For the first time in five years, the annual San Luis Obispo County cross country meet featured a girls winner other than Jordan Hasay. But the first girl to cross the finish line was still from Mission Prep.
Annie Mooney, a junior for the Royals, won the 5K race on a cool, breezy afternoon at Laguna Lake Park on Thursday afternoon in 18 minutes, 59 seconds.
“It’s fun to run where Jordan ran,” Mooney said of etching her name into the all-time winners list. “It hasn’t really hit me.”
Arroyo Grande’s Hugo Gutierrez won the boys race in 16:19, as the Eagles claimed both team titles, with 45 points on the boys side and 47 on the girls side.
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Early on in the girls race, Mooney and Templeton’s Kaley Hook broke away from a cluster before Hook dropped out midway through the course with a foot injury. Toward the end, Mooney stayed strong in the face of considerable wind on the back stretch.
“It’s easy to have that take the energy out of you,” Mooney said of the wind on the relatively flat course. “I was kind of trying to draft behind someone, but no one really wanted to take the lead, so I had to stay strong on that back part to take the lead.”
As a freshman and sophomore, Mooney went on to finish second at the CIF Division V state cross country championships, both times trailing only Hasay — the former Royals great who set nine national high school records from 2005 through 2009 and is now running at the University of Oregon.
This season, Mooney already has had wins at the Morro Bay Invitational on Sept. 12, the Division V race at the Stanford Invitational on Sept. 26 and the small-school competition at the Brug Invitational on Oct. 3.
“I’m just trying to use each (race) as a learning experience to see what I can do,” she said Thursday.
At about the halfway point in the boys race, Gutierrez was in an even pack with two others for the lead.
“I wanted to go out controlled and not too fast,” said Gutierrez, a senior who was unable to run the race as a junior because of an injury. “It was a little windy, but other than that, it was good. By the second mile, I was getting a little tired, but I knew I had to pick it up and I started leading the race for the last mile.”
Nipomo’s Andrew Garcia placed second on the boys side in 16:20, followed in the top five by Arroyo Grande’s Cullen Cali (16:26) and Paso Robles’ Pepe Gonzalez (16:33) and Jacob Moore (16:39).
Templeton’s Savannah Camacho, who last year was one of just two freshmen to compete in the girls 1,600 at the state track and field championships in Clovis, finished second in the girls race in 19:07.
“It went way better than I expected,” Camacho said. “I couldn’t be more happy.”
Arroyo Grande’s girls won the team title courtesy of placing four runners in the top nine — No. 4 Katie Lewis (19:11), No. 6 Emily Johnston (19:22), No. 7 McKenzie Goldman (19:32) and No. 9 Lupita Diaz-Leon (19:59).
San Luis Obispo, led by fifth-place Kathleen Uyttewaal (19:16), finished second as a team with 61 points. Paso Robles, paced by third-place Maddy Cline (19:08), was third with 84.
Templeton’s girls, ranked No. 8 in Division IV — a slot behind seventh-ranked Morro Bay — finished fourth as a team with 115. Rounding out the bottom half of the girls team scores were Mission Prep (123), Atascadero (141), Morro Bay (204) and Nipomo (326).
Paso Robles was second in the boys race with 71 points, ahead of San Luis Obispo (80), Atascadero (96), Morro Bay (166), Templeton (211), Mission Prep (218) and Nipomo (232).
Notably absent from the boys race were four of Morro Bay’s top runners, including James Shipe, who won last year’s competition.
The Pirates’ leaders, who have recently battled flu, were kept out for precautionary reasons to be fresh for the Los Padres League finals Wednesday, Morro Bay coach Cary Nerelli said.
Morro Bay, which won the boys race last year, is ranked No. 2 in Division IV.