins XC Club (Fort Collins CO)

9. La Costa XC Club (La Costa Canyon CA)

10. Central Oregon XC Club (Summit OR)

New York has dominated the girls team race every year, and this year should be no different with Fayetteville-Manlius, Saratoga Springs and North Shore coming in as the strongest trio the state has ever seen. The top challenger threatening to break up an Empire State sweep is the small-school powerhouse from Tatnall DE, which has its best team in the program’s storied history. Even with their best team, the girls from Tatnall won’t find the task an easy one. The third New York squad has a phenomenal front quartet and the difference will have to come down to the key fifth runner, which just might be Tatnall's greatest strength.

Beyond the first four teams, it should be a tremendous battle that could end up including half of the field or more. Topping the list is the five-time California state champions from Saugus, a program that has finished in the top four at NXN each of the past four years.

Fort Collins CO and La Costa Canyon CA both teams have what it takes to challenge for a top-five finish and would be dangerous squads to overlook.

The two Midwest powers, Carmel IN and New Trier IL crushed their competition throughout the year, but now that they are on the big stage the race might feel a little different. Carmel has been here before, finishing seventh last year and returning all but one runner. New Trier is the top team to not qualify before, and sometimes the first time can be a bit of a shock. One other team in my top 10 predictions is also a first timer, Summit of Oregon, the undefeated “hometown” squad who won the tough NXN Northwest region even with a couple of runners not at their best. Five other first-time qualifiers have a good shot at finishing in the top of the race this year: Simi Valley CA, Redondo CA, Xavier Prep AZ, Glacier Peak WA and Monticello MN might lack the team experience of being at NXN before, but are teams with serious upside if they can capitalize on their strengths.