Roberto Rosas was on top of the world just after placing second in the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters meet on Nov. 19, the Davis High junior's berth in the CIF State Meet assured.
He felt even better when Davis senior Chris Izquierdo took fifth, guaranteeing Rosas would go to state with a teammate.
But, Rosas, said, the highlight of the season came soon after that.
The Spartans had run well enough to take second place as a team, meaning all seven runners would go to state. A tent full of tired runners became a screaming mass of humanity, athletes grabbing each other in big hugs.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Merced Sun-Star
It was the culmination of quite a season for Rosas. Modesto Metro Conference champion. Sac-Joaquin Sub-Section Division I champion. Section masters runner-up and state meet runner. All that adds up to another honor for Rosas: The Bee's 2008 Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year.
"When I was a sophomore, most of our team was seniors," Rosas said. "Our goal then was to make it to state. We really had a shot, but we didn't go.
"This year, we were young. Chris was our only senior. And this group made it; pretty amazing."
Rosas had a pretty strong year as well. He placed 23rd in the state Division I championships in 15 minutes, 37 seconds. Not bad for somebody who started running competitively only four years ago.
An eighth-grader at Salida Middle School, his physical education teacher talked him into running in the 5-kilometer race at the Oakdale Chocolate Festival.
"I'm just finishing and there's (Davis coach) Rich Antal at the finish line," Rosas said.
Antal noticed Rosas' Salida Middle School shirt and invited him to run with the Davis cross country team that summer.
"I was the slowest guy out there," Rosas said. "I memorized the backs of everybody's heads.
But he kept it up, eventually breaking the 5-minute mile during his freshman year. He's steadily improved since then.
Ask Rosas what he'll remember most, and it's the entire Davis team going to state.
"We train together every day," Rosas said. "Cross country has more of a team aspect than track and field. I love how we're all so close."
Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 578-2300.