30 Girls XC Teams to Watch this Fall: Oaks Christian (SS)

It's time to get fired up for cross country! Our traditional XC countdown is back, although it may look a little different this time around - our longtime data analyst Jeff George has moved on, leaving this energizing project to the MileSplit team in CA. Our collective goal is to briefly highlight 30 boys and 30 girls teams that we think will have an impact this fall. We will spotlight one team per gender per day over a 30-day period. Similar to past countdowns, we will provide a cross-sampling of teams from all 10 sections without regard to statewide or even division ranking (those will come later, as will articles previewing each section, and returning athletes to watch). As always, if you catch an error or have updated information for us, email CA state editor Jeffrey Parenti (jeffrey.parenti@flosports.tv) and we'll make the corrections.

Oaks Christians (SS/Division IV)

After just missing the podium at the 2021 State Meet, the Lions are more motivated than ever realizing just how close they were to also capturing the state championship.  With a late-season injury derailing those plans last November, the crew returns six from that squad while some new additions may play key roles in upgrading Oaks Christian in 2022.

Up front, the squad returns one of California's best in Payton Godsey (pictured). As a sophomore in 2021, she crossed with the CIF-SS Division 4 individual title (17:21.9) on the Mt. SAC championship course. In the loaded Division IV State Championship race, she placed fifth (17:35.3) and is the third-fastest returner in the division this year. But this past track season, she boasted the best marks in the division with a 4:49.49 for 1600 meters. She placed fifth at the California State Meet in the 3200 meters and improved down to a 10:19.05 for the season.   

But, where Oaks Christian comes in one of the top groups in the state is what crosses behind Godsey. Grace Geyer placed 11th at the State Meet (18:28.2) as a sophomore.  Missing at the CIF-SS Finals, Sarah Colebrooke endured a late season setback and despite not running for two weeks beforehand, gave it a go at the State Meet to help her squad to the fourth-place finish in 2021.  She is coming off a much improved track season that saw her yield 5:17.47 and 11:16.57 lifetime bests. 

Gianna Sanchez returns with a 19:27.4 from the State Meet and ended with a best race (18:54.2) at the Garmin RunningLane Championships last December.  Elizabeth Walker (20:16.3 at the State Meet) and Hannah Webb also return from last year's postseason squad.

Despite last year's fifth scorer transfer to nearby Newbury Park, head coach Wes Smith shared that four new faces will more than make it up for the loss while upgrading the depth of the squad.  

Glancing back at the 2022 track season, Oaks Christian returning five were one of the best in California, with an average of 5:16.02 per girl for the 1600 meters and 11:31.24 for 3200 meters.  

Coach Smith comes into the season more confident than ever, with the group just returning from a solid camp of training in Mammoth.  "The girls are having a great summer; all the markers are well ahead of last year at this point... With a renewed commitment to the weight room, injury prevention, and recovery, the girls are in a good place."

Expect that battle for the Division IV title at State to be as intense as what we saw in 2021, with Oaks Christian right in the thick of it once again!

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2021 Returning Times for 5000 Meters

Oaks Christian (SS)465
1) Payton Godsey17:35.307
2) Grace Geyer18:07.6832
3) Sarah Colebrooke18:50.7090
4) Gianna Sanchez18:54.18100
5) Elizabeth Walker19:52.51257
6) Hannah Webb21:39.13691
Scoring is against all CA teams with returning girls, however it has been adjusted to remove a transfer who otherwise slotted as the No. 5 returner among this group. The full list is available by using the XC Team Scores feature under the Rankings tab at ca.milesplit.com.

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Mark Gardner is a teacher, announcer, former coach, and a regular contributor to MileSplit

Photos by Patrick Corsinita and Daniel Hernandez