A dynasty running program has emerged in Temecula, California. Since 2010, the Wolfpack of Great Oak High School has claimed seven state championships in cross country. The girls have won five titles (including the last four), and the boys are now back-to-back victors. In December, the boys – running as the Temecula XC Club – also ran away with a victory in the prestigious Nike Cross Nationals (NXN), making them the top team in the country. The girls finished third in the 2015 NXN and second in 2014.
At the helm of these juggernauts is Doug Soles, head coach for both the girls’ and boys’ teams. The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) recently recognized Soles for his outstanding success, naming him California High School Coach of the Year for both the boys and girls teams. Only one other coach in the country received the dual honors.
Coaching national-caliber adolescent athletes presents significant challenges. The training needs to be intense, but if they are pushed too hard, their still-developing teenaged bodies will break down.
How has Soles managed to keep the consistency and quality of these two programs? He employs ElliptiGO elliptical bikes as an integral element of training.
Soles originally bought two ElliptiGO 8C bikes in 2014 to help injured runners recover faster and safer. But he has discovered the bikes are equally effective in preventing those injuries in the first place. This is especially useful during important “build” phases of training when they are adding miles and intensity.
“The main reason we wanted [the bikes] was to give kids that were having physical issues a chance to keep training during their recovery from injury, and the ElliptiGOs give us a great chance to do that,” Soles said. “Sometimes, we also have athletes that just can’t run the mileage it takes to compete at a national level. With the ElliptiGOs, we can have them run a safe mileage for their body to keep them healthy, and then supplement those miles with extra workouts on the ElliptiGO.”
In 2014, the top girl on Great Oak’s team was diagnosed with tendonitis in her foot. Soles immediately shifted her to workouts on the bike. The move paid off. “Without the ElliptiGO, we would have had to shut her down, and she wouldn’t have been able to lead her team to a state title and a runner-up finish at nationals.”
Soles likes the bikes both for their flexibility and the intensity they bring to workouts. “Our bikes are used every day because there is always someone who needs to rest a certain part of their body from the rigors of training on the roads. We use them to do tempo and fartlek-style training so that we can get the heart rate higher than just cruising on a bike. Usually, we try to utilize them going uphill because that really gets the heart rate up!”
A premier program like Great Oak has access to many different cross-training options, but Soles prefers the ElliptiGO bikes for their running specificity as well as team-building. “We like using the ElliptiGO the most for cross-training because it allows the athlete to still be out there participating with everyone else, instead of being stuck inside. It simulates the main functions of what we do without the pounding, and it gives our athletes a chance to be at the track or at the park with us, keeping our team together.”
When cross country season ends and track season takes over, the bikes make the transition as smoothly as relay runners giving a handoff in a distance medley. “During track, the bikes are out and all event groups use them,” Soles said. “They are awesome for our kids. They’re really easy to learn – pretty much just jump on and go.
“The great thing is we can rotate 6-8 kids through in a practice to utilize the bikes each day. They never stop from the beginning of training until the end. Someone from one of the groups is always using them!”
Building a high school dynasty is difficult as graduating athletes move on and fresh young ones move up. Keeping a mindset on doing what’s necessary to win is imperative.
“The kids were very excited when we first started using the ElliptiGO bikes, as they found them fun. Now, our athletes understand the bikes are not only fun, they are a standard training element in our program.”