2015 NXN Boys Preview: Can Austin Tamagno Break The “California Curse”? The Great Oak (CA) Boys Look To Continue To Roll

By LetsRun.com
December 3, 2015

*Discuss this race in our high school forum

We’re into December now, and the cross-country season is drawing to a close. The NCAA Championships are in the books and all that remain on the year are the U.S. Club Cross-Country Championships (December 12 in San Francisco) and three marquee high school meets: Saturday’s Nike Cross Nationals and Foot Locker West and next week’s Foot Locker finals. This preview will focus on NXN; we’ll take a detailed look at Foot Lockers next week.

Once again, the championships will be held at Portland’s Glendoveer Golf Course. The meet shifted to Glendoveer in 2014 after 10 years at Portland Meadows, and though the venue changed, the mud remained a constant. In total, 22 boys’ teams, 22 girls’ teams and 90 individuals (five boys and five girls from each of the eight NXN regionals plus the California state meet) will be in the fields on Saturday, with the races crowning both individual and team national champions (though, as usual, most of the top individuals will be at Foot Lockers). We break down what you need to know heading into Saturday’s meet. Our boys preview appears below. Our 2015 girls NXN preview is here.

Event details

When: Saturday, 2:35 p.m. ET

Where: Glendoveer Golf Course, Portland, Ore.

How to watch: Stream the meet live here (coverage starts at 12:30 p.m. ET)

Regional results: Heartland * Northwest * Midwest * Southwest * South * Southeast * Northeast * New York * California state meet

Full list of qualifiers *2014 results (bottom of article) * All 2014 LRC NXN coverage

Boys’ Teams 

The favorite on the boys’ side is Great Oak (CA), who won its second consecutive California Division I state title on Saturday, scoring 43 points, the lowest score by any California boys’ team (across five divisions) at the state meet in nine years. Their 15:13 top five average time on the Woodward Park course was also the fastest in meet history, breaking the 15:14 mark of 2010 NXN champ Arcadia.

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The boys and girls of Great Oak after sweeping the California Division I state meet last weekend. The boys and girls of Great Oak after sweeping the California Division I state meet last weekend (courtesy Great Oak Athletics)

TullyRunners.com uses a metric called speed rating to compare performances across different courses and conditions, and if you plug in Great Oak’s speed rating from the state meet, they should win handily — Tully Runners projects a score of 90 points at NXN, well ahead of Dana Hill’s 140 (CA). Dana Hill was actually the runner-up in the DI CA state meet to Great Oak where the score was 43 to 65.

  1. Great Oak 43 – 3-5-7-11-17 (26) (42)
  2. Dana Hills 65 –   4-9-12-15-25 (33) (37)

If Great Oak can replicate its state meet performance a week later, it should win, but there are a couple of concerns. First, Great Oak lost to Timpanogos (UT) on September 26 at the Bob Firman Invite, 104-106, though Great Oak has been unstoppable since then. Second, the cool, wet, muddy conditions (the forecast in Portland calls for temps in the 40s and rainy on Friday and Saturday) could hurt the boys from Southern California.

One of the biggest challengers to Great Oak is Sandburg (IL), led by the Torpy twins, Sean and Chris. The Illinois 3A champion, Sandburg returns six of seven runners from a team that placed 15th at NXN last year, but their run at the Midwest Regional on November 15 raised a possible red flag. Sandburg won the race with 120 points, 20 ahead of Neuqua Valley (IL) but Sandburg’s fifth man, Tom Brennan, was way back in 105th place, 25 seconds behind their #4. That sort of performance won’t be good enough to win at nationals. Just look at the last five NXN champs and where their fifth man finished at nationals:

Year Winning team 5th man place
2014 Fayetteville-Manlius 96th
2013 Gig Harbor 103rd
2012 Arcadia 80th
2011 Christian Brothers Academy 72nd
2010 Arcadia 70th

There are a couple reasons for optimism, however. First, Brennan has been much closer to their #4 for most of the season than he was at NXN Midwest (he was only four seconds back at the Illinois state meet). Second, Brennan was not Sandburg’s fifth-fastest runner at NXN Midwest. That was senior Dan Laskero, who finished second in the open race in 16:01. That would have put him 71st in the championship race, just 11 seconds back of Sandburg’s #4. If one of those two runs a great race on Saturday and the rest of the top four delivers as usual, Sandburg could make it interesting.

Based on season long speed rating, Tully has Sandburg as your #2 choice.

