Eduardo “Lalo” Herrera hit the finish line, saw the Central Section-record time on the digital display above him and threw up his up his right forefinger, indicating No. 1.
That represented section history in a Division I race he finished second to Arcadia’s Phillip Rocha in the 29th CIF State Cross Country Championships on Saturday at Woodward Park.
Rocha’s time of 14 minutes and 42.9 seconds on the 3.1-mile course ranks sixth in state history for all divisions.
Herrera’s 14:48.8 broke the section standard of 14:51 by Buchanan’s C.J. Albertson in 2010.
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I pushed, pushed and pushed and got it. I’m really happy.
Madera South’s Eduardo “Lalo” Herrera on setting a Central Section record
“I knew as long as I competed with Rocha I would get the record,” said Herrera, who was on the defending champion’s shoulder until the final 800 meters. “I pushed, pushed and pushed and got it. I’m really happy.”
It was that kind of day – a banner day for Central Section representatives before more than 10,000 people – as Clovis North’s Lauren Moffett (D-I) and Central Valley Christian’s Gabby Satterlee (D-IV) also delivered personal records with two of the top times in section history while each placed third.
In addition, the Madera South boys team, with Herrera as its only senior, placed fourth. In D-I girls, Buchanan, without a senior, also placed fourth and Clovis North was sixth.
While the section was outstanding, others were extraordinary on a course that defied temperatures ranging from 39 for the morning races to 54 later.
It was a blistering stage, packed and perfect thanks to recent rain, and no one flew like Great Oak-Temecula.
No one ever has.
The Wolfpack, ranked second nationally by Dyestat.com with both teams, set state records by going 76 minutes and 9 seconds for their top five runners in boys and 89:11 in girls, while repeating team titles. That’s averaging 15:14 a boy and 17:51 a girl.
Herrera, a two-time section champion, arrived with a personal record of 15:01.
2 State team records set by Great Oaks-Temecula – both boys and girls
He said earlier in the week he had a 14:50 in him, but he feared even that may not be enough while competing in the nation’s finest cross country meet – specifically against Rocha, who beat him by 14 seconds in last year’s state meet and by 3 seconds in the Clovis Invitational at Woodward in early October, each in 14:58.
And then Saturday’s 14:42.9, which set a state meet D-I record.
“That’s really tough,” said Herrera, who placed fourth in the state last year and seventh as a sophomore. “That’s what it takes to be a state winner, and he deserves it.”
Herrera’s time was sixth all-time in a state D-I final.
He was swarmed by family, friends and fans afterward. And that set up an emotional scene that saw him embrace his older brother, Jose Herrera, a two-time section champion and 2013 Madera South graduate.
“The first thing he told me was, ‘If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here,’ ” said Jose, his voice beginning to crack.
It was the older brother who, three years ago, encouraged Lalo to run distance at a time he wanted to run no farther than up and down a soccer field.
“I’m proud of this kid,” Jose said. “Our parents are proud, our family is proud, the school and community are proud. I’m happy for him and all the hard work he’s done.”
Jose Herrera’s girlfriend, Elizabeth Lyons, stood nearby, holding a large sign that read: “Lalo Be Legendary.”
For a modest 18-year-old, that’s a bit overwhelming.
Yet Saturday, at about noon, he couldn’t deny his status.
“I met my goal, accomplished what I wanted, and it’s a good feeling,” said Herrera, who will likely compete in the Nike Cross Nationals next Saturday in Portland, Ore. “If it wasn’t for Jose, honestly, I wouldn’t be here because of his efforts of waking me up and begging me every day to try it out. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be making history.”
Madera South, which placed third and second in the past two state meets, also received an 11th from junior Miguel Villar (15:15.6), a 39th from junior Michael Ochoa (15:50.5), a 57th from freshman Victor Ochoa and a 65th from junior Nicholas Hernandez while scoring 141 points (less than their finishing total due to non-team scoring runners in the field).
Great Oak, while also becoming the first team in state annals to deliver five sub-16:00 runners, scored 43 points with Spencer Dodds (third, 15:00), Cole Spencer (fifth, 15:04.5), Isaac Cortez (seventh, 15:05.8), Solomon Fountain (12th, 15:20) and Nelson Quintana (22nd, 15:38.3).
The Wolfpack girls, while edging Davis 44-46, were led by Destiny Collins’ winning 17:09.4. This follows her 3,200-meter gold in the state track and field finals in June at Buchanan’s Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Buchanan’s girls scored 165 points with freshman Meagen Lowe (26th, 18:23.9), junior Mackenzie Mora (42nd, 18:39.2) and sophomores Skylar Steenburgh (45th, 18:43.0) and Clare Hernandez (50th, 18:46.5) and Katie Nili (71st, 19:05.3).
Moffett’s best day – Moffett, a year after placing eighth, blew away her personal record by 22 seconds, and it came in the presence of Vanderbilt associate head coach and recruiting coordinator Rhonda Riley.
Moffett, who has signed with the Commodores of the Southeastern Conference, beat the school record of 17:25 set by her sister, Leigh, who was also present.
17:23.3 Time by Clovis North’s Lauren Moffett. Only two girls in section history have run faster.
“She’s happy for me,” the younger sister said, “but she’s also like, ‘Ah, man, there goes the record.’ It’s a good rivalry.”
Only Buchanan’s Hagan Reedy (16:59, 2012) and Mission Prep-San Luis Obispo’s Jordan Hasay (17:02, 2005) have run faster than Moffett among girls in section history. And Mission Prep has since returned to the Southern Section.
Satterlee great, but bad timing – Satterlee’s time of 17:44 beat her personal record by 4 seconds and would have won D-IV in 25 of the 29 state meets.
But the problem: It came on a day Santa Cruz’s Cate Ratliff (17:03.7) and McKinleyville’s Morgin Coonfield (17:07.2) produced the division’s best state meet times in history.
Ratliff, Satterlee and Coonfield entered the meet ranked Nos. 1, 6 and 7 among all divisions in the state by DyeStatCal.com.
“I didn’t have it in me to stick with the top two girls, but I also would not let them out of my sight,” said Satterlee, a senior headed to Baylor. “I wasn’t feeling the best, but I stayed mentally strong and fought against it. Those were great competitors, super fast girls, and it’s such a blessing I could race with them.”
Shani Slabber (18:54.9) placed 30th and Jenna Wilson (19:27.6) 44th for CVC, which finished eighth as a team after winning the state D-IV a year ago.
Champion by division at Saturday's CIF State Cross Country Championship meet at Woodward Park.
▪ Boys: Great Oak-Temecula (team); Phillip Rocha, Arcadia, 14:42.9
▪ Girls: Great Oak (team); Destiny Collins, Great Oak, 17:09
▪ Boys: Loyola-Los Angeles (team); Steven Khan, Ayala-Chino Hills, 15:02.6
▪ Girls: Saugus-Santa Clarita (team); Gillian Meeks, Gunn-Palo Alto, 17:16.0
▪ Boys: Brea Olinda (team); Austin Tamagno, Brea Olinda, 14:45.9
▪ Girls: Aptos (team); Stefani Gaskell, Sultana, 17:30
▪ Boys: Santa Ynez (team); Andrew Burkhardt, JSerra-San Juan Capistrano, 15:08.5
▪ Girls: Bishop Amat-La Puente (team); Cate Ratliff, Santa Cruz, 17:03.7
▪ Boys: Flintridge Prep-La Cañada (team); Cooper Teare, St. Joseph Notre Dame-Alameda, 15:07.3
▪ Girls: Flintridge Prep (team); Rylee Bowen, Sonoma Academy-Santa Rosa, 18:12.3