For the first time in years, there will be no Burbank All-City Cross-Country meet to sort, determine and highlight the top runners within the Media City.
Yet, just because there's no race doesn't mean there isn't a competition among the four local schools to showcase which is strongest.
When asked to describe the state of his boys' and girls' teams, Burbank Coach Trevor Marca gave a similar response for two squads hoping to post breakout seasons.
"I would say both are determined and hungry to have big years," Marca said. "We're looking forward to having successful years."
In 2011, the Bulldog boys made history in becoming the first squad since 2002 to advance to the CIF State Meet, where Burbank finished 11th.
Last season, however, Burbank (89 points) finished third in the Pacific League behind powerhouse Arcadia (22) and Crescenta Valley (54) and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division I preliminaries, where the team took fifth in its Division I heat and just missed qualified to the divisional finals.
While the day might have been disappointing, one exciting aspect was the effort turned in by returning senior Elliot Choe.
Only a week earlier, Choe finished 11th in 16 minutes, 11.72 seconds at the Pacific League finals at Crescenta Valley Park.
At Mt. San Antonio College, arguably a much tougher course, Choe finished ninth in his heat with a mark of 15:44.
Just as important as Choe's progression is the return of senior Arsen Mkrtchyan, who missed the 2012 postseason because of injuries.
Mkrtchyan recently won the College of the Canyon Summer Series race No. 6 on Aug. 15 with a time of 16:04.
Besides his top two runners, Marca has a strong stable with Ethan Moskowitz, who finished 24th at league finals last year (16:56.93), junior Enrique Vizcaino and senior Gabriel Ellman.
Perhaps the most interesting move during the summer involved the transfer of Brennan Doyle from Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. Doyle figures to be a top-five contender within the team.
Not be forgotten or ignored is senior Andres Vasquez, who was the team's top junior varsity runner a year ago.
"We've had the highest mileage summer since I've coached here. Many of the top runners have averaged over 70 miles per week and are continuing to do double days now that school has started," Marca said. "It is a hungry crew this year determined for success."
The girls finished fourth in the Pacific League and capped their season the following week by taking eighth in the fourth heat of the Division I prelims.
Three runners are back from that squad, including sophomore Candela Fernandez and seniors Arlette Movsesian and Daisy Ignacio.
"This group, though not deep in numbers, looks to be one of Burbank High's best of all time," Marca said.
While Movsesian finished 11th (19:46.99) at the Pacific League finals and 38th (19:58) at prelims, she might be the No. 2 runner this year to Fernandez, who has had a "breakout summer," according to Marca, a year after finishing 23rd (20:5781) at league finals.
"With an outstanding front-runner and a tight pack of four behind her," Marcia said, "this group has a legitimate chance of breaking the CIF prelims program record set in 2010 and, if all the pieces fall into place, advance to CIF finals."
Other than Ignacio, the Bulldogs scoring five will likely include freshman Gabby Collins and senior Taryn Stevenson.
Team captain Stephanie Solomon and Myriam Gonzalez also look to round out the squad.
A third-place finish for the girls and a fourth-place effort from the boys placed the Indians near the middle of the pack within the Pacific League last year.
On the girls' side, Burroughs advanced out of league finals and finished 11th in its heat of the CIF Southern Section Division I preliminaries at Mt. SAC on Nov. 10.
Leading the way that day was celebrated senior Gracia Innocentia, who was eighth in 18:36, in what was her swan song.
Looking to take over this year is sophomore Eileen Eckles, who finished third at the frosh-soph Pacific League track and field finals in the 3,200-meters with a mark of 12:00.13
The only drawback is that Indians Coach John Peebles hasn't had much time to see his star.
"Eckles eventually should be our top girl. Unfortunately, she was out most of the summer due to an injury," Peebles said. "Therefore, she should be running much better at the end of the year than she will be at the beginning."
The next closest finisher at the CIF prelims was junior Valerie Monroy, younger sister of former All-Area Runner of the Year Anthony Monroy (UC Santa Barbara), who took 56th in 20:35.
Valerie Monroy might prove to be a worry competitor to Eckles and the rest of the league.
"Behind Eileen, we have some girls with experience," Peebles noted.
Joining Eckles and Monroy in the fray are senior Dayanna Yanez, junior Miranda Acosta and sophomore Betsy Ramirez. Freshmen Dru Kim and Molly Staplefeldt are also in the mix.
As for the boys, several returners are back from a team that finished seventh in its heat of the CIF Southern Section Division I prelims.
Senior Ricky Mendez, who finished 16th at league finals last year in 16:26, is back as is Garrett Boulais (17th, 16:33.96). Junior Shane Thompson also figures to be in the top three.
