On a blustery afternoon at Laguna Lake Park where the county’s high school cross country championship was held Thursday, Paso Robles High’s Aidan Farrell had the right idea.
Farrell cleverly used other runners as a wind shield on the 5K route that entailed two loops around the park.
Farrell then catapulted in front during the final stretch along the lake to pull out an eight-second win — the first of his season — with a 16 minute, 11-second time.
But it was Arroyo Grande that took the team victory by scoring 31 points to edge Paso Robles, which tallied 33 points. San Luis Obispo placed third with 79.
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In the girls’ race, San Luis Obispo’s Micayla Rennick won with a different approach.
She distanced herself from the pack slightly toward the end and ran her fastest time of the year at 18:54, delighting in joyous hugs after with teammates.
The first-place San Luis Obispo girls team scored 37 points while Arroyo Grande tallied 49 for second and Paso Robles came in third with 75.
In the boys’ race, Farrell, Arroyo Grande’s Trevor Cowan, and San Luis Obispo’s Joshua Ernst started out in the lead from the get-go and stayed together ahead of the field until the final stretch when Farrell broke away from Cowan.
“I’m very excited,” Farrell said. “My goal was to find someone to run behind to make it a little easier. It was windy out there.”
Cowan, who led for periods of the race, said that he previously won a race this season by 11 seconds and thought he had the breakaway speed to distance himself for the win.
“The back end of the race I was really starting to feel it,” Cowan said. “My body was saying ‘What did I do to deserve all this?’ I think Farrell ran the better race today. But I’m happy with second and I’m glad for our team.”
In the girls race, a pack of five runners ran together at the halfway mark that they reached in 10:12.
But turning on the jets in the latter half, and running a much faster split, Rennick came in 10 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher, Arroyo Grande sophomore Jocelyn Reynolds, who crossed the line at 19:04.
“We practiced on this same track when it was raining on Monday,” Rennick said. “But I’ll take the wind over the rain. I’ve had some bad races this year and I’m really grateful for my teammates who showed a lot of confidence in me and kept on supporting me to run my best.”
Reynolds said the race required a lot of determination to fight through tough conditions.
“This was a race that required mental strength,” Reynolds said. “It was all about pushing through the wind. Training helps of course too. But you have to use all your inner strength.”
Another sophomore, Veronica Russell, of Templeton, finished just behind Rennick, at 19:06.
Russell said that despite the large numbers of runners in a county meet, including some from bigger PAC 7 schools, the pace was fairly normal for her, recalling the first mile in her group was 5:50.
She tried to stay behind the pack and then close the gap in the last 800 yards but ran out of room.
“Micky and Jocelyn were up there and I was gaining on them,” Russell said. “I thought I’d planned it right but didn’t quite catch up.”
Russell said her third-place finish is an improvement at the county championship from last year’s seventh-place finish, and she’s eagerly anticipating next year’s race.
The Tigers’ girls score was helped by logging the first (Rennick), fourth (Olivia Carmo), ninth (Ashley Ellsworth), and 11th (Kelsey Harper) positions.
Arroyo Grande’s boys had the second (Cowan), fourth (Jonathan Corley), sixth (Jake Sarver), ninth (Blake Maule) and 10th (John Miles) positions to benefit their cause.