The 1999 boys' cross-country season will be remembered for the individual accomplishments of Augie Escobar, Danny Mejia and Ryan Bousquet.
Escobar became only the fourth county runner to win an individual state title when he won the Division II crown on the 5,000-meter course at Woodward Park in Fresno.
A week later, Escobar and Mejia qualified for the national championships by placing among the top eight runners Saturday at the Western Regionals. It marked the first time since 1992 that two runners from the county made the nationals, which will be this Saturday at Oak Trail Course at Shades of Green in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Bousquet ran right on the heels of Escobar and Mejia all season, even beating Escobar at the Orange County Championships. Bousquet, who also broke six course records during the season, then wrapped up his impressive senior year with a third-place finish in the Division I state finals.
The team story of the season was Santiago, which won only the second Southern Section team title in school history.
Katella had its top five runners returning from last season, when it won Division II state and Southern Section titles, but the Knights couldn't produce the same results in Division I, finishing third in the section and fourth at state.
Bousquet has the distinction of being the only runner from California to defeat Villa Park senior Augie Escobar this season. That win came at the Orange County Championships at Irvine Park Oct. 16, when Bousquet let Escobar take a 20-yard lead before slowly reeling him in and then finishing him off with a drawn-out kick. Bousquet's best effort, however, came at the Division I state finals in Fresno, where he moved through the pack in the final mile and finished third in 15:32. Bousquet also has the distinction of setting six course records during the season, winning a Sunset League title and finishing fourth in the Southern Section finals at Mt. SAC with the third-fastest time (15:21) among county runners.
Casas quietly put together another solid season running behind, and sometimes in front of, teammate Danny Mejia. Casas, a second-team selection last season after finishing ninth in the Southern Section Division II finals and 16th at state, capped this year by finishing 26th at the Division I state finals with a time of 16:01, sixth-best among county runners, and helping the Knights to a fourth-place finish in the team standings. Casas' best finish came at the Orange County Championships in mid-October, when he placed fourth in the sweepstakes race just behind Mejia, giving Katella its second consecutive team title. Casas also took 20th at the Southern Section finals, which helped Katella to a third-place finish.
Marquez seemed to peak when he needed to most this season, at the Southern Section Division I finals two weeks ago. Marquez covered the grueling Mt. SAC course in 15:36, snaring the final qualifying spot for the state finals from second-teamers Devin Segal of Dana Hills and Scott Brandos of Edison. His time was also the fifth-fastest among county runners that day. Marquez also had the sixth-fastest time at the county championships and finished third in the Division II senior boys race at the Laguna Hills Invitational, a race won by eventual Division I state champion Travis Laird of Santa Barbara San Marcos. Marquez also finished second to San Clemente's Garrett Milner in the South Coast League finals.
Mejia had the best-looking resume coming into the season and it looks even prettier after another strong push toward the end. Mejia, who won the Southern Section Division II title and finished fifth at state last season, hit the jackpot three days ago when he finished fifth at the West Regionals and qualified for Saturday's national championships in Orlando, Fla. A week before, at the state championships, Mejia managed to overtake everyone except Travis Laird of San Marcos in the Division I final, including Lakewood's Ozzie Pina, who defeated Mejia at the section championships a week earlier. Although Mejia finished second in that race, he was the first Division I-A runner to cross the finish line. Mejia also took third in the sweepstakes race at the county championships and won an Empire League title for the second consecutive season.