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FairfaxStrong pack keeps Oakton cross country team on top

Strong pack keeps Oakton cross country team on top

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With six state titles – from 1978 to 2021 – three runner-up finishes, plus having a couple of individual winners and at least one runner-up in program history, the Oakton Cougars boys high school cross country team certainly deserves its reputation as a perennial Virginia power.

What’s maybe more notably, and definitely unprecedented, are the six straight region championships the squad has won, including this fall’s 6D North Region crown. The most consecutive region titles any other Northern Virginia boys cross country team has ever won is three.

All six region titles came on the Burke Lake Park course.

“It has been fun. We’ve done this with different runners over the six years,” Oakton head coach Matt Kroetch said.

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Kroetch said that Oakton’s success is built on having a strong pack of five runners placing high in races with no big gaps. That consistency strengthened since the streak began.

That region victory string began for Oakton in 2017, when the Cougars won with a kind of lofty point total of 88 but had only one runner finish in the top 10. That followed a runner-up team finish the year before with 97 points. The year before that, Oakton was way out of contention, placing eighth with 176 points.

Since Oakton’s victory in 2017, the Cougars’ winning region point totals have been better and lower each season – including as few as 30, 33 and 40 this fall – and having multiple top-10 finishers.

This season, Oakton had three runners finish in the top 10, led by senior Tyler Coleman’s second, a fifth from junior runner Junior Allen and a ninth by junior Connor Eklund.

Two Oakton runners placed in the top 10 for Oakton in 2021, four in the 2020 pandemic season, three in 2019 and two in 2018.

A key to Oakton’s success from year-to-year has been how other runners have quickly improved to fill the gaps of graduated runners. Five of Oakton’s top runners in this season’s region meet were seniors. Other seniors were Derek Lewis, Iyasu Yemane,  Bradford Woodhouse and Quin Sehon.

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