The Madera South High boys and Buchanan girls cross country teams, two of the most compelling stories in all of Central Section sports, are primed to add vital chapters today.
Madera South's boys, promoted to Division I after capturing four consecutive section titles -- in D-II (twice) and D-III (twice) -- will arrive ranked third in the state in D-I and as a slight favorite over mighty Buchanan in the section championships at Woodward Park.
The D-I boys race is scheduled for 2 p.m., part of an 11-race meet that will begin with D-V boys at 11 a.m.
The D-I girls race will close the state-qualifying event at 3:30 p.m. And it will be then that Buchanan and defending champion Hagen Reedy will gun for a 13th-consecutive team crown in one of the greatest dynasties in section history.
It was a week ago, at the same site -- the course that will host the state finals Nov. 24 for a 26th-straight year -- that gold medalist Reedy (17 minutes, 17 seconds) and the Bears scored 27 points while running away with the title of the Tri-River Athletic Conference, one of the state's elite leagues.
It was five weeks earlier, also at Woodward, that Reedy won the Championship Division of the Clovis Invitational in 16:59 -- a section record and the fifth sub-17-minute girls mark in Woodward annals.
Maddi Nikkel (third, 18:39), Jose Frye (fourth, 18:51), Justice Hinojosa (sixth, 19:04) and Hannah Benoit (eighth, 19:08) were also responsible at the TRAC meet for Buchanan missing by only 12 points of a perfect score.
In Rich Gonzalez's prepcaltrack.com state rankings -- the state road map -- the Bears' girls are ranked in D-I behind only Great Oak-Temecula, Simi Valley and St. Francis-Sacramento.
Conspicuously absent from today's D-I girls race, however, will be Clovis' Mikayla Sodersten, the state's top freshman, whose season ended Oct. 27 when she broke a bone in her foot.
Beaming on today's section marquee, conversely, will be the Madera South boys.
"My kids will battle, that's what they're all about," said Rich Parris, The Bee's 2011 Coach of the Year, who has actually delivered nine straight section championships -- counting five D-I crowns at Madera from 2002-06.
"But Buchanan has a brilliant, very intelligent racer in Cody (Brazeal). And their team is really making some big moves from 3 to 5.
"They're finishers, no question about it; their kids are going to lay it down in the last mile."
Madera South, however, can't be matched in personal records at Woodward with Jose Herrera (15:35), David Garcia (15:48), Uriel Cabanas (15:50), Juan Macias (16:06), Ismael Guzman (16:03), freshman Lalo Herrera (16:12) and Michael Marquez (16:35).
While Reedy is the prohibitive D-I girls favorite, the D-I boys gold chase mixes Stockdale's Connor Fisher and teammate and defending champion Blake Haney; section 1,600-meter record-holder Brazeal; and Jose Herrera.
Cross country championships
CENTRAL SECTION MEET
Today: Woodward Park (3.1 miles)
Schedule: 11 a.m., Division V boys; 11:30 a.m., D-V & D-IV girls; noon, D-IV boys; 12:30 p.m., reserve race; 1 p.m., D-III boys; 1:30 p.m., D-II girls; 2 p.m., D-I boys; 2:30 p.m., D-III girls; 3 p.m., D-II boys; 3:30 p.m., D-I girls.
Awards: Top 2 teams, top 10 runners in each division.
Top runners advancing to Nov. 24 state finals (also at Woodward): Boys, D-I (3), D-II (3), D-III (2), D-IV (3), D-V (2); Girls, 2 in each division.
Prepcaltrack.com state rankings: Boys D-I, Madera South No. 3, Buchanan No. 8; girls D-I, Buchanan No. 4.