The white-lettered “GO” screams from their otherwise red singlets, and oh how do they.
Wolfpack runners from Great Oak-Temecula represent arguably the nation’s finest boys/girls cross country program of the decade, one that has turned Woodward Park into a personal showcase.
It is here that Great Oak has delivered four-straight top-division girls titles and two consecutive boys crowns in the CIF State Championships, a postseason prep meet unrivaled in the land in regard to depth and talent.
And it will be here at a venue that has hosted all 29 of the state finals that the Wolfpack will return in might Saturday morning for the 38th Asics Clovis Invitational, generally considered something close to a state preview.
Madera South’s boys, led by Miguel Villar, and Buchanan’s girls, behind super sophomore Meagen Lowe – to narrow the chase from the Central Section – will pursue Great Oak and fellow state powers such as Dana Hills-Dana Point, Davis and Claremont as they’ve done so many times before in Championship Division races.
They will be the marquee among 18 events that will go from 7:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. while involving 187 schools (several from Nevada) and 4,200 runners.
Championship girls and boys races are scheduled for 8:55 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.
The economic impact is substantial for a meet that will attract more than 10,000 people when including lodging, food, fuel and other spending.
A glaring absence in Madera South’s distinguished purple and black Saturday will be Eduardo “Lalo” Herrera, a 2015 state D-I runner-up and anchor of the past four of eight consecutive Stallions section team titles.
He’s gone to the University of Colorado on a full scholarship, but don’t pity Madera South.
“This should be our best team ever as long as I don’t screw it up,” coach Eloy Quintana said. “I understand that’s a mouthful, especially with Lalo being gone, but this is a team that could possibly get that elusive state title.”
Villar, who placed 11th, 10th and 29th in the state as a junior, sophomore and freshman, is ranked fifth in the state’s D-I by dyestatcal.com.
The website’s top three runners in that division also will compete in the championship boys race: Davis’ Michael Vernau, Armijo-Fairfield’s Luis Grijalva and Dana Hills’ Jack Landgraf. They placed eighth, 14th and 10th in last year’s state meet.
Fresno senior Evert Silva, ranked second in the state in D-III, figures to also run with the championship pacesetters.
Madera South placed 1-2-3-4 in last season’s section final with Herrera, Villar, Michael Ochoa and Nicholas Hernandez.
Ochoa and Hernandez are back, as are sophomore Victor Ochoa, who placed 10th in that section meet, and Adrian Alvarez, who placed 15th. Senior Christian Nevarez and promising junior Seth Garcia add to the Stallions’ depth.
The championship girls race is stocked with nationally-ranked teams in No. 4 Great Oak, No. 6 Davis, No. 13 Buchanan and No. 19 Claremont.
3 State Division I ranking for Buchanan sophomore Meagen Lowe by dyestat.com
Buchanan’s Lowe is third-ranked in the state’s D-I a year after placing second in the section to Clovis North’s Lauren Moffett, who’s now at Vanderbilt.
Buchanan’s girls, who delivered the fifth-best overall time in the national-level Woodbridge Invitational in September, are scoring well with freshman Corie Smith, junior Katie Nili and seniors Mackenzie Mora and Taylor Gonzales.
“In the offseason they tried to go to a different level,” Bears coach Brian Weaver said, “and it’s really starting to show itself.”
Lowe was sixth overall and third among sophomores in the top girls sweepstakes race at Woodbridge.
“She’s always had a good attitude,” Weaver said, “but now she really wants to be good. She’s really stepped up her training.”
ASICS CLOVIS INVITATIONAL
(at Woodward Park, 3.1 miles)
- 7:15 a.m.: Division II Varsity Girls
- 7:40 a.m.: Division II Varsity Boys
- 8 a.m.: Division I Varsity Girls
- 8:25 a.m.: Division I Varsity Boys
- 8:55 a.m.: Championship Girls
- 9:30 a.m.: Championship Boys
- 9:50 a.m.: Division I and II Freshman/Sophomore Girls
- 10:15 a.m.: Division I and II Freshman/Sophomore Boys
- 10:35 a.m.: Division I and II JV Girls
- 11:05 a.m.: Division I and II JV Boys
- 11:30 a.m.: Division IV Varsity Girls
- 11:55 a.m.: Division IV Varsity Boys
- 12:15 p.m.: Division III Varsity Girls
- 12:40 p.m.: Division III Varsity Boys
- 1 p.m.: Division III and IV Freshman/Sophomore Girls
- 1:25 p.m.: Division III and IV Freshman/Sophomore Boys
- 1:45 p.m.: Division III and IV JV Girls
- 2:15 p.m.: Division III and IV JV Boys