Countdown to XC Day 1: Great Oak Girls

2017 was the season in which the Great Oak dynasty could have been beaten and the streak could have ended. The transfer of Tori Gaitan and the breakout of Fatima Cortes, along with the team's normally strong improvement overall, took care of that. Now it doesn't look like the end is coming anytime soon, as Sandra Pflughoft was the only senior in the Wolfpack's top 8 last fall (and they only had 2 in their top 12). The team "only" returns 7 sub-20 5K runners this year, but results from track season tell us they will be much deeper. Great Oak has 8 returning runners that ran under 5:20 and an astonishing 21 at 5:40 or better. Arianna Griffiths, the returning #6, clocked 4:47 and 10:32, and was the 3rd best returner on the squad in both events. Freshman Brianna Weidler broke out with a 5:10/11:26 season, and fellow frosh Sophie Rodriguez ran 11:32. Gaitan leads an absolutely rising junior contingent on this team: by themselves without any Great Oak seniors or sophomores, they would be the best returning 1600 team in California. As it stands, the Wolfpack has the top returning spring 1600 and 3200 times (and fall 3 mile times) in the nation, and ranks 4th in returning 5K.

If it sound like I'm raving, well, I am. I can understand that their competitors may be tired of hearing their praises sung, but I hope that fans of the sport can appreciate the 2018 Wolfpack for what they are shaping up to be: arguably the best squad of their dynasty, and possibly one of the best single-season teams in California history. Great Oak could be dominant in Division 1 this fall, and has to be in the conversation for the best teams in the country - and they could be just as good in 2019, which means the streak could reach 10 before we see another opportunity for a contender to end it.

Team Statistics:

  • 5K Improvement Rating: 1
  • 3 Mile Improvement Rating: 4
  • 5K Returning Rankings: 1
  • 3 Mile Returning Rankings: 1
  • 3200 Returning Rankings: 1
  • 1600 Returning Rankings: 1

The purpose of the Countdown To XC is not to predict the top 30 teams in the state for the upcoming season (although we certainly hope that the top 15-20 teams are included in the countdown at some point). The goal is to recognize thirty teams to watch as cross country begins, using data to uncover squads with strengths that stand out from the pack. The countdown is also not meant to be in a strict order, because it's impossible to sort out several teams of similar strength at this point of the season.