Along the banks of the rapidly declining Laguna Lake, nearly 300 of the area’s top cross country runners pounded the pavement and traversed the flat terrain in Thursday’s San Luis Obispo County meet.
A pair of San Luis Obispo High boys finished well ahead of the pack, but five top-10 finishes earned Paso Robles the boys varsity title.
Arroyo Grande rested most of its best female runners but had little trouble winning the girls team portion, while an Atascadero junior took the individual gold in her first race at Laguna Lake.
“It’s kind of a bragging rights thing,” Paso Robles coach Ivan Huff said. “We try to use it to see where we are fitness-wise. We usually focus on this meet and try to run well here.
Never miss a local story.
“It’s just something about being the county champion. It’s something that people can’t take away from you down the road.”
The boys race kicked things off under slight cloud cover, thanks to the impending rain forecasted for today.
San Luis Obispo senior William Ernst, last year’s PAC 7 champion, led wire-to-wire to win in 15 minutes, 35 seconds.
“I guess the uneven ground would be one of my least favorite parts about it, but besides that, I try not to rate courses good or bad,” Ernst said of the trail. “You’ve got to take them all in, and finish them all hard.”
His teammate, sophomore Callum Bolger, finished strong to break away from the pack and take second, just one second behind Ernst.
“He’s a great role model to follow,” Bolger said of his senior counterpart. “The way he trains, he slowly pushes the pace and I just try to stay with him as long as I can.”
Third in 15:52 was the first of Paso Robles’ winning combination, senior Zachary Chamberlain.
Huff said the strides Chamberlain has made to get within 20 seconds of the leaders is a testament to the hard work he has put in.
“He’s a tough runner that’s steadily improved every year,” the coach said. “He’s a little frustrated because he’s working so hard and running so well against himself, but then you’ve got Ernst and Callum running great.
“There’s nothing wrong getting beat by really good runners, especially if you’re running your best times also.”
The Bearcats also had top-10 finishes in Sid Monge (sixth in 16:24), Trad Berti (seventh in 16:29), Joshua Potter (ninth in 16:36) and Gannon Chamberlain (10th in 16:36).
Morro Bay’s Austin Lay was fourth in 16:01, Atascadero’s Daniel Tull took fifth in 16:21, and Nipomo’s Rogelio Flores was eighth in 16:32.
Junior James Sever, the lone runner from Coastal Christian, was 11th in 16:40.
Paso Robles was first in the team score with 35 points, San Luis Obispo second with 50, and Arroyo Grande took third with 112, led by Ryan Stewart’s 17th-place finish.
Eagles coach Sean Ricketts said he made the decision to rest some of his top runners on the heels of last week’s Mt. SAC Invitational and the PAC 8 championships next Thursday at the Fairbanks Course.
“You’ve got to be really careful with rest at this time of the season,” said Ricketts, who added that the county meet is “a confidence booster for next week. That’s our main focus — next week, CIF and state.”
Arroyo Grande’s girls team placed three in the top 10 to win with 44 points.
Angela Gemignani, last year’s league champion, took second behind Atascadero’s Brittni Frace in 19:04. Fellow Eagle Haley Chavez was third in 19:06 and Malia Simon 10th in 19:33.
Frace was the lone girl under 19 minutes, winner her first county meet in 18:56.
“It felt good,” the junior said. “I didn’t like going in circles, but I did like how it was flat.”
The flatness helped Frace reach her goal of breaking 19 minutes, but she hopes to do so consistently “on a hillier course.”
Paso Robles took second in the team score with 54 points, led by top-10 finishes by Annie Meeder (fourth in 19:08), Amanda Schultz (seventh in 19:17), and Claire Farrell (eighth in 19:19).
The Greyhounds were third with 58 points, thanks to Frace’s first-place finish, and Ellie Nisbet coming in fifth in 19:09.
Nipomo’s Taylor Witcher (sixth in 19:13), and San Luis Obispo’s Malea Martin (ninth in 19:32) rounded out the top 10.
SLO County Championships Agate
At Laguna Lake
Team Scores — Paso Robles 35, San Luis Obispo 50, Arroyo Grande 112, Nipomo 116, Atascadero 128, Morro Bay 144, Templeton 216, Mission Prep 239, Coast Union 244, Coastal Christian incomplete.
Top 20 — 1. William Ernst, SLO, 15:35; 2. Callum Bolger, SLO, 15:36; 3. Zachary Chamberlain, PR, 15:52; 4. Austin Lay, MB, 16:01; 5. Daniel Tull, At, 16:21; 6. Sid Monge, PR, 16:24. 7. Trad Berti, PR, 16:29; 8. Rogelio Flores, N, 16:32; 9. Joshua Potter, PR, 16:36; 10. Gannon Chamberlain PR, 16:36. 11. James Sever, CC, 16:40; 12. Luis Armendariz, PR, 16:51; 13. Aramis Knox, SLO, 16:52; 14. Andrew Stafford, MB, 17:03; 15. Brandon Smith, PR, 17:08; 16. Ethan McSwain, SLO, 17:15; 17. Ryan Stewart, AG, 17:19; 18. Matthew White, SLO, 17:20; 19. Garrett Morgan, N, 17:28; 20. Josue Gunter, N, 17:29.
Team Scores — Arroyo Grande 44, Paso Robles 54, Atascadero 58, San Luis Obispo 97, Nipomo 112, Morro Bay 151, Templeton 180, Mission Prep 195.
Top 20 — 1. Brittni Frace, At, 18:56; 2. Angela Gemignani, AG, 19:04; 3. Haley Chavez, AG, 19:06; 4. Annie Meeder, PR, 19:08; 5. Ellie Nisbet, At, 19:09; 6. Taylor Witcher, N, 19:13; 7. Amanda Schultz, PR, 19:17; 8. Claire Farrell, PR, 19:19; 9. Malea Martin, SLO, 19:32; 10. Malia Simon, AG, 19:33. 11. Madison Moore, PR, 19:58; 12. Elizabeth Heyde, AG, 20:06; 13. Mackenzie Wisneski, N, 20:14; 14. Maria Orozco, At, 20:17; 15. Eliza Lewis, MB, 20:24; 16. Jenny Grady, SLO, 20:26; 17. Katie Howell, AG, 20:28; 18. Serena Ramirez, At, 20:39; 19. Flor Hernandez, N, 20:45; 20. Maddie Toste, AT, 20:39.