FRESNO — Bryan Dameworth set foot last year on the Agoura High campus amid great expectations. Though the expectations weren't always fair, they were always there.
Dameworth had won several national age-group track championships in junior high and was expected by many to continue his dominance at the high school level.
Saturday he lived up to those expectations by winning the Division I title at the inaugural CIF state high school cross-country championships at Woodward Park.
Freshman teammate Deena Drossin, another age-group phenom, gave Agoura a sweep of the Division I individual titles by winning the girls race. Led by Drossin, Agoura placed second behind Palos Verdes, 70-91.
Dameworth's victory was a mild surprise. His strategy, however, was nothing less than astonishing.
A notorious front-runner, Dameworth ran with the lead pack for the first 2 3/4 miles before surging into the lead.
"I just wanted to stay with the leaders," said Dameworth, who placed fourth in the Southern Section 2-A championships. "I just wanted to stay comfortable. I didn't plan on setting the pace."
After passing the one-mile mark in fifth place (4 minutes, 41 seconds), Dameworth was fourth after two miles (9:41).
It was a critical point in the race for Dameworth, who trailed David Scudamore of Palos Verdes, Goshu Tadese of Crawford in San Diego and Terrence Mahon of La Habra by five yards.
"I was scared," Dameworth said. "They had a little lead on me and I wasn't sure if I could hang on."
He did hang on, making his move with a quarter of a mile remaining.
"It was now or never," he said. "I knew Tadese was quick so I had to kick from a long way out."
Although Dameworth's surge gave him just a two-yard advantage, it was enough as he ran 15:12 over the 5,000-meter distance.
Tadese, a native of Ethiopia, placed second in 15:13 and Scudamore finished third in 15:14.
Abe Valdez placed 15th (15:52) to lead the Camarillo boys team to a fourth-place finish. The Scorpions scored 132 points. Arroyo (41), Dana Hills (115) and Bellarmine of San Jose (124) placed first, second and third.
Agoura Coach Bill Duley, Dameworth's stepfather, said the race went exactly as he had hoped.
"I told Bryan not to lead the race unless he felt like he could run away with it," Duley said. "When he leads, it puts too much pressure on him mentally. The other runners stalk him. They sit on him, let him do all the work and then outkick him at the end."
Drossin didn't have to worry about that happening in the girls Division I race.
She shared the early lead with Brigid Freyne of Riverside Poly as the pair passed the one-mile mark in 5:18, then Drossin broke the race open.
At two miles (11:09), Drossin had a 60-yard lead that she maintained to the finish.
Her time of 17:35 over the 5,000-meter course was the second fastest of the day. Kira Jorgensen of Rancho Buena Vista in San Diego won the Division II race in 17:34.
"This has been a great day for us," Duley said, smiling with satisfaction. "Everyone came through."
Mike Glaze of Notre Dame, Jena Haggenmiller of Thousand Oaks and Ricky DeLeon of Moorpark also turned in solid performances.
Glaze placed third in the boys Division II race with a well-paced 15:32 effort.
Glaze, the runner-up in the Southern Section 3-A Division championships, was 10th after a mile (4:45) and ninth at the two-mile mark (10:02).
"I felt lousy in the first mile," Glaze said. "I just wanted to get the race over with. But I started to feel good after two miles."
Glaze scorched the course the rest of the way to take third.
Haggenmiller might have run the best race of her career in the girls Division I race. The Lancer senior, who had finished seventh in the Southern Section 4-A championships, placed eighth in 18:11.
DeLeon led the boys Division III race for the first mile (4:49) before finishing sixth with a time of 16:07.