Colie Smith said it was the sound of footsteps behind him that caused him to push it down the stretch of Wednesday’s San Francisco Section cross country championships.
But if only the Lowell senior had known it was just his own shoelaces slapping against the ground, he surely could have saved himself some heavy breathing.
Smith finished the 5-kilometer course at the Polo Fields in 17 minutes, 28 seconds, winning the boys’ race by 14 seconds and leading the Cardinals to the team title.
"I actually thought there was someone right behind me at the end," said Smith, who was genuinely surprised by his margin of victory. "But I guess I was just hearing my own shoelaces."
Smith was only the first in a sea of red to complete the course quickly. Six Lowell runners finished in the top 10, including Carlin Lee (fourth, 19:12), Eric Rodriguez (sixth, 19:31), Hans Meimban (eighth, 19:33), Kevin Xu (ninth, 19:41) and James Nguyen (10th, 19:54).
Lowell (28 points) comfortably outpaced second-place Lincoln (42), avenging last year’s city championship loss to the Mustangs.
On the girls’ side, it was nothing new as Lowell (27 points) topped second-place Lincoln (37) to win its 30th league title in a row. The Cardinals dominated the girls’ race, placing five runners in the top 10 and seven in the top 14.
Jamie Ngo was the top female finisher for Lowell, taking third place in 21:48. She was followed by Tamara Purpura (fifth, 22:36), Diana Zhen (eighth, 23:12), Alexis Kim (ninth, 23:16) and Cynthia Leung (10th, 23:21).
"We have a big school and a lot of people come out for the team and that always helps," Lowell coach Michael Prutz said. "And it was great to have the guys match the girls this year."
Lucy Luong of Lincoln won the girls’ race in 21:20, finally chasing down the title after finishing second as a sophomore and third last year as a junior. Twenty minutes after the race, she was still stretching out her cramping legs but smiling as she recalled the win.
"I feel tired but really excited and great," Luong said. "This was my last year and I gave it all I could."
CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
TEAM SCORES: Lowell 28, Lincoln 42, Galileo 109, Mission 114, Washington 115, Marshall 152, Burton 190, Balboa 239, Wallenberg 275.
INDIVIDUALS: 1, Colie Smith, Lowell, 17:28; 2, Jack Calhoun, Mission, 17:42; 3, Stephen Wong, Lincoln, 18:38; 4, Carlin Lee, Lowell, 19:12; 5, Sloane Cook, Lincoln, 19:13.
TEAM SCORES: Lowell 27, Lincoln 37, Washington 77, Galileo 105, Wallenberg 149.
INDIVIDUALS: 1, Lucy Luong, Lincoln, 21:20; 2, Hiwet Mehari, International Studies Academy, 21:39; 3, Jaimie Ngo, Lowell, 21:48; 4, Rebecca Cho, Lincoln, 22:25; 5, Tamara Purprua, Lowell, 22:36.