Robert Woods walked off the track at Cerritos College thinking he had vanquished his biggest rival in the boys' 400-meter dash.
The Gardena Serra High senior had caught and passed Chino Don Lugo's Josh Mance about 250 meters into the race and then appeared to hold him off in a step-for-step finish Friday at the Southern Section Masters Meet.
"I really did feel like I won," Woods said.
The stadium public-address announcer agreed, momentarily announcing Woods as the winner.
"The guy said, 'Robert Woods' at first and I was like, 'Man,' " Mance said. "And then he was like, 'Wait, Josh Mance.' I was excited about that."
In a photo finish that could have used an assist from an electron microscope, Mance prevailed in 46.164 seconds, .006 ahead of Wood's 46.170. They were the fastest two times in the nation this year and easily qualified both for the state meet next Friday and Saturday at Clovis Buchanan High.
Mance credited his kick in the final 10 meters.
"It was my strength coming home," the senior said. "I needed that with Robert Woods ahead of me."
Woods and Mance were so drained from the showdown that they finished seventh and eighth, respectively, in the 200 later in the evening. But they both advanced to the state meet in the event, won by Covina's Remontay McClain in 21.00.
Woods also anchored Serra's 4x400 relay team, which held off Long Beach Poly to win in 3:10.41.
Oxnard Rio Mesa senior Jamison Jordan won the tightly bunched boys' 100 in 10.52, edging McClain (10.53), Vista Murrieta's Jovonte Slater (10.54) and Serra's George Farmer (10.55).
"It basically came down to the lean," Jordan said. "I was working on trying not to tense up at the end of my race like I usually do, but I felt like I ran a good race so I'm happy."
Farmer is bidding to become the first athlete in California history to win state titles in three sports in the same school year after capturing championships in football and basketball. The junior also qualified for the state meet in the 200 by finishing fifth in 21.41.
Ontario Colony's Ashley Cook pulled an upset in the girls' 300 hurdles, winning in 42.65. Claremont's Kori Carter, who came into the meet having posted the second-fastest time in the nation (41.30) earlier this year, finished third with a time of 43.20.
It was also a disappointing showing for the Stanford-bound Carter in the 100 hurdles. She finished third in 13.95, behind winner Brea Buchanan of Chino Hills Ayala (13.86) and Melia Cox of Long Beach Poly (13.89). Carter still advanced to the state meet in both events.
Jessica Davis of Highland won the girls' 100 in 11.66 and followed it with a victory in the 200 in 23.72.
Long Beach Poly swept the 4x100 relays, with the Jackrabbits' boys winning in 40.78 and the girls in 45.29. The Serra boys, who had posted a nation-leading 40.66 in the 4x100 earlier this year, were not eligible to compete after committing a zone violation in the Division IV preliminaries.
The Poly girls also won the 4x400 relay in 3:43.49.
Placentia Valencia senior Sean Krinik won the boys' 800 in 1:49.18, the fastest time in the nation this year.