As the two best boys cross country runners in the PAC 7 league, Andrew Garcia and Hugo Gutierrez have crossed paths before.
In fact, the seniors finished 1-2 at the annual San Luis Obispo County meet last week, with Arroyo Grande High’s Gutierrez coming in just one second ahead of Nipomo’s Garcia.
Garcia flipped that result Thursday afternoon at the league finals held at the Fairbanks Memorial Cross Country Course adjacent to Cuesta College, winning the 5K race in 16 minutes, 3.4 seconds. Gutierrez was second in 16:18.1.
“Hugo’s a really good friend of mine,” Garcia said. “We have a friendly rivalry going. Any time he wins, I’m happy for him, and any time I win, I’m extremely happy to beat him.”
San Luis Obispo junior Kathleen Uyttewaal won the girls race in 19:05.8.
Arroyo Grande won the boys race as a team with 37 points. On the girls side, San Luis Obispo and Arroyo Grande both had 41 points, but San Luis Obispo’s sixth-place finisher came in 14th, while Arroyo Grande’s was 19th, giving San Luis Obispo the tiebreaker.
Garcia attempted to pull away at about the mile mark, but didn’t break away from Gutierrez until the half-mile plateau.
“I tried to surge ahead and he came with me,” Garcia said of the earlier try to distance himself from Gutierrez. “Him coming with me really pushed me.”
Garcia won the league championship last year, as well, on the same course, in 16:46.
“I didn’t want to give it up,” he said of the title. “It was something that was special to me, and I wasn’t going to come in second.
“I thought about how cool it’d be to cement myself as one of the league leaders and win two titles back-to-back.”
In the girls race, Paso Robles’ Madison Cline held the lead beyond the midway point before being passed by Uyttewaal and Atascadero’s Mimi Petersen, who came in second at 19:08.4. Although Petersen caught Uyttewaal with two switchbacks remaining, Uyttewaal hung on. Cline crossed the finish line in 19:16.1.
“It’s really humbling,” Uyttewaal said of her win. “I was just doing what (Tigers) coach (Steve) Boaz said, to out-kick everyone at the end.”
As a team, Paso Robles came in second on the boys side with 66 points, followed by San Luis Obispo (81), Atascadero (108), Righetti (116), Pioneer Valley (120) and Nipomo (168).
For the girls, Atascadero and Paso Robles tied for third with 72 points, although the Greyhounds won the tiebreaker with a 26th-place sixth-place runner, as opposed to Paso Robles’ 28th-place counterpart. Righetti’s girls were a distant fifth with 148 points, followed by Pioneer Valley (188) and Nipomo (199).
Earlier this season, Atascadero was routinely ranked in the top 10 of Division III of the CIF-Southern Section, but has fallen out of the most recent polls.
“Our whole team, physically, we’re there,” Petersen said. “We just need to be focused.
“I’m happy with second (individually),” she added.
“I think I could’ve gotten first.”
Katie Lewis of Arroyo Grande was fourth in 19:30.4, and teammate Emily Johnston was one spot behind in 19:36.
Paso Robles’ Jacob Moore was third in the boys race in 16:28.4, followed in the top five by Arroyo Grande’s Cullen Cali (16:30.3) and Atascadero’s Luke Tillmann (16:44.6).
All of Arroyo Grande’s top five boys came in the top 15 overall, including sixth-place Daniel Smith (16:54.2), 11th-place Josh Davis (17:00.7) and 14th-place Trevor Cowan (17:05.8).
The Eagles boys finished atop the league’s season standings for the second year in a row with 18 points, followed by Paso Robles (14), San Luis Obispo (11), Atascadero (8), Righetti (8), Pioneer Valley (3) and Nipomo (0).
Arroyo Grande also finished first in the girls season standings, for the third year in a row, with 16 points.
San Luis Obispo came in second with 15, trailed by Atascadero (13), Paso Robles (10), Righetti (6), Pioneer Valley (3) and Nipomo (0).