He reached the final 175-yard grass stretch at Woodward Park running against only the clock, for there was nobody with him.
He split the hundreds of fans present for the end of a Central Section Division I race that wasn't, hit the finish line, pulled up and turned around.
"There was no one behind me," Madera South High senior Jose Herrera says. "I was like, 'Where is everybody at?' "
Stockdale's Blake Haney, the event's defending champion, would arrive 10 seconds later -- meaning about 150 yards behind.
Buchanan's Cody Brazeal, the previous year's silver medalist and the fastest 1,600-meter runner in section history, was another 8 seconds behind Haney.
But this wasn't about Haney and Brazeal, not this time.
There was a new sheriff in town.
"I couldn't believe it," says Herrera, The Bee's boys cross country Runner of the Year. "I beat some great runners, like Cody and Blake. I was really happy; it was great."
And improbable, really.
Herrera, recruited by Bee repeat Coach of the Year Rich Parris, only began running as a sophomore: "Just to get in shape for soccer."
But Parris immediately identified more than that: "I knew he had something in him."
The son of farm laborers from Mexico and hardened by field work in blistering Valley summer heat himself, Herrera attacked the sport with determination.
As a sophomore, he placed second in the section's D-II (16:23).
As a junior, he won D-II (15:58).
Then this season in DI and the 15:37 runaway.
And all for section-winning teams: "Three rings, that's good."
Herrera may run next for Loyola-Marymount or Fresno Pacific.
"Once I started running, I like the competition and everything, wanted to train more and get faster," he says. "It made me look at the state finishers and wonder how it would feel to be first, second or third. I didn't think I was capable of getting first.
"Now I can say I won Valley, and not many people can say that. I had a good season and I'm proud."