Buchanan High School senior Corie Smith prefers not to run alone because the competition is what motivates her.
She got her wish Saturday at the 41st annual Asics Clovis Invitational Cross Country Meet at Woodward Park.
Smith used a strong finishing kick to overtake Vista Del Lago High sophomore Alex Kios in the final stretch to keep alive her goal of going unbeaten this season.
“It wasn’t just me running by myself all the time, which is super helpful when you’re trying to run a fast time like that,” said Smith, who timed 16:53.9 on the 5-kilometer course to claim the girls’ championship division.
Kios was second in 16:57.0.
Smith, who captured the prestigious Woodbridge Cross Country Classic earlier this season, had more company than expected. At about the 2-mile mark, she had to go around a man and his children who were in the middle of the course.
Smith and Kios ran next to each other throughout the race until the final separation at the finish. Smith felt strong throughout.
“I was just trying my best to see what I could do,” said Smith, who was motivated to overtake Kios after seeing the time on the over-sized clock.
Smith’s finish helped Buchanan finish second with 116 points to Great Oak (81 points). Buchanan’s combined time of 1:30:47 was 13 seconds slower than Great Oak’s total time, but the gap between the top runner and the fifth-place runner was greater (1 minute, 54 seconds) than Great Oak’s (30 seconds).
Smith believes her knowledge of the local course plays to her advantage.
“I can probably run it blindfolded and do just as well,” said Smith, who was followed across the finish by freshmen teammates Sydney Sundgren (20th, 18:07.2) and Grace Hutchison (31st, 18:17.9).
“It’s just super comforting to know this course really well and know where to pick it up,” said Smith, whose goal of remaining undefeated will most likely come at the Nov. 30 state meet on the same course.
Smith put off college visits until January so that she could experience the cross country season with her teammates.
“I’m a big team person. I wanted to be here for every meet I had this season,” said Smith. “Practice and even the small meets that are not huge are important to me (because) I still have a great time with my team, and I want to be here for all of it.”
Other Buchanan finishers included senior Mía Jauregui (42nd, 18:39.5), junior Morgan Hutchison (48th, 18:48.8), and, sophomore Kaylee Elliott (49th, 18:50.9).
Great Oak was led by senior Tori Gaitan, who placed 12th in 17:50.5.
Clovis North sophomore Miliana Pérez was 25th in 18:15.1.
Sanger sophomore wins XL race
Despite only being a sophomore, Nía Lamas sees herself as an experienced runner in her eighth season of running.
The Sanger High sophomore jumped into the lead by the first mile and battled with runner-up Abby Fletcher, a junior from Oak Ridge, to the win in the girls large school division with a time of 18:19.9.
She didn’t mean to start out fast.
“When I started going to the front, I was in first. I was like ‘If I’m running here, I’m going to stay here,” said Lamas, who listened to her coaches’ advice approaching the finishing line to catch up and pass Fletcher.
“I was hurting, but I got a little help from my coaches,” she said. “It’s now or never. I came to this race to show people what I’m made of.”
Lamas was not the only local top 10 finisher.
Madera South senior Dariana Miramontes was third in 18:26.3, just behind Fletcher’s 18:23.1.
Clovis High freshman Emma Ruvalcaba was ninth in 18:39.7.
Oak Ridge captured the team title with 71 points, far ahead of runner-up La Serna (158 points).
Sanger was fourth with 196 points.
McFarland places second in its division
McFarland High junior Hilda González is enjoying the competition in the small school division because she knows her team will be back up in Division I when the section finals and state championships are contested.
“I still need more work to get a better time,” said González, who clocked 18:53.1 to finish third in the small school division behind Mayfield High junior Audrey Suárez (18:25.4) and Piedmont High senior Sophia Zalewski (18:34.1).
McFarland has a solid team, said González. “We’re just missing Dede (Salcedo, who graduatde).”
That means González is being leaned on for her leadership.
She accepts that role. “I tend to push the girls,” said González.
McFarland finished a distant second to Mayfield High (119 points to 72 points).
Other top McFarland finishers included senior Brianna Valles (17th, 19:47.6), sophomore Jocelyn Vásquez, 26th, 20:06.7), junior María Chávez (39th, 20:25.5), and, junior Kayli Gonzales (43rd, 20:27.4).
Corcoran High junior Paulina Guerrero was eighth in 19:25.5.
Colony High junior Amber Ríos won the large school division in 18:05.1, ahead of Arroyo Grande freshman Taylor Jones (18:15.4) and Dana Hills freshman Allura Markow (18:35.1).
Paso Robles sophomore Charlotte Castelli was fourth in 18:41.2, while Highland High (Bakersfield) junior Haley Ulloa was eighth in 18:57.9.
Miramonte High junior Audrey Allen captured the medium school division individual title with a time of 17:49.2, ahead of Yorba Linda junior Siena Palicke (17:59.2).
San Luis Obispo junior Grace Rubio was sixth in 18:28.7.
Orange Lutheran won the division title with 126 points, to edge out Yorba Linda and San Luis Obispo (both with 137 points).
Redwood High (Larkspur) claimed the division title with 98 points, ahead of Dana Hills (164 points) and Paso Robles (182 points).