21 Aug 2014
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Great Oak Cross Country Picks Up Speed

The team is one of the biggest in the sport, and now it's snapping up titles.

Neighbors of Great Oak High School are used to the pitter-patter of the cross country team's not-so-tiny feet. This year, that patter became a roar.

In the six years since the school opened, its cross-country team grew to the massive size of more than 200.

"It is amazing that there are so many," said Corinna Coram, a parent of a current student and GOHS alumna. "You would think that the New York City Marathon hit Temecula when they set out."

Cross country is usually one of the bigger teams in interscholastic sports averaging  30-50 runners. Great Oak's 2010 CIF team hovered above 200. 

The team is not only great in number of runners, but also in accomplishments. Its girls squad won the Division I program's first state championship last month in Fresno. It took 2nd and 9th places in previous state championships and four league titles, too.

"My goal was to take a first-year school and build according to my vision of being a national-class program," said Doug Soles, the head coach since the school's inception. "So far we have been ranked as highly as 3rd in the country and 1st in the state (for all divisions)."

For the results of the championship, click here.

Soles attributed the state title in part to last year's 2nd-place finish. The Great Oak girls' team was heavily favored but eventually upset by Torrey Pines by 3 points.  

"If you go into a meet hoping to get 8th and you get 2nd, you are going to be ecstatic.  If you go in projected to win by a lot and take 2nd, it is pretty painful," Soles said. "We all learned that we could channel that emotion into the hard work and dedication it would take to win the state title this year."  

Senior Alia Bales echoed her coach's memories, saying last year's result fueled this year's team.

"When we lost it was heartbreaking," said Bales, one of the team's captains and scholar-athlete awardees. "We vowed that we would win it the next year. We accomplished that."

Senior John Mattoon credits the memorable season to great leadership, including assistant coaches Daniel Noble, Vicki Espinoza and Linda Hernandez.

"The coaching staff really set the bar high for us, which is a great thing because you feel like if you don't reach those goals you let them down, you let yourself down," Mattoon said.

Now, many on the team, including Coach Soles, Alia and John, are prepping for track in the spring. To raise funds, the team is hosting a Christmas tree lot, which will run until Dec. 18.

Also on the slate: continued recruiting and development for future teams.

"Nobody knows who will become the next superstar runner once things start to click," Soles said. "So we get out as many freshmen each year as we can and try to develop each one."

For more details on the tree lot and the team, please visit the Great Oak cross-country team's website.

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