Threats to Great Oak's Dominance Loom in Division 1

Division 1 Girls

Tori Gaitan, front left, and Fatima Cortes lead D1 favorite Great Oak. (Clark Kranz)

Runner to beat: Olivia O'Keefe

Team to beat: Great Oak

Olivia O'Keefe of Davis will look to defend her State D1 title Saturday in Fresno. (James Leash)

Individual competition 

Davis senior Olivia O'Keefe returns to the Woodward Park course to defend her CIF State Division 1 title. A year ago, she ran what remains the fastest 5K of her life, winning in 17:28.90. This is O'Keefe's third trip to State (13th as a soph) and she's looking to match the accomplishment of her sister Fiona O'Keefe, who won consecutive State D1 titles in 2013-14. She returns to Fresno knowing that her 2016 State title time is nearly 21 seconds off her clocking in winning her first Sac-Joaquin Section title on Nov. 10. That race included Oak Ridge's Maddy Denner and Elena Denner. Maddy and Elena enter the State final with the Nos. 1 and 3 fastest 5Ks in the state this year among D1 runners. Elena was second to O'Keeffe in the Section final with Maddy fourth, bookending Cosumnes Oak freshman Natalie Harper. Buchanan sophomore Corie Smith, fourth at the State final as a freshman and the defending Central Section champ, was toppled at the Section final by junior teammate Meagen Lowe, who won by nearly nine seconds. That's hardly a stunner. Lowe was sixth at State last year, less than a second behind Smith. Expect to see these two Clovis runners at the front. Smith and Lowe have the two fastest times in D1 this year at three miles and rank 2 and 4, respectively, at 5K. The understatement of this subhead is that this field is loaded. Three juniors and a sophomore went 1-4 at the Southern Section final, with Great Oak junior Fatima Cortes pulling the upset in D1-course-record-fashion (16:27.10) over the two 2019 favorites: Walnut's Chloe Arriaga, a two-time section champ, and King's Lauren Peurifoy. And then there was Great Oak soph Tori Gaitan rolling in in fourth. Peurifoy was second to O'Keeffe at State last year by a narrow .40 seconds. Don't sleep on Burbank Burroughs senior Emily Virtue. She was ninth last year, sixth as a sophomore and fifth at last week's Section final. Also, Great Oak senior Sandra Pflughoft could give you a tour of the Woodward Park course. This will be her fourth State final. She placed 15th overall as a freshman in 2014, 15th as a sophomore and 20th last year. She was 10th at the Section final.  Don't lose track of emerging Eastlake sophomore Patty Miessner, the San Diego Section champion, who blistered the Morley Field course at Balboa Park (17:37.10) to beat El Camino junior Liliana Prieto by 20.60 seconds and third place San Marcos sophomore Caitlin Cornell by 27 seconds.

 Great Oak has won five consecutive State D1 titles, a streak Buchanan hopes to snap. (Pat Rhames)

Team competition

Great Oak has won the last five State Division 1 titles and six of the last seven dating to 2010. The Wolfpack were second in 2009. Last year, despite O'Keefe's individual victory, Great Oak posted 47 points to beat runner-up Davis by 20. It was much closer in 2015. Behind Destiny Collins winning the individual title, Great Oak squeaked by Davis, 44-46. At Saturday's Southern Section D1 final, Great Oak, ranked No. 2 nationally in the lastest Flo50 Team Rankings, posted 56 points to beat runner-up and Southwestern League rival Vista Murrieta by 82. A virtual meet run through the MileSplit database, doesn't spit out Great Oak as a lock. Far from it. Predictions run at three miles and at 5,000 meters have Clovis Buchanan, No. 6 on the Flo50 national list, as the winner with Great Oak second at both distances. Arcadia, El Toro and Vista Murrieta are the next three teams at the three-mile distance with Vista Murrieta, McFarland and Riverside King next at 5K. Buchanan, third last year and fourth in 2015, appears an absolute threat to GO's title run, with Smith, Lowe and senior Sydney Fox populating the list of the state's top runners this season at both distances. In winning the Central Section title by 46 points over Clovis High, Buchanan put up 26 points (1+2+6+7+10) with sophomore Amanda Dolberg and senior Katie Nili finishing before Fox. 

Great Oak is the nation's No. 2 ranked team but challenges await at the State D1 final. (Jeffrey Parenti)

State Leaders: Three Mile Run

State Leaders: 5,000 Meters