Overall Morning-Line Team Scores - Boys               (after the race)                                                                                                                                                                 
  1   Great Oak              CA    169  (California)
  2   Sandburg               IL    205  (Midwest   )
  3   Hopkins                MN    206  (Heartland )
  4   Dana Hills             CA    220  (California)
  5   The Woodlands          TX    229  (South     )

There are a few other schools who may have a chance to knock off Great Oak. Hopkins (MN) scored 71 to handily win the Heartland Regional with a #1 through #5 spread of just 19 seconds. They beat runner-up Edina (MN), a team ranked in the top 10 nationally by Dyestat, by 64 points, but the worry is that Hopkins doesn’t have a true low stick as their top finisher at NXN Heartland was senior Jack Henschel in 13th place. The Woodlands (TX) is also dangerous after scoring 24 to win the Texas 6A state title and 49 at NXN South.

Dana Hills (CA) is the final school worth watching for as mentioned above they scored 65 at the California Division I state meet — a total often good enough to win but no match for Great Oak’s dominant performance on the day. Dana Hills is very good, but their results show why Great Oak is favored to win on Saturday. The two teams also met at Mt. SAC on October 19, and Great Oak spanked Dana Hills, 31 to 63. When you’re scoring half the total of a top-five team in the country (which Dana Hills is,*Dyestat HS Rankings), you’re probably not losing — to anyone.

Boys’ Individuals

2015 is a very strong year for individuals at NXN: 10 of Dyestat’s top 14 individuals will be on the line in Portland (though that doesn’t include the top two, Andrew Hunter of Virginia and Phillip Rocha of California). The favoritein our mind is Oregon signee Austin Tamagno of Brea Olinda (CA). Last year, Tamagno’s team qualified for NXN, but he eschewed that meet to run Foot Lockers instead (where he finished 5th, the #2 underclassmen). This year, Tamagno has elected to run NXN only as he is taking the ACT on the day of Foot Locker finals (Related: MB: Austin Tamagno chooses NXN – Is he scared of Drew Hunter and Phillip Rocha???) .

Tamagno will look to add some more hardware on Saturday (courtesy Austin Tamagno) Tamagno will look to add some more hardware on Saturday (courtesy Austin Tamagno)

Tamagno has run well in big races before (see his 5th at 2014 Foot Lockers) and has some jaw-dropping times: a 14:23 course record at Mt. SAC last year and a 14:45 at the California Division III state meet, the #4 performance in meet history (all divisions — only Rocha, Ammar Moussa and German Fernandez have run faster). His 4:04 1600 PB is also tops in the field. One of the only concerns regarding Tamagno is the same concern Great Oak faces: the weather. A California boy has never won the NXN individual title, though none have ever been as strong a favorite as Tamagno.

Tamagno’s season-best speed rating, per Tully Runners, is 198. That put him at #2 in in the field behind Ben Petrella of Liverpool (NY), whose 15:31 at the NXN NY Regional at Bowdoin Park translated to a 199. One second on a tully speed rating is worth 3 seconds. However, while the upstate New York boy Petrella will likely thrive in the wet conditions, he does have a loss on the season as Foot Locker Northeast champ Noah Affolder beat him by 18 seconds at the McQuaid Invitational in October.

Apart from Petrella, there are several other men who could challenge Tamagno. Let’s run through them quickly:

  • Jon Davis, Oakwood (IL): Undefeated in 2015, with wins at NXN Midwest and FL Midwest. 197 speed rating.
  • Casey Clinger, American Fork (UT): The junior won NXN Southwest, defeating FL Midwest runner-up Paul Roberts (who was 3rd at NXN SW) by 10 seconds. 8th last year (#2 returner). 196 speed rating.
  • Paul Roberts, Lyons (CO): 2nd FL MW, 3rd NXN SW. 18th last year. 197 speed rating.
  • Ben Veatch, Carmel (IN): 3rd FL MW, 2nd NXN MW. 7th last year (top returner).

It can be hard to judge everyone against each other because we never know how seriously athletes take regional championships. Last year, Olin Hacker was only 10th at Foot Locker Midwest because he wanted to conserve energy for NXN and FL finals. It worked: he wound up second in each. What is clear is that Tamagno is the favorite, but beyond that it should be a close and interesting race. Top 10 speed ratings according to Tully appear below.

Name                  Grade     School              State     Rating    Region
--------------------  -----    -------------------  -----     ------    ---------
Ben Petrella           12      Liverpool              NY       199      New York
Austin Tamagno         12      Brea Olinda            CA       198      California   ** Individual
Jonathan Davis         12      Oakwood                IL       197      Midwest      ** Individual
Benjamin Veatch        12      Carmel                 IN       197      Midwest      ** Individual
Paul Roberts           12      Lyons                  CO       197      Southwest    ** Individual
Eduardo Herrera        12      Madera South           CA       197      California   ** Individual
David Principe Jr      11      La Salle Academy       RI       197      Northeast    ** Individual
Casey Clinger          11      American Fork          UT       196      Southwest
Jaret Carpenter        12      Wayzata                MN       196      Heartland
Alek Parsons           12      Ogden                  UT       195      Southwest    ** Individual


What do you think? Discuss this race on our world famous messageboard in our high school forum.

Our 2015 girls NXN preview is here.

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