OAKDALE — Led by four all-league winners, East Union’s varsity boys cross country team wrapped up its third straight Valley Oak League championship in dominant fashion Wednesday at Woodward Reservoir.
Sophomore Johnny Sandoval led the charge in 16 minutes, 28.4 seconds, outkicking Oakdale’s Simon Appel (16:32.1) in the final quarter mile to claim the individual title. East Union tallied 29 points and was followed by Oakdale (69), Sierra (80), Kimball (112), Manteca (117), Weston Ranch (135) and Central Catholic (167).
The top seven in the varsity boys and girls races earn All-VOL spots, and the Lancers had five overall. Oakdale captured the girls title with three all-league runners.
Sandoval has emerged as the No. 1 on a loaded East Union team that entered the season with more accomplished runners and aspirations of claiming a Sac-Joaquin Section title. He was also the top overall placer in the two VOL cluster meets at Mistlin Sports Complex in Ripon and Eagal Lakes Resort in Tracy.
“Johnny is my hardest worker and the kid just loves to run,” East Union coach Rick Cuevas said. “He’s the perfect example of a hard worker who beats talent.”
Joining Sandoval on the all-league boys team are teammates Alex Cuevas (fifth, 17:08.3), Marco Perez (sixth, 17:12.4) and Cooper Freeman (seventh, 17:14.1). It’s the first meet of the season for Perez, a state qualifier last season who recently regained eligibility to compete.
Maury Ortiz, one of four underclassmen for East Union’s top five, took 10th in 17:26.3 as he works his way back from an injury. Weston Ranch’s Brian Arevalo (16:44.7) and Sierra’s Axel Rios (16:58.4), both seniors, took third and fourth, respectively. Jorge Machuca (ninth, 17:20.7) of Weston Ranch also placed in the top 10.
“We were able to get four in the top seven, so we’re pretty happy with how they ran,” coach Cuevas said. “Starting tomorrow, we’re going to ease back a little bit and start working to get more speed. We’re getting ready for sections and I think we have a chance to go to state with this team, we just have to take care of ourselves.”
The SJS Sub-Section Meet is Nov. 9 at Frogtown in Angels Camp and is followed by the SJS Championships on Nov. 16 at Willow Hill Reservoir in Folsom.
Oakdale’s girls also have the look of a section championship team with Hannah Beth Norman (first, 19:53.0), Haleigh Humble (third, 20:38.3) and Kayden Legan (fourth, 20:38.4) seizing all-league honors and two others finishing in the top 10. The Mustangs cruised to their 21 points, leaving runner-up Kimball (51), Sierra (81) and Manteca (85) far behind.
Weston Ranch freshman Janiah Basco paced local competitors with her second-place time of 20:11.0. Manteca sophomore Emilee Craighead took third in 21:15.2, and East Union freshman Taylor Snear was seventh in 21:41.5. It was the first varsity race for Snaer.
“The biggest surprise today was Taylor Snaer,” Cuevas said. “She doesn’t believe she’s a distance runner, but in the last 250 meters she got to use that speed.”
East Union also reins at the junior varsity and frosh-soph levels.
The frosh-soph boys outpointed Oakdale 26-47 to repeat as league champions. Evan Cooper (10:49.7), Devin Petersen and Antonio Zavala finished 1-2-3 for the Lancers, while Sierra’s Brendan Alson and Omar Ayala followed in order.
April Duarte (13:59.6) squeaked out the frosh-soph girls individual title, edging out East Union teammate Lauren Pablo (13:59.8) at the finish line. The Lancers claimed the JV boys championship and were anchored by Eliseo Casillas, Abel Zuniga, Noe Acevedo, Ruben Martinez and Thomas Medrano.