The drought is over.
That’s how Merced High School coach Tim Hagerman told his team it had won the school’s first girls cross country Central California Conference championship since 1987 after Wednesday’s final CCC center meet at Applegate Park.
Led by a 1-2-3 finish by Quinn Hagerman (19 minutes, 58 seconds), Ciara Colon (19:59) and Jackie Aleman (20:05), the Bears edged Turlock 34-38 in the team race to win the championship.
“Oh, my God,” Quinn Hagerman said. “We wanted to win last year, but we just didn’t have the team that we have this year. It’s been 29 years. I love our team.”
The celebration was put on hold immediately after the race because Merced wasn’t sure if it had won. Turlock and Merced split the first two CCC center meets, and Wednesday’s race was close.
It wasn’t until just before the boys race, after Tim Hagerman looked at the official results and gave a thumbs-up, that the Bears knew they won.
Quinn Hagerman began jumping up and down and screaming before she was quieted by teammates so they didn’t interrupt the start of the boys race.
“I had us up by four, but I didn’t want to jump the gun,” Tim Hagerman said. “I wanted to see the official results first. This means a lot. It means a lot to this team.”
“We put in so much effort into this,” Colon said. “Since I’ve been here, the last three years have been really amazing. We’re so happy we did it together.”
The Bears won the title with just seven girls, including Elise Pellissier, who split her fall playing volleyball and running cross country. Freshman Kaitlynn Perez (20:43) finished 11th for Merced, and Pellissier’s 17th-place finish (21:09) helped the Bears hold off Turlock, which had 20 runners.
“It’s tough because every year we have a small team,” Quinn Hagerman said. “We had Elise come out from volleyball. I don’t know how she did both. She was on the team to support us.”
Other top local finishers included Atwater’s Clara Harman (20:14), who finished fifth overall. Golden Valley sophomore Josette Vigil (20:27) placed eighth.
Not to be outdone, Quinn’s older brother, John Hagerman, won the boys race with a time of 16:11 by coming from behind in the final 800 meters. John Hagerman was followed by Golden Valley’s Immanuel Wright (16:19) and Atwater’s Christian Parga (16:19.6).
Buhach Colony won the team race with four Thunder runners placing fourth through seventh in Jose Prado (16:20), Jeremy Gouveia (16:32), Thomas Brinkop (16:34) and Harrison Hobbs (16:53).
The Thunder’s victory helped Buhach Colony win a co-conference championship with Atwater.
John Hagerman tried to set the pace early, struggled in the second mile and then passed the leaders down the stretch.
“In the second mile, I was getting tired and my stomach was getting tight,” Hagerman said. “With about 800 meters to go, I saw the lead group was going slow and they weren’t kicking yet. I knew it was going to hurt, but I decided to go for it. I started my kick there, and I was in third place with 400 meters to go. I just kept kicking and blew right by the leaders.”
Hagerman was greeted at the finish line by his little sister.
“Pretty good day for the Hagerman family,” John Hagerman said.