"Hopefully the work they have put in will allow them to make big drops in time when it gets time to race," Peebles said.
Behind them, "but with the potential to move up", are junior Elias Hoxsie, who finished 18th (16:40.40) in league and senior Evereth Vargas, who was 30th in league in 17:37.65.
Peebles believes that junior Jack Howe will end up as the team's sixth runner, while there is still a vacancy for a seventh position.
Entering her 15th year, Pioneer co-Coach Michelle Boucher believes her teams might very well create history.
The boys finished fifth at the Liberty League finals at Rancho Park last Nov. 2 and are hoping to improve.
"We should be competitive in league and I expect us to be there right in the mix," said Boucher, who is aided by Ross Genovese. "We haven't qualified a team to the [CIF Southern Section preliminaries] since 1992 and that's our goal."
For the Pioneers to qualify to the CIF Division V prelims, the squad will need big efforts for its two returners, junior Lalo Fisher and senior Brandon Swafford.
Fisher might be on the cusp of a breakout season.
The Pioneers' top runner finished third last season at league finals with a time of 16:53, trailing only two-time defending league MVP Nick Martin (16:09) of Buckley and league 3,200 track and field champion Arman Amin (16:51 at cross-country finals) of Holy Martyrs.
Both Martin and Amin having graduated, leaving a vacuum up top.
Boucher believes that Fisher might challenge the program's record of 14:35 at the 2.6-mile long Johnny Carson Park, which is held by Stephan Saribekyan (1995) and Chris Gill (1992).
Boucher is also confident Swafford, who finished 25th (18:30) in league last year, has the ability to be a top-10 placer in league, while freshman Nicholas Algiers should be strong this season.
On the girls' side, Providence finished third at league finals and third overall in the standings, which qualified the Pioneers for the CIF Division V preliminaries at Mt. San Antonio College on Nov. 10, where they finished 11th (1:57:48) with 335 points.
The Pioneers have three solid returners, headlined by junior Katia Dabbaghian.
The two-sport star was the starting point guard for the girls' Liberty League championship basketball team, but missed a big portion of last year, including Liberty League finals and the divisional prelims, due to an injury.
Dabbaghian is 100% this season and is pining to recapture some of last year's success, including when she became the first-ever Pioneers girls' runner to win a league race, when she finished in 21 minutes at the second league cluster meet on Oct. 16 at Woodley Park.
"She's tough and she's a great competitor," Boucher said. "She wanted to run at Mt. SAC even though she was injured. That shows you how tough she is."
Dabbaghian, niece of former Providence standout Barry Dabbaghian, one-upped her uncle last year.
While Barry owns four of Providence's top-10 times at Johnny Carson Park, Katia set the girls' record last year with a mark of 17:27.
Katia Dabbaghian will be joined by two solid runners in senior Drew Tacchino, who finished fifth (21:09) in league last year, and by junior Rose Avakian (21:38), who seventh at league finals.
"Our goal is to have more depth this season. We know our league struggles from four through seven in the lineup," Boucher said. "Our goal is to have the best four through seven by the end of the year."
Competitiveness was the key word used by Guards Coach Jim Couch when describing both the goals and expected outcomes this season for both the boys and girls.
Last season, the Guards had their issues in finishing last at both the Santa Fe and Santa Cruz League finals at Griffith Park.
In the Santa Fe League, the Guards boys' team has its sights set on a top-three finish, which would at best likely be a runner-up finish to CIF State Division IV bronze medalist Salesian.
"Right now, we're battling for second place for both boys and girls," Couch said. "Our biggest obstacle is just filling a complete team. If we're able to do that and continue to improve, we can compete."
The good news for the Guards is that they have some key runners back, including senior Anthony Zapata, who finished 17th (19:27) at league finals.
Following Zapata will likely be freshman Joseph Nicola and sophomore Edrick Orta.
Senior Darius De La Pena, who sat out 2012, might be a wild card this season as a senior.
As for the girls, St. Matthias returns as the defending Santa Cruz League champs and the Guards are hoping to put up a battle in 2013.
The biggest development on the girls' side is the return of junior Mackenzie Dowling, a fifth-place finisher (22:32) at the 2011 league finals, who missed the majority of 2012 due to leg injuries.
"She's back and she's going to be our No. 1," Couch said. "Two years ago, she was a league top-five runner. I expect her to be that again this year."
Dowling finds herself surrounded by new teammates in freshmen Halah Mansour and Katie Clark, both expected to make the top five, along with Chinese foreign exchange student Alina Dong.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun