Mahir Pepic asked Manteca High head coach Rick Cuevas to bark out his time while nearing the 2-mile mark at the Eagal Lakes Resort 3.1-mile course.
Cuevas glanced at his watched and repeated the moving digits as Pepic blew right by him with the next closest competitor far off into the distance. Pepic nodded and gestured to his coach as if to say, “I got this.”
Minutes later, the senior standout crossed the finish line in 16 minutes, 50 seconds, setting a new record on the Tracy course and leading Manteca to its fourth straight Valley Oak League boys championship. Sierra dominated the girls race for its eighth overall title.
“Mahir was just cruising out there,” Cuevas said. “He started out with the pack for the first mile, and whenever he wants to he can separate from the pack very easily. He was just out there having fun.”
Manteca teammate Brandon Craighead checked in at 17:56 for a second-place finish, and fellow Buffalo Juan Gomez took sixth in 18:09. The top-seven runners in the boys and girls varsity events earned all-league medals.
Manteca seized the crown by a wide margin, outpointing second-place Sierra 36-81. Weston Ranch placed third behind all-leaguers Tomas Herta (third, 17:56) and Nicholas Curtright (fifth, 18:07). Garet Stone paced Sierra with a seventh-place finish.
“The boys went in very confident,” Cuevas said. “We had a game plan but a couple of my boys went away from it and it cost them all-league medals. It’s still great for them to accomplish what they did. I don’t know if there has been another boys team that won four in a row in the history of the VOL.”
Sierra’s girls squad turned in a masterful effort to claim its crown. Although heavy favorite Haley Silva settled for second place (20:03) behind Weston Ranch sophomore Iris Carillo (19:49), Sierra backed its top runner with four all-league finishers. Jessa Johnson finished third (21:21), Candice Lao was fifth (22:13) and sophomores Diana Cruz (22:17) and Destinee Perales (22:20) followed in the sixth and seventh positions.
Sierra ended up with just 18 points against second-place Matneca’s 68. East Union was third with 72 points and freshman Kelley Higginson (eighth, 22:42) just missing an all-league spot.
“Haley just wasn’t feeling it today,” Sierra coach Mike Rosendin said. “It’s unfortunate but it happens. She’ll bounce back.
“As a team they ran a real nice race. We’re looking to be at our best for (the Sac-Joaquin Section races) and this takes us a step closer to where we want to be. The girls are really coming around right now.”
The SJS Subsection meet takes place Nov. 8 at Frogtown in Angels Camp. The section finale is on Nov. 15 at Folsom’s Willow Hill Course.
Trevor Ryan and Arish Bala finished 2-3 to lead Sierra’s frosh-soph championship run.
Manteca claimed the junior varsity girls title for a fourth consecutive season with Ivy Benson, Lorena Hernandez, Abigail Mayen and Sarah Vegas placing in the top four in that order. Crystal Baltazar took first in frosh-soph girls.