TRACY — One second separated the Sierra varsity girls cross country team and Oakdale in their duel for the Valley Oak League title Wednesday at Eagal Lakes.
For Sierra’s boys, it was another jog in the park.
Both reign once again as league champs. It’s the second year in a row for the boys and seventh overall. The girls three-peated and now own 11 crowns, but this one was in doubt upon completion of the race.
Kimball emerged as the surprise winner of the VOL Championships race, edging out both Sierra and Oakdale — each with 58 points — by a point. But with Sierra and Oakdale checking in with mirroring 13-1 records from the two cluster meets it was a two-horse jaunt for the title.
It came down to the No. 6 runners from each team. Sierra’s Julia Recker broke the tie with her 23rd-place finish in 23 minutes, 55 seconds, a tick ahead of Oakdale’s Ruby Houchens.
“That’s the thing about this sport; just because you’re not No. 1 or 2 you can still play a huge role in how well the team does,” Sierra coach Mike Rosdendin said. “That was great for Julia Recker to stay in the race and keep pushing until the end. A lot of people don’t look at this as a team sport but it comes down to everybody playing a role.”
Again playing the role as pace setter was sophomore Megan Oblin, the individual champion in 20:16. She won all three league races by wide margins.
Oakdale’s Karina Prado (20:28) was the runner-up. East Union’s Kelley Higginson (third, 20:37), former two-time league champion Iris Carrillo (fourth, 20:48) of Weston Ranch and Lathrop’s Maria Soto (sixth, 21:36) also earned top-seven finishes to make the all-league team.
“This feels really great, because this season I pushed myself harder than I did last year — I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” Oblin said. “I was more focused and determined and come back stronger.”
Diana Cruz (11th, 22:25), Jasmin Correa (13th, 22:36), Savannah Verschuur (14th, 22:37) and Emily Cunial (19th, 23:14) were others scoring for Sierra. East Union (107), Lathrop (112), Manteca (167) and Weston Ranch (184) followed in the team competition.
Weston Ranch senior Tomas Huerta (17:08) garnered his second individual title in a row, leading five area all-league runners. It wasn’t his best effort by his own admission, but his focus remains on a return trip to the CIF State Championships.
“This was challenging,” he said. “I didn’t feel so well running this race and hopefully it doesn’t carry over to the next one. I want to go back to state and do well.”
Sierra’s boys team is also eyeing a bigger prize. The Timberwolves aspire to earn their first Sac-Joaquin Section championship since 2001.
They proved on Wednesday they have the goods to compete with the elite Division III squads at the section level. Four Sierra runners placed in the top 10 with Jesse Hurtado (17:15), Arish Balasubramaniam (17:17) and Lionel Orhiere (17:27) finishing 2-3-4 behind Huerta. Isaias Ghezae took ninth in 18:02, and Sabas Montes was 11th in 18:03.
Sierra wound up undefeated in league, scoring 29 points against runner-up Oakdale’s 67. Weston Ranch took third with 93 points, Lathrop fifth with 130, East Union seventh with 163 and Manteca eighth with 232.
“We just wanted to go out, take care of business and run our race,” Balasubramaniam said. “I know I didn’t run my fastest time of the year but I feel like we can all still run stronger in the future, but for today we got the job done.”
Juan Diaz (17:52) of Lathrop held off East Union’s Noe Reyes (17:54) down the chute to grab the seventh and final all-league spot.
The SJS Sub-Section Meet is on Nov. 5 at Frogtown in Angels Camp. The Section Championships takes place Nov. 12 at Willow Hill in Folsom.
Sierra also claimed two lower-level team titles Wednesday.
Celeste Angulo (first, 25:26), Elibeth Barrera (second, 25:44), Taylor White (fourth, 26:40) and Rothneary Sok (sixth, 27:24) paced the girls team to victory. Sierra outscored second-place Oakdale, 25-32.
Sierra’s boys outpointed East Union 34-52 for the JV title with Erick Ruvalcaba (19:32) and Nathan Azevedo (20:25) finishing 1 and 2 for the Timberwolves. Richard Lopez (20:52) led East Union with a third-place finish, and Lathrop’s Cezar Morgan took fourth (20:56.
East Union’s Ana Romero (15:23) and Christian Tapia (13:26) were the top placers in the frosh-soph races, but it was Lathrop’s boys and girls won the team championships.
The Lathrop boys had four top-seven finishers in Omar Estrada (second, 13:30), Isaiah Ochoa (third, 13:36), David Fernandez (fourth, 14:09) and Victor Enriquez (sixth, 14:17).
The Spartans’ girls squad was led by Tiffany Ormonde (third, 16:29), Paola Baltazar (fourth, 16:49), Jasmine Ormonde (sixth, 17:07) and Jayna Rodriguez (seventh, 17:07).