The Manteca High girls cross country team has some work to do if it wants to keep its spot on the Valley Oak League throne.
Missing their top four runners from 2013, the Buffaloes were outscored by both Sierra and Oakdale in the league opener Wednesday at Modesto’s Legion Park. The Manteca boys were led by Mahir Pepic as they got a head start on their attempt at a fourth straight championship.
Sierra standout Haley Silva was the top female finisher in the first of three VOL races, clocking in at 19 minutes, 43 seconds. Weston Ranch’s iris Carillo was the runner-up in 19:43.
The Timberwolves crushed Manteca 19-43 while toppling Oakdale, 18-37. Jessa Johnson (21:43) and Candice Lao (22:02) placed fourth and fifth overall for Sierra.
Arianna Avina (21:32) was Manteca’s best finisher at third place. Three-time Manteca Bulletin All-Area Girls Runner of the Year Harleen Pabla graduated last spring, but the Buffaloes figure to be strong yet again with Emma Holbrook, Blake Lamoreax and Lejla Pepic — all out while nursing various injuries — returning along with Avina.
Pepic cruised to victory in the varsity boys event, crossing at 16:50. Weston Ranch’s Tomas Huerta (third, 17:49), Sierra’s Anthony Sequeira (fourth, 17:54) and Manteca’s Brandon Craighead (fifth, 17:59) were all top-five finishers. Manteca had its five fastest runners place in the top 12.
The Buffaloes vanquished their chief challengers, Sierra (21-35), Oakdale (21-36) and East Union (17-40). Sierra squeaked past Oakdale (26-29) and East Union (24-31) to solidify itself in second place in the standings.
The next VOL cluster meet is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 7 at Eagal Lakes Resort in Tracy.
Leah Manuleleua, Ashlee Miller and Sarah Vegas went 1-2-3 as Manteca was the easy winner in the junior varsity girls race.
Sierra’s Ryan Garcia and Arish Bala took first in JV and frosh-soph boys, respectively. Crystal Baltazar of Lathrop was the frosh-soph girls winner.