With both the boys and girls teams ranked within the top two in the Saucony Flo50, Great Oak High School is the most dominant cross country program in the nation. The No. 1 ranked and 2014 NXN runners-up in the girls team have earned notoriety over the past few years, but the No. 2 ranked boys are ready to make 2015 their own. One year ago, the Wolfpack won the California Division I state cross country title but were overlooked for an NXN berth. Senior leader and No. 22 ranked Spencer Dodds is ready and confident to not only help the team defend their state title but to make NXN for the first time and win the national team championship. He is certainly in the shape of his life - Dodds won the prestigious Woodbridge Classic title in 14:24.3 for three miles (pictured above) and took third at the Bob Firman Invitational against No. 16 ranked Alek Parsons and No. 19 ranked Will Handley. Dodds answered some questions for MileSplit as his team travels to the loaded ASICS Clovis Invitational this weekend to face No. 10 ranked Jesuit, No. 12 ranked Dana Hills, No. 13 ranked Martin Luther King, Jr., and No. 17 ranked Southlake Carroll of Texas.
MileSplit: Congratulations on a strong start to your season. You are the top runner for Great Oak High School of California, the No. 2 ranked team in the nation at the start of October. How does the season compare to your expectations so far, individually and team wise?
Spencer: Individually, I really wanted to start out strong my senior year. My goal was to try to win some big races and compete with the best in the State. As a team, our goal is to win State and NXN, especially after the disappointment of last year.
You led Great Oak to the first big team this season by individually winning the prestigious and infamously quick Woodbridge Invitational in a tight battle with Tyler Janes, 14:24.3 to 14:24.9. Can you describe that race experience, mile by mile, and how you felt afterward?
In the first mile I tried to just hang with the leaders and settle into my pace. In mile 2, I started to push the pace and then took the lead. In the final mile, I really pushed myself and went all out. I wasn't feeling 100% that day so I tried not to think about that and just focus on the race. I felt really great because I won in such a competitive field. To make the victory even sweeter, my team won. It was an all around great night.
Did you know you had a kick like that?
I do have a bit of a kick, but normally not that long. I actually thought the finish was closer than it was, so I started my sprint a little early and had to hold it longer than I intended.
No. 22 Dodds (red) took third at Bob Firman behind No. 16 Alek Parsons and No. 19 Will Handley. (Photo by Michelle Pflughoft)
Great Oak also took a big trip from California to the Bob Firman Invitational in Utah. You took third place individually while GO placed second as a team (106 points) in a very tight battle with Timpanogos (104 points) and Davis (109 points). Can you describe the trip? How did you feel about your performance? What was the overall post-race feeling within the team?
It was exciting to travel to Idaho to this prestigious meet. We all toured Boise State, which was really fun for the team. Overall, I was pleased with my performance, but being so close to the win I felt I should have pushed a little harder to get the win. The team was disappointed because that was the first loss of the season. It just motivates us to work harder.
How do you feel about your fitness right now?
I feel I am in the best shape I have ever been in. Coach Soles' training takes us all to a new level. I am healthy right now, which is always good.
Can you describe a typical week of training?
Monday: Long run typically 12 miles in the AM, and then Hill repeats in the PM
Tuesday: Speed, usually intervals
Wednesday: Recovery run
Thursday: Speed, tempo run or intervals
Friday: Pre race: 6 miles, No race: 7-8 miles
Saturday: Race day. If no race, long run
What is the hardest workout you've done so far this season?
Blend Intervals: 2000m at 85%, 2 min recovery, fast 300m (3x)
You were the No. 1 runner a few times for Great Oak last season but really broke out on track, where you improved from 4:29 to 4:09 in the 1600m and 9:46 to 9:09 in the 3200m over the course of the outdoor season. What were your expectations for track and how did it feel to improve so quickly? Did that rate of improvement change your perception of yourself as a runner?
I really developed well under Coach Soles. My goal for the season was sub 4:10, and thanks to Coach Soles and my teammates who pushed me, I was able to achieve that. I worked on both my mental and physical strategy, and this really helped me.
Do you plan to run in college? What schools are you considering?
Yes, I am planning to run in college and hopefully beyond. I am currently looking at University of Texas, Syracuse, University of Oregon, University of Colorado, and Georgetown.
Last year, your team won the California D1 state cross country title but did not get a bid to NXN. Can you describe the team dynamic when you found out you did not receive an at-large bid? How did that motivate you this season?
It was a bittersweet ending to our season. We were so happy to win State, and so disappointed that we didn't go to NXN. We are determined to not only go to NXN this year but to also win.
Great Oak won perhaps the most competitive state championship in the nation in the California Division I state title. (Photo by Jimmy Stevenson)
With the boys ranked No. 2 and the girls ranked No. 1 since pre-season, Great Oak is the most dominant overall program in the nation. Can you describe the dynamic between the boys and girls programs? How does it help push the boys team to see the girls compete and get on the podium at NXN? Are the boys and girls competitive with each other?
Seeing the girls do so well drives us to work harder. We all push each other and motivate each other in practices and at meets.
What is the Great Oak team really like? You all have "that guy" on your team... Spencer gives us a rundown of the personalities that run the Wolfpack.
Who can run the fastest 100 meters? And what is their time?
Isaac Cortes (pictured to the right) can probably run the fastest 100 meter on the team. I don't know his time though.
Who is the best dancer on your team?
Definitely Iman Khadir.
Who is the most likely to get called out by your coach for doing something silly?
Nelson Quintana. He's a fun guy to be around.
Who has stepped up and surprised everyone this season by being a bigger contributor than expected?
Brandon Shields worked really hard this summer and has really stepped up. He is definitely a vital part of the team now.
Who has the best style?
We all think we have the best style, so I can't pick just one.
Who is the most likely to be late and left behind for the team bus to a meet? (Has that ever happened before?)
Michael Garcia, but thankfully it's never happened.
Spencer says that Nelson Quintana (bib no. 1661) is the teammate most likely to get called out by Coach Soles. (Photo by Clark Kranz)
Which teammate is the most likely to come back after graduation and be an assistant coach to Doug Soles?
Ryan Jones. Ryan really educates himself about running, and is really passionate about every aspect of it.
What's your favorite team tradition?
Our pre-race meal for some of the bigger meets.