It’s fair to say the Canyon boys cross country team entered Foothill League portion of the season with a bit of an edge to itself.
The Cowboys felt somewhat like afterthoughts in a league that includes Saugus, which was ranked No. 1 in the preseason CIF-Southern Section Division 2 poll, and West Ranch, ranked No. 5.
The team grabbed some attention right away, however, winning the first league race in late September, placing first as a team with Ethan Danforth finishing first overall.
The first-place finish even caught some of the Cowboys coaches off guard.
“Well, I must admit, I was a bit surprised just based off reading the rankings and where people expected us to finish,” said coach Paul Broneer, who’s been with the program since 1995. “With cross country, the team that wins is the team that shows up.
“Every team deals with things like losing shoes and kids not feeling well. We proved we were the best team that day.”
Canyon, which began the season ranked 10th in the Division 2 poll, jumped to No. 5 following the first league race.
“We saw it as one big opportunity to go out there and make a statement,” said Patrick King, the lone senior on the team. “We wanted to let people know we weren’t messing around.”
For the Cowboys to fulfill that hope of staying on the radar, they were going to need to have another strong showing in the second league race.
Less than a second separated Danforth from West Ranch’s Preston Pope for first place in last Tuesday’s meet. The Cowboys placed second, just one point behind West Ranch. King finished sixth and Estevan Covarrubias took home seventh.
They again shot up the rankings, moving up to No. 4 this week.
“These are tough kids,” Broneer said. “They run hundreds of miles together in altitude, hot weather, smoggy weather – they amaze me.”
Other coaches around the league have also taken notice of Canyon’s superb start.
“I remember when this group was in ninth and 10th grade and thinking they were really solid for their age group,” said West Ranch coach Sara Soltani. “What I really respect about their program is how long their coaching staff has stayed in place.
“They’ve had some down periods but their group has stuck together and that really just shows how committed they are to building that program.”
Broneer acknowledges there have been tough stretches throughout his lengthy tenure. And he also recognizes the stellar periods, like the girls team winning 12 straight league titles.
The boys team has not reached the postseason since making the CIF finals in 2009.
The program has a strong belief that streak may be nearing an end.
“We’re at this point where we’re on track to get where we want,” Danforth said. “We just have to keep taking the opportunities when they come.”