The Great Oak High School boys’ cross-country team continued their winning ways at the CIF State Cross-country Championships, which were held at Woodward Park earlier this month. It marked their sixth consecutive Division 1 state championship, while the girls finished second to Clovis Buchanan, making it the first time since 2011 that the Lady Wolfpack runners were not the Division 1 champion.
Great Oak’s boys ran with authority, outshining the field with 46 points to Carmichael Jesuit’s 144 and San Jose Bellarmine’s 145. Seniors Chris Verdugo (seventh; 15 minutes 9.4 seconds) and Gabe Abbes, (eighth; 15:11) led the way for Great Oak, which was a solid for Abbes, since he missed much of last year to an injury. Aric Reza placed 12th in 15:14.5 for Great Oak and fellow senior Cole Sawires-Yager was 15th in 15:21.4.
Great Oak’s girls went in to the race having won seven straight Division 1 titles and were looking to set a record for most consecutive championships in meet history, but they had to try to do so while running without one of their top runners in Tori Gaitan, who was out with the flu. Arianna Griffiths was another runner that wasn’t at full health, but the Lady Wolfpack runners all stepped up in the final mile, ultimately placing second, falling to Buchanan, 67-71. Senior Audrey Dang (10th, 17:50.6) and freshman Kelli Gaffney (12th, 17:56.6) both had their best races of the season.
“The girls did great,” head coach Doug Soles said. “They ran in the range that we thought they would run. We just got beat by a team that wanted it a little bit more than we did and that happens. We’ve been that winning team that won by three or four points, and now we’ve lost one by four. Sometimes, it phases you; sometimes, it doesn’t.”
Vista Murrieta High School’s Lady Broncos, last year’s Division 1 runner-up, placed sixth at this year’s meet. Senior Makayla Fick was 16th, running in a time of 18:06.3. Linfield Christian High School sophomore Ryley Burns also had the day’s other standout individual performance, placing fifth in Division 5, running in a time of 18:31.
Great Oak’s attention, along with the other local qualifiers, turned to Nike Cross Nationals, which was held in Portland, Oregon, this past weekend. Details from that event will be in next week’s issue and will be online at www.myvalleynews.com.
JP Raineri can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.