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The Times' Rankings A preseason look at the top cross-country teams in the Southland:

September 13, 2003|John Ortega

BOYS

1. Don Lugo (SS-Div. I)

Conquistadores are favored to win their second state Division I title -- and first since 1999 -- after a runner-up finish to Loyola last year.

2. Royal (SS-Div. I)

Highlanders failed to advance to the state championships last year but could equal or top their second-place finish in 2001 this year.

3. Murrieta Valley (SS-Div. I)

Senior Anthony Mercado will lead a Nighthawk squad that could improve upon last year's fifth-place finish in the state Division I final.

4. Canyon Country Canyon (SS-Div. I)

Cowboys lack the front-runners they've had in recent years but still appear capable of a fourth consecutive top-six finish in the state meet.

5. Barstow (SS-Div. III)

Avery Himes is one of three returning seniors for team shooting for its third consecutive Division III Southern Section and state titles.

6. St. John Bosco (SS-Div. II)

Junior Randy Skillens is the top returning runner for team that finished fifth in the state Division II final last year.

7. Oak Park (SS-Div. IV)

Junior Ken Brook hopes to pace Eagles to third consecutive Southern Section Division IV title and to second consecutive state championship.

8. Sonora (SS-Div. II)

Senior Arturo Martinez could lead Raiders to second appearance in the state championships in four years.

9. Sultana (SS-Div. II)

Five of top seven runners return for a Sultan squad that placed ninth in the Southern Section Division II final last year.

10. Dana Hills (SS-Div. I)

Dolphins have only two returning varsity runners, but it would be unwise to overlook a program that finished third in the last two state Division I finals.

-- John Ortega

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