41st Woodbridge Cross Country Classic
Tyrone Gorze of Oregon's Crater HS won the Doug Speck Boys Sweepstakes race at the 41st Woodbridge Cross Country Classic at Great Park in Irvine. (Raymond Tran photo)
IRVINE -- In its return back to Irvine's Great Park, the 41st edition of the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic did not disappoint. With over 10,000 athletes, mostly all coming home with new personal lifetime bests, the invite is known for boasting some of the fastest times on a yearly basis. In 2022, that reputation lived up to the billing! But, more so this year - the invite attracted more top nationally ranked faces than ever before.
In the absence of the top squad in the nation in Newbury Park, the Sweepstakes race was dominated by the out-of-state powerhouses. Individually, non-Californian boys earned the four fastest times and six of the top nine times overall. the team breakdown, they also controlled the top four spots and six of the top eight.
After placing sixth at the Eastbay National XC Championships while also capturing the Oregon 5A state title, Tyrone Gorze ran away from the decorated field with a 13:42.8 victory. The Crater senior surged at the 5-minute mark and continued to press the pace all throughout, running solo against the clock for the last half of the race.
California's top finisher was Millikan's Jason Parra, who placed fourth in 13:56.5. Senior Bille Issa of West Ranch (SS) closed strong to place sixth overall (13:57.9). Newbury Park senior Aaron Sahlman placed seventh in 14:01.7.
With Gorze controlling the pace throughout the snake-like three mile, flat terrain, the team battle created its own headlines behind the scenes.
As if we were developing a Hollywood script... a coach develops a program from the ground up and into a national powerhouse. Choosing to move his family out of state, he takes on a new coaching position and in less than a year, he returns with his new squad to win one of the most competitive invites in the nation! The same competition that elevated his old program into the national spotlight a decade earlier...
Except - that is exactly what happened! In his first season as head cross country coach of Herriman, a school just south of Salt Lake City, Utah - former Great Oak head coach Doug Soles took over the reins this past track season. In seven short months, Herriman has catapulted itself up the national rankings in capturing the Woodbridge Sweeps race!
With Herriman sitting back patiently in fourth as a team at the mile, all five scorers came up big with a strong last mile to overcome Gorze's Crater squad by a 117-139 margin. They mastered the last mile for the win. They were in third place as a team at the two-mile and 30 points behind Crater and 29 behind Texas' Southlake Carroll. With Noah Jenkins (14:01.9) and William Horne (14:12.0) up front, Ryland Garner (14:29.6) made up 18 spots alone over the last mile.
Sitting behind Newbury Park in the state rankings for Division 2, Granada was the top California team and fourth overall. Like Herriman, they stepped up over the last mile to move ahead of Great Oak, which placed fifth overall in the team standings. Dheeraj Gurusamy and Roland Ruckmann-Barnes crossed together at 14:22 to lead Granada. Meanwhile, Great Oak was led by Gabriel Rodriguez' 14:31.6.
With Juan Chantaca's 14:31.0, San Clemente was eighth overall in the Sweepstakes race. Ventura, missing two top scorers, was tenth with Micah Grossman's 14:31.1 kicking off their scoring. Off the statewide radar coming in, Torrey Pines was a nice surprise. Led by Ryan Thomas' 14:17.7, they ran the tenth fastest team time of the invite.
Despite not running four of their top five, Newbury Park still managed to record the 13th-fastest team time of the meet. Aside from Sahlman's 14:01.7 effort, senior Aaron Cantu also delivered 14:40.6 a performance.
Not to be lost in the bright lights of the Doug Speck Sweepstakes race was the performance of Carson Noecker of Hartington (Neb.) HS, who ran the third-fastest time of the meet to win the Varsity Rated race in 13:49.7, crossing well ahead of runner-up Chris Henry of Park City (UT), who covered the course in 14:29.1.
Six of the top eight California performances were delivered by underclassmen.
TOP TEN CALIFORNIA INDIVIDUALS
1. Jason Parra (Millikan/SS/Jr.) 13:56.5
2. Bille Issa (West Ranch/SS/Jr.) 13:57.9
3. Aaron Sahlman (Newbury Park/SS/Sr.) 14:01.7
4. Matthew Donis (Highland/SS/Sr.) 14:04.8
5. Landon Pretre (Menlo School/CC/So.) 14:06.7
6. Carter Spradling (Clovis East/CS/Jr.) 14:07.0
7. Omar Reyes (El Camino/SD/Jr.) 14:11.1
8. Grant Morgenfeld (Palo Alto/CC/Jr.) 14:13.0
9. Christopher Caudillo (Clovis/CS/Sr.) 14:13.3
10. Ryan Thomas (Torrey Pines/SD/Sr.) 14:17.7
TOP TEN CALIFORNIA TEAM TIMES:
1. Granada (NC) - 73:16.6
2. Great Oak (SS) - 73:38.5
3. San Clemente (SS) - 74:22.8
4. Torrey Pines (SD) - 75:10.0
5. Ventura (SS) - 75:16.2
6. Clovis (CS) - 75:24.6
7. Newbury Park (SS) - 75:30.0
8. Mira Costa (SS) - 75:43.5
9. Redondo Union (SS) - 75:46.9
10. Trabuco Hills (SS) - 75:48.1
Mark Gardner is a teacher, announcer, former coach and a regular contributor to MileSplit