Great Oak sweeps titles at Great American XC Festival

Smiling faces of the Great Oak boys XC team (above) and girls team (below) after winning the Race of Champions titles at the Great American Cross Country Festival in Cary, NC. (Images courtesy of @dnoble1/@GOHSXCTRACK)


Great Oak's cross country team traveled some 2,500-plus miles to Cary, NC to compete at the Saturday's Great American Cross Country Festival and came away with not one but two team championships.

In sweeping the Race of Champions divisions for boys and girls, the Wolfpack also knocked off another national power, Loudoun Valley of Purcellville, Virginia in both divisions. The boys did so with a record team time of 76:29, breaking the previous standard of 77:00 set by Christian Brothers Academy (NJ).

"We had solid races on both sides. Great pack running," Great Oak head coach Doug Soles wrote in a text exchange on Monday. "We are still in our base building phase, so we are very happy to break the course record for boys knowing we haven't really started sharpening much yet.

"It was fun being the first CA teams to ever win that meet."
Great Oak's boys beat Loudoun Valley (VA) by 39 points led by senior Chris Verdugo, whose 15:10.2 personal best for 5,000 meters ranked 11th overall and ninth among scorers.

In fact, all five of the boys scorers for Great Oak ran 5K PRs.

Verdugo was followed by senior Cole Sawires Yager (15:15.5, 15th place, 11th among scorers), senior Gabriel Abbes (15:17.4, 19/14), junior John Worthy (15:22.1, 22/16) and senior Aric Reza (15:24.6, 26/19). 

In the latest MileSplit50 National XC Rankings for boys, Great Oak ranked No. 2 behind Newbury Park, following its dominant performance at Woodbridge, with Loudoun Valley No. 3. Purcellville (Loudoun Valley) and Temecula (Great Oak) went 1-2 at Nike Cross Nationals, separated by 37 points (Newbury Park was sixth, well back). 

Great Oak's girls ALSO beat Loudoun Valley to take the team title, led by senior Tori Gaitan (18:08.6, 18/8). Gaitan was followed closely by senior Audrey Dang running a 5K PR of 18:14.8 (25/12), a pair of freshmen in Aishling Fabian (18:18.8, 28/14) and Kelli Gaffney (18:20.1, 30/16), and senior Aubrie Nex (18:28.8, 35/21).

"The girls frosh that raced did a great job of keeping us at a high level on the national stage," Soles wrote. "We have some great depth and it showed. Audrey Dang had a very good race."

Gaitan, who missed all of the track and field season last spring as a result of growth-spurt related complications, "powered through," Soles wrote, despite being sick.

"(There is) still a ways to go to get her 100% conditioning wise," he wrote.

The Wolfpack boys had a 1:16:29 team total (15:17 average) and a 15 second spread. The girls had a team total of 1:31:32 with an 18:18 average and :20 spread.

In the latest MileSplit50 National XC Rankings for girls, Great Oak ranked No. 10 with Loudoun Valley and Pine Crest (FL) honorable mention outside the top 25. At Great American, Great Oak beat Loudoun Valley by 54 points and third-place Pine Crest by 76 points. 

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