FRESNO - Willow Glen's Mohamed Abdalla did what comes natural.
He took the lead Saturday after 800 meters at the CIF State Division III championships at Woodward Park.
"I love to run out front," he said. "That's what I do and how I've always run."
It might have cost him his second consecutive state title this time.
While Abdalla hit the wall, Dublin senior James Attarian hit his stride. And when Attarian passed his rival with 100 meters to go Abdalla had nothing in reserve; he lost by three seconds to Attarian, who won the 3.1-mile race with a time of 15 minutes 17 seconds.
"I gave it my all but today it just wasn't enough," Abdalla said. "I ran my race but today he was a better man."
On a day featuring a record-shattering performance from Riverbank (Sac-Joaquin Section) senior German Fernandez, Abdalla's result was but one of the top performances for South Bay runners.
Four other area athletes earned medals by finishing among the first 10 in their respective races, including another runner-up finish by Valley Christian junior Jennifer Bergman in Division IV.
The other medalists were Abdalla's teammate Nohe Lema (seventh), Mountain View sophomore Garrett Rowe (fifth in Division II) and Leland sophomore Stephanie Barnett (eighth in Division II).
Fernandez won Division IV in a time of 14:24, which set a state-meet and course record. Agoura's Bryan Dameworth held the state mark of 14:45 since 1989, and Marc Davis of San Diego had the course record since '86.
Willow Glen's boys had the best team showing for a South Bay school by finishing fourth, and Mountain View's girls were sixth. Both results were something to celebrate as the Rams were unranked and the Spartans were No. 10.
"We all ran to our ability or better and we all gave 100 percent," said Abdalla, who won last year in 15:26. "That's all you can ask."
Although happy for his teammates, Abdalla was disappointed. He wanted to defend his title, especially after placing second two weeks ago to Gambileg Bor of Jefferson in the CCS championships.
Bor placed sixth Saturday in 15:43, but Abdalla couldn't outlast Attarian, who trailed by more than 10 seconds at the midway point, according to Dublin Coach Ken Grace.
"My coach told me down the final stretch that (Attarian) was coming and to push it home," Abdalla said. "But I was dying. When he went by me I knew I had no kick to chase him down."
The runner also has been bothered by a nagging right foot injury for the past month.
"It's getting better but there's no time now to really stay off of it," the senior said.
Abdalla will run next week in the West regionals at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.
While Abdalla was frustrated with second place, Bergman was pleased. She improved five places and 32 seconds from last year's race. Still, she never threatened Healdsburg's Sarah Sumpter, who won in 17:26.
Barnett also was thrilled with her medal and time of 18:06, nine seconds faster than last year.
"I was hoping for top 10 and got eighth and next year I'll shoot for top three," she said.
In another interesting matchup of South Bay sophomores, Mountain View's Rowe finished six seconds ahead of Philip MacQuitty of Palo Alto. Rowe had lost to his rival by one second at the CCS championships two weeks ago. MacQuitty was among the top five most of the way until fading to 11th.
"It's really disappointing but I have a couple years to make amends," said MacQuitty, ranked No. 2 coming into the race. "The first mile we went out so slow and I thought it would be easy coming down the stretch. But it just didn't work out."