For a moment, all was silent at the finish line at the Willow Hill course in Folsom.
Then, a vuvuzela sounded in the distance.
Finally, after several more tense seconds, a runner appeared on the horizon. It was Davis High’s Jack Scranton, moving steadily toward the line. He had zipped by Sheldon’s Abdul Hamid with 200 meters to go and built up a comfortable lead heading into the homestretch.
Scranton crossed unchallenged to post his second consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section individual cross country championship on Saturday. Moments later, his teammates surged across the line, scoring enough points to give the Blue Devil boys their ninth team title in 13 seasons, and something even sweeter: redemption.
Last year, the DHS boys missed winning the crown by the slimmest margin on these same hills.
“It’s great,” said Devil head coach Bill Gregg. “We lost last year by one point. (It was) a heartbreaker. It’s really gratifying, especially because we graduated four out of our top seven from last year.”
Gregg had more than one reason to be happy on Saturday. Led by their own section individual champion — freshman Fiona O’Keeffe — the Davis girls also turned in a solid performance, finishing second to rival St. Francis, and will join the local boys in the California state meet later this month.
“We were either going to win or get second trying our best,” Gregg said. “And that’s kind of what happened. St. Francis, you’ve got to take your hat off to them.
“They had five girls in the top ten.”
But all of them finished 14 seconds behind O’Keeffe, a ninth-grader at Holmes Junior High, who turned in a blistering time of 18:08, beating out a pair of Troubadours in Lauren Larocco and Madison Rawson.
“On paper, she was the favorite to win and she won convincingly. I’m hearing that her time was certainly in the top-10 all time on this course,” Gregg said.
O’Keeffe was followed up by Giulia McIssac (fifth in 18:45), Maggie McManis (12th, 19:14) and Sophie Meads (13th, 19:25). Laura Daggett, Laney Teaford and Danielle Gantar rounded out DHS girls finishers, all ending up in the top 30.
For the local boys, Scranton finished with a time of 15:50, with teammates Sugal Sutter (eighth in 16:23), Brian Song (ninth, 16:27) and Paul Mohr (16:28) joining him in the top 10. Making the Devil victory even more impressive, was that their next three runners — Jasper Laca, Daniel Rowen and Gavin Monges all finished in the top 25.
The two DHS teams will be joined by the Woodcreek boys and girls and the St. Francis girls at the CIF state meet on Nov. 24 at Woodward Park in Fresno.
— Reach Will Bellamy at [email protected]