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Ceres High varsity boys cross country standout Alejandro Garcia earned a measure of redemption with his dominant performance at the Valley Oak League Championships on a windy and chilly Wednesday afternoon in Modesto.

The senior won the 3.1-mile race at Legion Park in 16:32, 12 seconds faster than second-place John Bowers of Sierra.

"I want to leave my mark at Ceres High," Alejandro said. "I accomplished that last year by going to state. Now, I'm trying to break my own records."

An exhausted Garcia had to settle for runner-up honors at the 2008 VOL competition, which was held on a more challenging course (Frogtown).

"I collapsed at the finish line last year," he said. "I still have scars on my knee and elbow. Today, I was relaxed. I had control of my breathing."

Alejandro placed first in the two VOL cluster meets during the regular season. He didn't underestimate his opponents at the conference finals.

"You can never count your chickens before they hatch," he said. "You never know what's going to happen on a course. You can twist an ankle and there goes the race."

Garcia pulled away during the final mile, outdistancing Bowers by 40-plus yards.

Alejandro and his Bulldog teammates also avenged dual-meet losses to crosstown rival Central Valley. Ceres High edged the Hawks by three points, 138-141.

Garcia, Mathew Mey (19th, 18:35), Rajinder Singh (31st, 19:48), Jose Perez (41st, 20:24) and Mario Hernandez (46th, 21:53) helped lead Ceres High to a fifth-place finish in the team standings.

Oscar Tovar (13th, 18:01), Francisco Gonzalez (24th, 19:13), Raul Castro (33rd, 20:00), Eric Sosa (35th, 20:02) and Jesus Moreno (36th, 20:06) scored points for Central Valley.