Bishop’s cross country team returns two of county’s top runners

By Phil Dailey

Staff Writer

Cross country is generally viewed as an individual sport, but this year, it’s all about the team for The Bishop’s School’s boys cross country team.

Del Mar’s Will Wilde Botta and Carmel Valley’s Patrick Hoagland are the top returning runners in San Diego’s Division IV this season, but they’ll be the first to say that they want the entire team to succeed and make a run at the CIF title.

Despite the Knights’ two seniors finishing in the top two spots at SDSCIF finals last November, they placed third as a team and just missed out on the state tournament.

Botta and Hoagland, along with junior Michael Pettit, went on to compete at state, but because of the team’s third-place finish in the section, they were not able to compete as a team.

This year they hope to put an end to Country Day’s five-year run as CIF champs and head coach Adam Weiner thinks he has the team that is capable of reaching that goal.

“Unless something doesn’t go well this year, I think those guys should be going (to state) as a team,” said Weiner, now in his sixth season as the Knights’ coach. “We have some good guys coming up and they are very dedicated. I think this is arguably the best boys team we have ever had here.”

Botta may not only be the best runner in the section, but he’s up there with the best in the state. Last season he took fourth at state with a time of 15 minutes, 50 seconds at the 5K course in Fresno. The three runners who placed ahead of him all graduated. For Hoagland, he wasn’t far off the pace placing 17th at state with a time of 16:11.

The expectations are high for the Knights’ duo to lead the team to bigger goals this year.

“When you finish 1-2 as juniors, everyone expects you to finish 1-2 as seniors,” Hoagland said. “I think it helps because we feel like we should finish 1-2 (again). It’s good pressure.”

But for the team to unseed Country Day this season, they will have to lean on Pettit as well as a few others to put in times that would boost their team score.

Also returning to lead that effort is junior Thomas King and sophomores Alex Kilman and Matt Healey. Those three all finished in the top 30 last season in the section finals.

“The core of our team is back,” Botta said. “Last year we missed as a team by four points. We’re thinking this year, with the guys we got coming back … we’re really hoping to make it.”

But it all starts at the top with Botta and Hoagland, who met at Bishop’s in the seventh grade and since joining the cross country team in ninth grade, have been good friends.

“They are really good examples and team leaders and that has brought in the younger ones to really buy in and discover how fun and rewarding it is,” Weiner said.

On the individual level, Botta and Hoagland have a lot to gain this season as they are both seeking to run at the college level. They both know that they’ll have a bullseye on their back in every meet they compete in based on their past results.

“We’re happy that we have gotten to the point that we are the guys to beat,” Botta said. “But at the same time, you have that big target on your back. I think as the season progresses I will start to feel the pressure a little bit more because I’m not used to feeling that.”

The season gets under way for the Knights on Sept. 9 at a meet in Escondido.