FRESNO – The CIF State Cross Country Championships took place Saturday, Nov. 25 at Woodward Park in Fresno and the Great Oak Cross Country program had faith they would run well, but knew they were on the brink of being challenged. The target on their back has grown over the years and the fact that the program itself has swept in Division 1 the past three year’s did not make the quest for a fourth straight title any easier, especially with schools like Roosevelt and Clovis Buchannan looking to knock the Pack off.
Though they were indeed challenged, the Wolfpack boys’ and girls’ teams did indeed answer the call by sweeping the Division I state titles for the fourth consecutive year.
The Great Oak boys withstood an extraordinary performance by runner-up Roosevelt High School and the girls’ team was also able to fend off the would be challenger, Clovis Buchanan, which was a team that many projected to beat the Wolfpack as well as Vista Murrieta, which had its strongest showing of the year this past weekend.
For the boys’ – ranked No. 1 nationally by milesplit.com – they tallied 75 points to defeat Roosevelt (90 pts), who are ranked No. 12 in the same poll. Both schools earned automatic berths to next week’s Nike Cross Nationals (NXN) in Portland, Oregon, which is where Great Oak won a national title two years ago.
Senior Carlos Carvajal led the Wolfpack, placing eighth with a time of 15:23, sophomores Chris Verdugo and Gabe Abbes finished 19th and 22nd and junior Tyler Tickner and senior Jacob Korgan finishing 23rd and 24th, sealing the Great Oak victory.
As for the girls’ team, ranked No. 2 nationally by milesplot.com, they won their sixth straight State title out of the last seven years. Southern Section Division 1 champ Fatima Cortes came in fourth place with a time of 17:32.1, sophomore Tori Gaitan was sixth in 17:35.9 and for senior Sandra Pflughoft, who ran in her fourth State championship meet, she was able to edge her way in to the top 10 in front of Buchanan’s No. 3, which made a huge difference in their 71-103 victory.
The school now has 11 state cross country titles, all won under Coach Doug Soles.
Vista Murrieta scored well Saturday and nearly matched a school-best finish by placing third with 135 points. The Broncos, runners-up in Division 1 in 2011, were considered for an NXN at-large berth Saturday night. Junior Paige Haynes led Vista Murrieta with a 12th-place finish with a time of 18:04.0, while junior Nadine Dubon (29th, 18:35.8) and sophomore Makayla Fick (42nd, 18:50.6) followed.
Boys – Division 1
Team results: 1.) Great Oak -75, 2.) Roosevelt – 90, 3.) Dana Hills – 127, 4.) Los Angeles Loyola – 137, 5.) Crescenta Valley – 154, 6.) Long Beach Poly – 197, 7.) San Jose Bellarmine – 247, 8.) Lake Forest El Toro – 264.
Individuals: 8.) Carvajal (Great Oak) – 15:23.0. Others in the top 30: 19.) Verdugo (Great Oak) – 15:35.5, 22.) Abbes (Great Oak) – 15:39.9, 23.) Tickner (Great Oak) – 15:40.5, 24.) Korgan (Great Oak) – 15:41.9.
Girls – Division 1
Team results: 1.) Great Oak – 71, 2.) Clovis Buchanan – 103, 3.) Vista Murrieta – 135, 4.) Arcadia – 181, 5.) Lake Forest (El Toro) – 214, 6.) King – 276, 7.) Carmel Valley (Canyon Crest Academy) – 276, 8.) Manhattan Beach (Mira Costa) – 277.
Individuals: 4.) Cortes (Great Oak) – 17:32.1, 6.) Gaitan (Great Oak) – 17:35.9. Others in the top 30: 9.) Pflughoft (Great Oak) – 17:55.7, 12.) Haynes (Vista Murrieta) – 18:04.0, 24.) Dang (Great Oak) – 18:23.8, 29.) Dubon (Vista Murrieta) – 18:35.8.