Many runners spend the evening before a big race resting their legs.
Castlemont High's Jaime Lopez wasn't one of those runners. He spent more than two hours practicing kicking for the Knights football team after Tuesday's cross country practice.
It didn't appear to affect his performance Wednesday at the Oakland Section cross country championships. Lopez ran an expertly-paced race, using two pivotal moves in the last half of the extremely hilly 3.05-mile course at Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland to win the boys race with a time of 18 minutes, 59 seconds.
"It was my coach's instructions to sit, sit, sit and then kick," said Lopez about his strategy. "Those have been my instructions the last three years."
At approximately the one-mile mark, Lopez was fourth in a lead pack of five runners. By approximately the second-mile mark, Lopez and Skyline's Cameron Trinh had broken up the lead pack with a six-second advantage over third-place Robert Nguyen of Oakland.
"I like to pace myself," Lopez said. "I've always been an uphill runner."
However, Lopez said that he made his last big move on a downhill portion of the final series of hills in the four-loop course. Trinh finished in second (19:07) and Nguyen was third (19:26).
"Last year I got third in the city. This year, I made it my goal to get first," Lopez said.
The girls race was much different. Oakland sophomore Mimi Le had the lead approximately 150 meters into the race and already had a 13-second advantage over a pack of three runners at approximately one-half mile. She lengthened her lead to 23 seconds near the first-mile mark and 31 seconds at approximately the second-mile mark on her way to dominating the field, winning in 23:36.
Lee said that her strategy was "just to keep going, no matter how hard it is, keep pushing.
"I didn't expect it. I never expect this," Le said of her victory.
Oakland's Jessica Kong was second (24:36), and Skyline's Kim Bowen was third (24:42).
Skyline swept the boys and girls titles. The Titans boys edged second-place Oakland 30-40 for the section crown, and in the girls race, Skyline had the only full team and therefore had a perfect score of 15.