Tori Gaitan (r) and Fatima Cortes lead the strong Great Oak distance team. (Frank Bellino photo)
This final installment of 2019 CIF-Southern Section previews focuses on Division 1, which arguably possesses the most depth and overall talent in the country.
With the inclusion of several strong programs in 2019, the juggernaut that is Division 1 in the Southern Section will be more competitive in 2019 than ever. Some of California's best athletes fall short of qualifying past the Division 1 prelims if not on their 'A' game in the first round of the postseason. In 2018, 44 percent of all Southern Section Masters Meet qualifiers ascended from Division 1. So, get ready for our most detailed preview yet.
For the boys, Riverside County has monopolized the team title plaques this past decade! Over the past nine seasons, the Southwestern League powerhouses of Vista Murrieta and Great Oak have each captured four titles. Meanwhile, Rancho Verde claimed the other title in 2017.
In 2019, the boys of Long Beach Poly are the looking to regain the seat atop the division like the Jackrabbits -- aka Trackrabbits -- did from 2001-2007. They also claimed team titles in 1998-1999. LB Poly will do so primarily on the legs of their sprinters as they return all four from a 400 relay team that finished fourth at the California State Meet in 2018. Their greatest challenge should come from Great Oak. Despite graduations from some of the division's best, the Wolfpack will continue to be in the team title conversation in defense of their 2018 crown.
Moving over to the girls, Great Oak has gone against tradition and proven that team titles can be earned through distance-driven supremacy. Great Oak is the defending team champions, taking their second title in three seasons in 2018. Great Oak earned 47 points solely from the 1600 and 3200 meters a year ago as one should expect to see a similar pattern in 2019. The Wolfpack will also be bolstered by points in the jumps, where they are projected to earn around 20 more. Meanwhile, Long Beach Poly's girls will always be in the picture as they have been the most dominant program in the section over the past 25 seasons. The Jackrabbit women have claimed 18 titles since the 1992 season while earning the plaque from 2007-2015.
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