After winning last year at the San Luis Obispo County Cross Country Championships, Christine Hoffmann and Seamus Land had an even better idea of what to expect at the race this season.
The two San Luis Obispo High seniors held off any possible surprises Thursday afternoon at the 5K course around Laguna Lake Park, as each defended their titles.
Hoffmann crossed the finish line in 18 minutes, 25 seconds, while Land won in 15:44.
“They put in the work, and they’re very focused,” Tigers coach Steve Boaz said. “They’ve both raised their game up to being one of the best here, because they want to be one of the best in the state, and this was a nice step for them moving toward that goal.”
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On the boys side, the Tigers — who were ranked No. 7 this week in Division 3 of the CIF-Southern Section — claimed the team title with a score of 29.
San Luis Obispo’s Luke Kraemer was the runner-up at 16:02, and teammates Josh Ernst (sixth at 16:30) and Riley Pihl (eighth, 16:43) also finished in the top 10.
Land decided to push the pace near the mile mark before establishing a sizable lead he didn’t relinquish.
“I never like to get too confident, because every race is totally out there; anyone can win on any given day,” Land said, “but yeah, (last year) definitely made me less nervous, you could say, having raced all these guys before and knowing somewhat what their strategies are.”
Two other accomplished seniors came in third and fourth, respectively, as Josh Davis of Arroyo Grande finished in 16:07, followed by Paso Robles’ Zander Souza at 16:10.
“It’s really a great way to end my career at this meet,” Land said. “I love racing against Josh and Zander, and with my own team.”
Arroyo Grande’s Trevor Cowan (fifth at 16:25) and Jonathan Corley (ninth, 16:46), as well as Paso Robles’ Aidan Farrell (seventh, 16:38) and Matthew Kwiatkowski (10th, 16:48) rounded out the boys’ top 10.
Hoffmann said she was “fairly confident” Thursday, “but there are a couple of girls that are definitely really fast, and I knew that.”
Arroyo Grande won the girls team championship with 32 points, as San Luis Obispo came in second with 45.
The Eagles’ Hannah Stevens finished second at 18:35, and teammates Emily Johnston (fifth at 19:13), Jessica Morosoli (sixth, 19:25) and Elizabeth Heyde (seventh, 19:32.46) provided helpful depth.
Micayla Rennick added a third-place finish for San Luis Obispo at 18:40.
Templeton’s Savannah Camacho finished fourth at 19:06.
Camacho, a three-time defending Los Padres League champion, has battled an ankle injury for much of this season.
She hadn’t raced since the Clovis Invitational on Oct. 8.
The senior, who in each of the past two track and field seasons has finished second at the CIF State Championships in the 800 meters (with the eighth-best time nationally a year ago, 2:07.62), is being heavily recruited by numerous high-level Division I programs, including Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Stanford and UCLA.
“Savannah, especially, is a short-fast finisher,” Hoffmann said, “and that’s not how I finish at all, so I wanted to make sure I got a good lead (well before the home stretch).”
Templeton, ranked sixth in Division 4, also got an eighth-place finish from Veronica Russell at 19:32.63 to finish third in the team standings with 104 points. Paso Robles finished fourth at 114, trailed by Morro Bay (132), Nipomo (156), Mission Prep (184) and Atascadero (186).
The county championships annually serves as a primer for upcoming postseason competition, and most teams approach earlier meets with training in mind.
“This gets us ready for those final meets in the future,” Land said.
The Los Padres League finals will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Nipomo, with the PAC 7 championships set for 2 p.m. Thursday at the Fairbanks Course at Cuesta College.
Last year, the San Luis Obispo girls went on to finish sixth in Division 3 at the state meet, the best finish in program history.
“It’s just the beginning of our important races,” Hoffmann said, “so it’s nice to start it off well, but there’s a lot more to do.”