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FILE: KEN STEINHARDT , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Mission Viejo's Brett Hickman, right, is part of a strong group of returning runners for the Diablos, who start the season ranked No. 5 in Orange County.

Boys cross country preview: O.C. top 10

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

OCVarsity’s season-opening boys top 10:

O.C. BOYS TOP 10

1. Dana Hills (50 poll points): The Dolphins opened the season as the top-ranked team in CIF-SS Division 1 for the second straight year. All-County junior Jack Landgraf leads four returners from Dana Hills’ team that qualified for the Nike Cross Nationals in 2015.

2. Brea Olinda (45): There is no replacing a talent like Austin Tamagno (Oregon), but the Wildcats still boast formidable names, including Giovanni Orellana and Daniel Perez. Brea is ranked first in CIF-SS Division 3 and figures to be in the state title hunt again.

3. Canyon (32): The Comanches were on the heels of Brea Olinda in the Crestview League Finals last year, with just three points separating the teams. Dalton Tanner is the league’s top returner, having finished fourth in last year’s race.

4. Trabuco Hills (31): The Mustangs seek a berth in the state meet with their eyes set on a top-10 showing. Kyle Hess is their senior leader. Sophomore Josh O’Neill and junior Bryan Llopis posted top-10 finishes in the Fastback Shootout on Saturday.

5. Mission Viejo (29): Mission Viejo narrowly clipped Tesoro, 47-49, in the Sea View League Finals last year. The Diablos’ top four finishers from that race – Ethan Adams, Brett Hickman, Luke Hilberath and Dylan Bray – all return.

6. Valencia (26.5): The Tigers return all five scoring runners from last year, a dominating quintet that won the Empire League title with the minimum 15 points last year. Jesus Moreno, David Pacheco and Ethan Frisone lead the pack.

7. El Toro (22.5): Chargers coach Ken Chai says this team has “the best work ethic and heart” of any he has worked with in his 16-plus years of coaching. Adrian Vargas and Caleb Dodd are the only returners for the Chargers, who hope hard work in the offseason will pay off.

8. Newport Harbor (15): Ben Wilson and the Sailors hope to compete for the Sunset League title. They will have to get through two-time defending league champion Huntington Beach, which is led by brothers Alekos and Lars Mitchel.

9. San Juan Hills (9): The Stallions opened the year with the county’s top showing in the Great Cow Run. Sophomores Daniel White and Jacob Aries finished the 3-mile race in under 15 minutes. San Juan Hills placed fifth as a team.

10. Tesoro (7): The Titans were the overall champions of the Sea View League in 2015, and they return five of seven starters from their run to the CIF-SS Division 2 Finals. It will be hard to replace Andrew Suda and Carter Christman at the top.

Also receiving votes: Woodbridge (4), Esperanza (4), Servite (3), JSerra (3), Edison (2), Huntington Beach (2), Santa Ana (1), Foothill (1), Mater Dei (1), Yorba Linda (1).

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