Last week when Arroyo Grande High girls cross country runner Jocelyn Reynolds faced off against San Luis Obispo’s Micky Rennick at the county meet, she watched Rennick cross the finish line two seconds ahead of her.
On Thursday at the PAC 7 Cross Country Championships at Cuesta College, the first and second place positioning between the two reversed.
Reynolds — the only runner to finish under 19 minutes at 18 minutes, 54 seconds over the 5K course — found herself eight seconds ahead of Rennick for the victory.
But while Reynolds took the individual title, the closely contested girls team race was won by San Luis Obispo’s girls who narrowly beat the Eagles.
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Both schools tallied 47 points, which left it to the sixth-place runner of the two schools to decide the meet. Emma Phillips in 26th place gave the Tigers the edge.
In the boys meet, San Luis Obispo’s Joshua Ernst, with his head tilted to the side and pushing hard in the final 100 meters, created six seconds of space between himself and Righetti’s Conor McNamara to win at 16:07.
Arroyo Grande won the boys team title, scoring 43 to second-place Paso Robles’ 46.
The meet had postseason implications since the top two finishers for the boys and girls team move on to the CIF-Southern Section preliminaries next Saturday at Mt. San Antonio College.
Reynolds’ time was 46 seconds faster than the time she ran on the same course at midseason.
“At midseason, I went out fast and burned out in the hills,” Reynolds said. “Today I paced myself much better and pulled ahead at the switchbacks and then pushed all the way through.”
Reynolds said she reserved enough energy to sprint downhill on a final stretch of the race instead of using that stretch to relax.
“I’m really happy that I broke 19 minutes,” Reynolds said. “I’ve only done that one other time this season at Mt. Sac.”
Rennick said that winning the county meet at Laguna Lake Park last week gave her a lot of confidence coming into Thursday.
“Maybe too much confidence,” she said with a smile. “I came out way too hard and slowed down at the end. But I’m really proud of Jocelyn. She ran an amazing race.”
Freshman Angela Gemignani, of Arroyo Grande, finished third.
The boys contest had a pack of about 10 runners, including five from Paso Robles, who stayed together for the first mile and a half.
And though the Bearcats didn’t place in the top three, they had five runners finish in the top 12 to help secure second.
Around the final bend emerged Ernst, admittedly exerting his last ounces of energy to come out on top.
“I wanted it so badly,” said Ernst, breathing heavily just after the finish. “I was trying to keep in front on the last hill. It was all about willpower at the end.”
McNamara, the secondplace finisher, came in at 16:13 followed by Arroyo Grande’s Jonathan Corley at 16:15.
“This was my personal best time,” McNamara said. “We’ve been training a lot. We’ve been doing of a lot hills. But the last half of this race, I thought I was going to throw up.”
McNamara wasn’t the only runner to encounter physical strain in the race.
Arroyo Grande’s Trevor Cowan was about 40 feet from the finish line when he collapsed after trying to sprint hard over a long stretch.
Encouraged by coaches to stand up and compel himself to continue, Cowan was passed by a few runners but courageously stumbled across the finish line. Then he was taken to the race’s building headquarters to sit and rest as trainers helped him deal with nausea.
Cowan’s finish helped secure his team’s win as the fourth place runner on his squad – finishing 13th overall at 16:38.
Righetti took third in the boys race, five points behind Paso Robles with 51 while San Luis Obispo trailed in fourth with 92. In the girls team race, Paso Robles was third with 76 points and Atascadero tallied 86.