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Hawk, Bulldog runners start VOL season
Ceres High junior Alejandro Garcia nabbed his third victory of the cross country season, winning the first Valley Oak League varsity boys cluster meet on Wednesday in Modesto.

Alejandro crossed the finish line of the 3.1-mile course at Legion Park in a personal-best 17 minutes, 2 seconds.

"I knew I'd finish in the top six," said Garcia, who shattered his previous-best time by more than 20 seconds. "But I wasn't sure how good I'd be. This is like a dream. My goal is to get first at the next one."

Alejandro outkicked Weston Ranch's Roberto Alvarez (17:04) at the end. They shared the lead until the last 200 meters.

"After that it was pretty much a dead sprint," he said.

Garcia and Alvarez passed Timberwolf John Bowers (fourth, 17:22) at the 2.5-mile mark.

"My only worry was Weston Ranch because his strategy was the same as mine," Alejandro said. "We stayed behind Sierra so he could block the wind."

Garcia and Co. competed in ideal weather conditions. The first official day of fall was Sept. 22.

"I think it was an advantage for me," Alejandro said. "The cooler it is, the better I run."

Ceres High posted a 3-4 record in the team standings. The Bulldogs beat Central Valley, East Union and Manteca. They lost to Oakdale, Sierra, Sonora and Weston Ranch.

Gabriel Sanchez, Mathew Mey, Keegan Overbey, Alex Morales, Edward Lopez and Jose Yepez took 26th (19:34), 34th (20:42), 37th (21:01), 39th (21:25), 50th (23:01) and 54th (27:22), respectively.

Oscar Tovar, a first-year runner, led Central Valley with a 25th-place finish (19:25).

"I started off good," he said. "I was passing people. Then I cramped up and somebody elbowed me. I'm not satisfied with what I did. Hopefully, I get better."

Hawk teammates Juan Martinez, Rigel Smart, Jancey Hermosillo, Jonathan Burgos, Will Berryhill and Ross Henry placed 28th (20:07), 38th (21:02), 43rd (22:01), 44th (22:03), 47th (22:14) and 49th (22:22).

Central Valley (1-6) collected its lone victory against Manteca. The Hawks lost to Ceres High, Sonora, Oakdale, East Union, Sierra and Weston Ranch.

In varsity girls' action, Central Valley's Jasveen Brar placed 13th in 23 minutes, 4 seconds. The first-year runner contemplated quitting two miles into the race.

"I've never run this much before," Brar said. It was hard. I thought about stopping. But I pushed myself. It was all mental. I know I'm going to improve from here."

Alexiss Cervera (14th, 23:18), Mandy Toor (30th, 25:21), Gabriela Diaz (32nd, 26:25), Andrea Munoz (39th, 29:48) and Gurseet Kuar (41st, 31:33) rounded out the Hawks' lineup.

Central Valley compiled a 3-4 record. The Hawks defeated Ceres High, Manteca and Weston Ranch. They lost to Sonora, Oakdale, East Union and Sierra.

The Bulldogs (0-7) had just three competitors in Jennifer Perez (15th, 23:36), Mayra Abreo (19th, 23:36) and Erica Castrejon (37th, 28:31).

Perez set a personal record thanks in large part to her offseason training regimen.

"I'm pretty satisfied, but I want to do better," she said.