Racing the clock Saturday at the Southern Section cross-country championships wasn't as important to most competitors as passing the nearest runner.
Even if it was your twin brother.
That's what Diego Mercado of West Covina managed at the end of the Division I boys' final at Mt. San Antonio College, passing his sibling, Danny, with about 40 meters remaining in the 2.91-mile race and winning in 14 minutes 55 seconds.
Diego's time was 31 seconds slower than the course record he set last month at the Mt. SAC Invitational, but the Mercados were feeling the effects of a sizzling early pace.
"That wasn't the plan," Diego said of the 4:33 opening mile. "I turned around and nobody was there except for Danny and I was like, 'Oh, no.' "
A few competitors did manage to deliver some eye-popping times, however.
The Corona del Mar girls' team and its No. 1 runner, senior Annie St. Geme, set course records while sweeping the team and individual titles in Division III.
St. Geme, who signed with Stanford last week, won her early-morning race in 16:51, a Southern Section postseason course record. Four runners finished in the top five for the Sea Kings, helping them post a team time of 1:29:42 to become the first girls' team to break 90 minutes on the course.
The Fountain Valley girls won the Division I team title, its first in the program's history, and Glendora junior Christy Adamyk was the individual winner. Adamyk, who considers Mt. SAC her home course, was in third with a mile remaining, but blew past Shannon Murakami of Saugus and Crystal Reed of Fountain Valley to win in 17:30.
"My dad said it was the time to start pushing," Adamyk said.
Simi Valley Royal won the boys' team title, despite its best runner, junior Michael Cybulski, finishing fifth on the team and 34th overall because of lingering leg injuries. Royal's second-best runner, Jason Pedersen, did not compete after returning from a two-month layoff last week in the preliminaries.
Michael Coe of Lompoc Cabrillo ran the fastest time of the day while winning the Division III race in 14:47. However, the Conquistadors could not defend their team title as they were soundly defeated by Barstow.
Ted Price, who was injured during the first half of the season, won the Division II race in 15:13 and Placentia Valencia secured the team title. Chad Hall of Big Bear defended his Division IV title in 14:58 and helped the Bears win the team title. Tim Burdett of Riverside Woodcrest Christian finished first in Division V in 15:55 to lead the Royals to the team title.
Phelan Serrano sophomore Kauren Tarver defended her Division II title in 17:25, holding off Whitney Blue of Newport Harbor and Kevyn Murphy of Manhattan Beach Mira Costa.
Irvine Woodbridge, which ended the regular season ranked No. 3 in Division II, was the most notable non-qualifier on the day after finishing eighth, one spot from qualifying for the state finals Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno.
Jacqueline Turner of Orange Lutheran won the Division IV race in 18:02 and helped the Lancers defend their team title.