Buchanan High was poised for a sweep of the Division I individual titles Saturday in the CIF State Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park.
An hour and a half after Bears junior Hagen Reedy won the girls race, C.J. Albertson toed the starting line in the same red, white and blue and as the favorite in the boys event.
But Albertson never found his stride.
"I don't know, just felt bad the whole way," said the Bears senior, who finished a non-threatening sixth in 15 minutes and 20 seconds.
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While that earned him a medal in one of the most elite prep cross country races in the land, it didn't compare with his fourth-place time of 14:51 a year ago.
And that would have won easily Saturday, when Arcadia long-striding senior Sergio Gonzalez ran away from the 188-runner field in 15:05.
"It did not unfold as I thought," Gonzalez said a year after finishing sixth in 15:02. "I thought C.J. would take off from the start, and he didn't."
To be referenced by his initials by a Southern Section foe showed the level of respect that Clayton Jordan Albertson has earned.
Further, he was the choice of ESPNHS/DyeStatCal editor Rich Gonzalez, considered the state's expert.
But it wasn't going to happen, as Albertson was already back 10 meters at the mile mark. He was out of it and gasping at mile 2.
Two weeks ago, he finished an even-more-unexpected fourth at 15:48 in the Central Section D-I final, also at Woodward. Then he had an excuse – tendinitis in his left foot.
"It's fine. I didn't have any pain," he said. "I just felt I was working harder than I should have been in the first mile. I tried to calm down, I knew there was a lot of race left and I tried to find a rhythm to get back into it, but I couldn't."
Teammate Cody Brazeal also medaled with a 10th-place time of 15:27, a personal record. His previous best was 15:31, while placing 25th in last year's meet as a sophomore.
The Bears finished seventh as a team with help from senior Josh Orosco (39th, 15:59), junior Carter Duerksen (100th, 16:40) and sophomore Jacob Williams (106th, 16:42).
Trabuco Hills-Mission Viejo, behind Jared Hazlett (ninth, 15:25), unseated defending champion Arcadia in D-I boys by averaging 15:39 among its top five runners – the best team performance of the day.
- Madera South's D-II boys, hoping for a top-three finish, placed sixth behind junior Jose Herrera (20th, 15:46) and seniors Juan Navia (34th, 15:57) and Nathan Esparza (36th, 15:59). Golden Valley-Santa Clarita dominated with a 15:49 average. And La Costa Canyon-Carlsbad's Darren Fahy (15:03) delivered the best time of the day.
- Parlier senior Robert Leija, a two-time section champion, was gunning for the state podium (top-10 finish) after placing 11th last year (15:59). But, following his coach's instructions, he said, he went out fast, faded and placed 36th (16:34).
"I couldn't go after the second mile; I was burned out," said the student with a 3.8 grade-point average. "But I had a good career and there's still a lot left. I plan on running in college. I've applied to Georgetown and a couple UCs."
- Bullard junior Ali Teliha (18:15) missed a medal by a second, placing 11th.
- Clovis North's girls, surely bound for D-I next year after winning consecutive section titles in D-II, finished 11th behind sophomores Leigh Moffett (44th, 19:00) and Christine Padilla (19:36).