Though the Great Oak boys didn't qualify for Nike Cross Nationals last year and placed 8th at the California state meet, the track times produced by the returnees have to translate into something good for their team. Last track season the boys had 7 returnees under 10 minutes in the 3200, led by Nick Doan at 9:05 and two others under 9:30. That same group of 7 all ran under 4:30 in the 1600, once again led by Nick Doan at 4:11. Despite the team's disappointing end to the past XC season, they still had 5 guys post 3 mile times just around 15 minutes with only a 20 second spread. This XC season should be a good one for the Great Oak boys.
Boys Top 7 Returnees Times : 3M XC
1. How many years have you been coaching high school cross country (and at your current school)?
I have been at Great Oak since we opened in 2004 and this will be my 15th season as a head XC/Track Coach.
2. What do you attribute as the main reasons for the success of your program?
There are many reasons we have been able to find success as a program. The first being that we live in an incredible area where academics and athletics are a focus in most households and athletes for the most part are supported and allowed to focus on their athletics over jobs and babysitting siblings.
The second reason is we have amazing kids that work extremely hard to develop in our program. We have it set up that anyone who wants to work hard and develop can work their way to the top. We have been consistent at being one of the top teams in CA since 2009, and a lot of that is due to kids working hard year round and us being able to develop runners to go along with the usual talented kids we all get. The one thing that has set us apart at State has been the developed superstars in our program, the ones that didn’t start there, but developed there over time.
3. What would be the best way to describe your style and philosophy of coaching and working with high school runners?
I would classify myself as a competitor and I try to teach that to the kids. I am probably on the more aggressive side of things in trying to find ways to improve our program each year and so far we have been successful at doing that. Coach Dan Noble is our other varsity coach and he puts a heavy emphasis on core and strength for injury prevention and overall ability. The philosophy we focus on is developing aerobic based athletes over their 4 years of high school that have learned to compete against the best in the country, and to be ready to run in college from the time they step onto their school’s campus. When they get to college they need to learn how to run faster recovery paces and add weights and that is about it. Very rarely do athletes out of our program struggle with the workouts in college.
4. What are your core beliefs in your training plan and workouts for your cross country squads?
We really try to set up a system that focuses on all the aspects of training. We do speed ladders and sprints regularly and focus on athleticism a lot. Ultimately our training plan is geared around building aerobic athletes that have no issue with the 5k distance. We do 11 workouts a week, each with a focus on core, aerobic development, hill strength, speed, Vo2 Max, Lactate Threshold. I think the most important thing is placing your athletes in the correct training level group and giving them the opportunity to work their way up to the varsity.
5. How many runners do you return from your top 7 from a year ago?
We return 4 boys from a 12th place state finish a year ago. We usually have a pretty strong frosh-soph group to draw from each year so some of our best athletes this season weren’t in our top 7 last season.
6. Who is your projected top 7 heading into the cross country season?
This is tough for us because we have many great athletes at various phases so it will change quite a bit over time as one of our top boys Robbie Gleeson is coming back from a soccer injury that was unable to heal because of running. He should be back in the varsity line up by Mt. SAC.
7. Who are your team captains or leaders and what stands out about them as examples for the rest of their teammates?
We have 6 boy captains each season. On the boys side Isaac Cortes and Nick Doan have stepped up to lead the team this year with their examples of hard work, focus, and dedication.
8. Who have you been most impressed or surprised with their improvement and/or fitness from their summer training?
On the boys side Isaac Cortes has made huge strides in XC this year. He has always been a great track guy, but this year he has really made the jump in XC as well and is leading all of our workouts and pushing guys that are top end runners. He ran 1:52 last year as a 10th grader and he has grown and gotten stronger and looks pretty effortless right now. I’m excited to see him all out. He has run 15:11 for 5k so far this summer.
9. Any impactful freshmen or transfers to join the team this season?
On the boys side Jr. Spencer Dodds moved up from San Diego after his dad got a job in Temecula. He is a top tier runner and will help our boys team a lot! He ran 4:21 last year in the 1600 as a soph.
10. What are the top invitational meets that your team will be attending this season?
We will be running some big meets this season. Woodbridge, Nike Pre Nationals, Clovis, and Mt. SAC are all on our schedule this season. We are fortunate that we can rest our top varsity squads for most of our league schedule which allows us to focus on the bigger meets to help prepare them for the end of the season.
11. What will be the biggest obstacle or challenge facing your team this season?
We have a pretty loaded group that could run some impressive marks at State if it were held today so I think the biggest challenge on both sides is just keeping the teams healthy and focused all the way to November. They are anxious to race and show what they can do and we don’t want to explode out of the gates and limp to the finish.
12. What will be the biggest reason why your team is successful this season?
I think the biggest reason for success this season will be leadership. If our captains can push their teammates to give their all for the team, I believe we will have a very successful season on both sides. Without leadership it is very hard to keep all the kids on the same path.
13. What is a favorite annual or common pre-season workout or run for your team?
The highlight at the beginning of the season is our time trial. We use this as a camp qualifier, with the top 12 or top 16 athletes (depending on the camp location) earning a spot to camp. This motivates athletes to go out over the summer and work hard so they get to go to camp. It is always fun to see what you have as a coach and who has made those big jumps.
14. What is a favorite annual or common mid-season workout for your team?
We start our blend intervals in mid season and continue them through to the end of the season ever couple of weeks. It is a workout I stole from one of the runner magazines but it works great!
An example is 3x2000@race pace, 2 min jog, 200m @ mile pace,4 min jog between sets. It is fast yet difficult to recover so it gets harder over the course of time. Great multispeed workout. The distances get shorter every other week, but faster.
15. What is a favorite annual or common championship season or end-of-season workout for your team?
One of the kids favorite workouts that we do during championship season is drop out mile repeats on a hilly dirt course we use. They get 3 minutes rest between each one and the athlete determines when to drop out. It is always interesting to see when an athlete will drop out when they have the choice to do so and how many kids will not drop out no matter what. It is a great workout to see who is mentally dialed in for the championship races.
16. What are your top 3 goals for this year's squad?
The athlete’s set the goals for the season each year. The boys goals are to win Woodbridge Invite, win State, and to podium at NXN. I firmly believe that goals must come from the athletes if they are going to work hard enough to achieve them.