C.J. Albertson's improved foot will give Buchanan High a chance to become the first Division I school in 22 years to sweep individual titles in the CIF State Cross Country Championships on Saturday at Woodward Park.
Albertson, a senior, and Bears junior Hagen Reedy are expected to contend for gold medals. Agoura's Bryan Dameworth and Denna Drossin, in 1989, were the last D-I combination to pull it off.
"Yeah, he's back and firing pretty good," Bears coach Brian Weaver said of Albertson, who awoke with soreness in his left foot two weeks ago.
Still, with what has been diagnosed since as tendonitis, the senior clocked 15 minutes and 48 seconds on the 3.1-mile Woodward course while placing fourth in the Central Section D-I final.
While far off from his personal record of 14:51 -- achieved with a fourth-place finish in last year's state meet -- it was a remarkable effort, especially considering the pounding the foot absorbed descending from the "Killer Hill" portion of the course.
"He could hardly walk that day," Weaver said, "but he didn't want to be held out. He's been amazing this whole week; he's back to his old self."
Albertson is favored to win Saturday, according to ESPNHS/DyeStatCal editor Rich Gonzalez.
The section has delivered three D-I boys winners in the meet's 24-year history -- all at Woodward -- in Foothill's Chris Schwartz (2007), Clovis' J.J. Duke (2000) and Fresno's Michael Kasahun (1996).
Gonzalez lists Arcadia's Sergio Gonzalez, Rancho Cucamonga's Luis Gutierrez, El Toro-Lake Forest's Kevin Durham and Stockdale's Blake Haney as Albertson's top challengers in the 12:20 p.m. race.
Durham placed fifth (14:55) and Sergio Gonzalez sixth (15:02) in last year's state meet. Then, in the Clovis Invitational at Woodward in early October, Albertson won the Championship Division in 15:01, with Durham fourth (15:18).
"C.J. has a great shot," said Weaver, whose boys team is ranked 10th in D-I by DyeStat after finishing fifth last year. "When the state meet rolls around, it's anybody's race. But he knows what he has to do. He's a tough kid with goals."
Reedy placed 27th at 18:23 in last year's state girls D-I final, and has exploded since.
She ran second at the Clovis Invitational (17:43) and won the Tri-River Athletic Conference (personal record 17:33) and section (17:44) finals without being pushed.
All that changes Saturday in the nation's largest prep cross country meet.
"It is a different element," Weaver said. "Hagen has run extremely fast with nobody around her. But she's mentally ready, she's physically ready and she's excited. Everything is right on target."
DyeStat's Gonzalez has Reedy ranked second in D-I to Vista Murrieta's Erika Reddish, who placed 30th in last year's state meet (18:28). The D-I girls race is scheduled for 10:40 a.m.
Madera South boys in hunt
Madera South's boys, with strength in depth, are ranked fifth in D-II behind Golden Valley-Santa Clarita, Loyola-Los Angeles, La Costa Canyon-Carlsbad and Ramona.
The Stallions placed 17th in the state last year with only two seniors.
Among those returning is junior Jose Herrera, who clocked a winning 15:58 in this season's section D-II finals while powering Madera South to a fourth-straight team title.
Regarding other boys team favorites, Gonzalez points to defending national champion Arcadia (D-I), Palos Verdes-Palos Verdes Estates (D-III), Salesian-Los Angeles (D-IV) and St. Margaret's-San Juan Capistrano (D-IV).
In the girls, his choices are San Clemente (D-I), Simi Valley (D-II), Vista Del Lago Folsom (D-III), JSerra-San Juan Capistrano (D-IV) and San Francisco University.