A wrong turn couldn’t stop Gabriela Rios-Sotelo from winning the first Bay Shore Athletic League cross country meet on Thursday, as the St. Mary’s High sophomore blew away the field and won by nearly a full minute at Crab Cove in Alameda.
Rios-Sotelo led the pack from start to finish, so when she inadvertently added half a mile to the course by turning the wrong way at a junction, the other runners followed. The varsity girls ended up running 3 1/2 miles rather than the planned three, but it didn’t make much difference to Rios-Sotelo.
“I can’t tell that kind of thing,” Rios-Sotelo said of the additional distance. “I just run until I hit the finish line.”
Rios-Sotelo ended up winning the race in 23:36, 51 seconds ahead of teammate Emily Olson, who wasn’t even in sight when Rios-Sotelo crossed the finish line. There was a similar wait for the third-place finisher, St. Mary’s Nicole Shanahan. The Panthers took 10 of the top 12 places in the girls’ race.
The boys’ race was a bit more competitive, but again it was Panthers finishing in the top two spots. Sophomore Tino Rodriguez won with a time of 17:32, with junior Scott Howard on his heels just a second behind. As the two came down the stretch, the pro-St. Mary’s crowd cheered for Howard to catch his younger teammate, but it wasn’t to be.
“Everyone likes the underdog,” Howard said with a grin. “I’ll be happy if we just finish 1-2 every race.”
Rodriguez, on the other hand, wants to make sure he finishes first, or at least ahead of Howard.
“All the yelling gave me extra energy at the end,” he said. “I didn’t want my friend to come and beat me.”
St. Joseph High nearly pulled off the upset of the defending champion Panthers, with touted freshman Neal Rodriguez finishing third and Andrew Wright coming in fourth. But St. Mary’s Gabe Texara edged out St. Patrick/St. Vincent’s Sean Daly for fifth place, and the Panthers wrapped up the race when a pack of four runners finished together in spots eight through 11.
The Panthers are rebuilding following the graduation of Bridget Duffy and Rudy Vasquez, the duo who helped the St. Mary’s program reach new heights. But Rios-Sotelo benefitted from a year of Duffy mentoring and is actually running faster times than Duffy did as a sophomore. And while Rodriguez has stepped into Vasquez’s shoes as the boys’ front-runner, there may be another youngster waiting to snatch that title away: freshman Tommy Vasquez, Rudy’s little brother, finished eighth on Thursday in his first BSAL race.