RENO — It was a long time in coming, but the Centennial boys finally won a state cross country title in a race held in the North. The last time a team from the South had won the large-school race was 1987, before any of these Centennial runners were born.
On Saturday at San Rafael Park, Centennial scored 39 points to easily capture the Division I state title to end the South’s drought in races held in the Reno area.
The team race was never really in doubt, as the Bulldogs placed four runners in the top 12 and finished well ahead of second-place Galena (64).
“I’ve been calling them the ‘sensational seven’ all year,” Centennial coach Mike McGuire said. “Today they kind of proved it. These guys have so much passion about their training and how they get along with each other. They’re like peas in a pod.”
Dajour Braxton placed third in the 3.1-mile race, covering the course in 16 minutes, 28 seconds, to lead Centennial. George Espino (16:36) was fourth, Jackson Carter (17:10) eighth and Spencer Day (17:15) 12th for the Bulldogs, who won state titles in 2010 and 2012 when the meet was held in Boulder City, but finished second in 2009 and 2011 when the meets were held in the North.
The individual race featured a fast start from a pack of Kai Benedict from McQueen and Eddie Esquivel from Eldorado along with a trio of Centennial runners: Braxton, Espino and Carter.
Benedict, Esquivel and Braxton broke away at the two-mile mark, and shortly thereafter Benedict settled the issue, winning by a comfortable margin in 16:05. Esquivel edged Braxton for second, as both runners were credited with the same time (16:28). Espino was fourth (16:36), and Coronado sophomore Colin Schaefer finished a strong fifth (16:38).
“It was a good race for me,” said Esquivel, who was also runner-up in 2012. “I was trying to stay behind Kai and catch him late, but he was really fast.”
The Division-IA race was won by Elko (49) with Spring Creek second (56). Tech (60) finished a close third.
Tech’s Martin Ponce led for much of the race, in a close-fought battle with Truckee’s Noah Oberriter, Elko’s Kyler Simpkins, Spring Creek’s Daniel Sallee and Faith Lutheran’s Chase Wood.
Ponce faded in the last 1,000 meters, finishing seventh in 17:29. Oberriter won with a time of 16:53, followed closely by Simpkins (16:54). Wood was third in 17:04. Tech’s Garrett Meyer finished fifth (17:25). Tech’s Miguel Garcia was right behind Meyer for sixth place.
North Tahoe grabbed the first four places in the Division III race and came away with a team score of 17.