For the last several years I've done a Countdown to XC feature in the 30 days leading up to the start of the fall season. This strange school year will be no exception! However, the usual format for the countdown won't work this time around - it depends heavily on spring track data (which we don't have) to evaluate championship contenders and try to predict emerging challengers. So, instead of a rankings-style countdown, I'm going to feature 30 boys teams and 30 girls teams that I think will have a significant impact on the upcoming, unique winter cross country season. We'll begin with the obvious contenders state-wide and in every section, and then work our way to some potential sleepers.
It may take a while for this year's Wolfpack squad to come together, and for that reason this uprooted, delayed cross country season may be a big benefit to them. Great Oak's boys lost 5 runners from the top 7 that dominated at the Division 1 state meet, plus an additional transfer of a runner in line to be top 7 this year.
For most teams, that would mean starting over from scratch and writing this winter off as a rebuilding season. Great Oak, however, has the depth to recover and still threaten for a state title. In addition to experienced returner John Worthy, the Wolfpack class of 2021 will be rounded out by Austin Montez (who led the team at Desert Twilight), Scott Kiehn, and Anthony Nguyen. These seniors will be supported and pushed by a strong sophomore class featuring Nathan Lennox and Mark Cortes, along with juniors Cameron and Carson Smith.
One other thing fuels my optimism regarding this relatively unknown squad: over the last 7 years, Great Oak has been California's best program in terms of year-over-year improvement. I'm betting that an extra 4 months of training bears that out, and brings the Wolfpack back into contention.
Great Oak Stats:
*: includes transferred runner; approximately 4th without him
**: includes transferred runner; approximately 3rd without him