The wind was strong, but it was no match for Ceres' Alejandro Garcia and Sonora's Lizzie Grolle.
Garcia and Grolle conquered both the elements and the 3.1-mile Legion Park course Wednesday en route to capturing individual titles at the Valley Oak League cross country championships.
Sierra High swept the boys and girls team championships, with Sonora's teams finishing second in both races.
Garcia won with a time of 16 minutes, 32 seconds — 12 seconds ahead of runner-up John Bowers of Sierra. Sonora's Nicholas Klein was third in 16:55.
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"I felt great today," said Garcia between post-race handshakes with well wishers. "Usually by the third mile my legs are gone and I'm exhausted. But I felt great."
Garcia said his initial plan was to use other runners as a shield, but when the plan was slow to develop, he changed his race strategy.
"At the beginning of the race, my strategy was to use Sierra as a shield, but when I realized it was taking too much time, I just went for it and took the lead around the first mile," explained Garcia. "Then I just picked it up after that."
Grolle led a Sonora contingent that finished in each of the top four places. Grolle clocked in at 20:28, just ahead of Samantha Smith (20:35). Kimberlee Turner (21:05) was third and Mercedes Langfeldt (21:25) fourth.
"It was just hard. The wind made you all like this," Grolle said, moving her arms to mimic the effect the wind had on hers' and other runners' balance. "In track, we have to deal with the wind as well, so you just get used to it.
"It was a big win, just with it being my last (VOL) race."
Next up for the VOL's best is the Sac-Joaquin Sub-Section Meet at Frogtown on Nov. 7, followed a week later by the CIF section meet at Willow Hill Reservoir in Folsom.