Leaves turning from green to red and gold signaled a transfer of seasons on a glorious Friday at Woodward Park. But there was little change among the elite in the Central Section Cross Country Championships.
Pacesetting again was the section's standard-bearing program from Buchanan, which won an 11th straight girls Division I title and a fourth straight boys crown.
Each scored 28 points -- only 13 from perfect scores -- as repeat champion Macy Bricks (17 minutes, 58 seconds) and sophomore Hagen Reedy (18:31) ran 1-2 in the girls over the 3.1-mile course and junior C.J. Albertson (15:19) and senior Kevin Barnard (15:31) ran 1-2 in the boys.
Other examples of continued excellence at Woodward, the three-decade host venue for section and state championships:
- Redwood senior Justin Vilhauer (15:47) successfully defended his D-II title despite laboring with bronchitis. He will attend Oklahoma State, the NCAA's top-ranked men's program.
The top two or three teams from each division, in addition to up to five runners outside of those teams in each division, qualified for the CIF State Cross Country Championships Nov. 27 at Woodward.
Buchanan's boys, ranked fourth in the state, figure to be a force again after placing ninth last year and second in 2008.
Clayton Jordan Albertson -- better known as C.J. -- will arrive at the top of his game after clocking a personal best Friday.
And he typifies a runner in the program, someone who got hooked early, experienced success and didn't let go.
He began running in fourth grade -- a year before football is offered in Clovis Unified School District.
"Actually, I wanted to play football," said the son of Madera High principal and former basketball coach Kent Albertson. "But cross country was the only sport offered in the fall [of fourth grade at Copper Hills Elementary]. I won the district, went undefeated and decided to keep going.
"Then I came here [at Buchanan] my freshman year and was just surrounded by great runners and the whole atmosphere. I mean, it drives you to run. All the people who enter the program buy into the tradition, and it fires you up every day. To me, it's just fun running and being with the team and in the program."
Besides Albertson and Barnard, the Bears also received a fourth from sophomore Cody Brazeal, a ninth from junior Josh Orosco and a 12th from Makynzee Balucas, a junior pole vaulter who has exploded onto the scene in his first season of cross country.
If there's pressure in Buchanan's program, it involves the girls while sustaining the double-digit team title streak.
"None of them want to be THAT team," said Brian Weaver, the school's highly successful track and field coach, who has taken the cross country baton from the retired Marty Simpson.
"That" team, Weaver said, is the hypothetical one that wouldn't win the section team championship.
"They know the reputation we have," Weaver said. "They know what has come before them."
Also scoring for the Bears were seniors Julianne Jacques (18:48) and Dana Schmalzal, and sophomore Myleigh Bricks (19:34), sister of Macy -- who was The Bee's Runner of the Year in 2009 as a junior.