Great Oaks High School senior Carlos Carvajal found himself in a race that was slower than he expected.
In the end, that didn’t matter as Carvajal placed eighth overall to lead Great Oaks to its fourth consecutive state title at Saturday’s (Nov. 25) 31st annual California cross country championships at Woodward Park.
“It was way slower than what I was hoping for,” said Carvajal about a pace on a warmer-than-usual autumn morning on the 5-kilometer course. “No one was willing to pick up the pace.”
That is probably why less than a minute separated the first 40 finishers.
Great Oaks, the nation’s top-ranked team, held off a charge from Southern Section rival Roosevelt (Eastvale), 75-80. The teams’ combined time differed only three seconds (1:18:01 for Great Oak; 1:18:04 for Roosevelt).
Carvajal was a freshman when Great Oaks started its current winning streak. He hopes the younger runners this time will continue to build on that dynasty.
“We want to continue it for as long as possible,” said Carvajal, who was followed across the finish by sophomores Chris Verdugo (19th, 15:35.5) and Gabriel Abbes (22nd, 15:39.9).
Roosevelt, which lost by 40 points to Great Oaks at the Southern Section finals, closed the gap on Great Oaks. Roosevelt seniors Tyler Spencer (third, 16:11.8) and Raymon Ornelas (eighth, 15:23.0) led the way.
He was also a bit concerned about the slow pace.
“My strategy was to take it easy the first mile, then pick off the competitors,” said Ornelas. “There was still a big group with a mile to go.”
Ornelas was not happy with the time, but was thrilled to medal at the state meet.
“We were hoping for first, but we’ll take what we can get,” said Ornelas, who believes the team’s future is bright with sophomores Raúl Chávez (15:42.2) and Michael Sahagún (15:48.8) coming back.
Sahagún improved on his time at last year’s state meet by 40 seconds.
“Individually, we can definitely challenge anyone,” said Sahagún.
Chávez improved upon last year’s time by about a dozen seconds.
“We’re all really close, like a family,” said Chávez, who said hard work next summer should pay off next cross country season.
Coach Joe Robles Jr., now in his 11th season at Roosevelt, was pleased his team closed the gap against Great Oaks.
“That’s pretty darn good,” said Robles, who welcomes back three of his varsity runners next season.
Central Section champion Marcus Mota, a junior from Stockdale High, finished 18th overall in 15:34.9 to lead Valley competitors.
Buchanan High was ninth overall in the team competition.
Meanwhile, Highland High senior Moises Medrano remained among the leaders in the Division II race before fading in the final half-mile. He finished ninth overall in 15:33.0.
“I started off good, but in the last half-mile my legs started feeling heavy,” said Medrano. “I can’t be disappointed. I came out here and ran my race.”
The Division II race was claimed by Elias Opsahl of Redlands East Valley with a time of 15:16.9.
Valley section team winner Monache High, led by junior Iván Méndez (58th, 16:23.9) finished 18th in the team standings.