Ismael Ramirez captured his most prestigious individual title yet - in record fashion - for College of the Sequoias' cross country team.
The sophomore from Redwood High raced to a nearly 17-second victory during the Northern California Regional Championships, a four-mile, 120-runner race at Toro Park in Salinas on Nov. 8.
Ramirez crossed the finish line in a course-record 19:56.1 while improving on his second-place finish at last season's NorCal Regional. Ramirez smashed his previous best on the Toro Park course, a first-place 20:30.5 on Oct. 4 during a meet dubbed the NorCal Preview because it featured most of the region's top runners.
"I just went with the flow and went for the win," Ramirez told DyeStat.com after the race. "I found myself feeling really great, so I went for it."
Ramirez led a 1-2 finish for COS runners as Oscar Perez (Dinuba) placed second in 20:13.0 to help the Giants take second as a team to American River.
COS also had Evan Loftin (El Diamante) finish 11th in 21:01.0, Christian Gonzales (Corcoran) place 27th in 21:33.5 and Zackary Woods (Frontier-Bakersfield) place 30th as the Giants tallied 71 points. Luciano Linares (Exeter) placed 34th in 21:53.4 and Cristobal Vasquez (Lindsay) placed 44th in 22:11.9 in nonscoring performances for COS.
American River won its second straight NoCal Regional team title behind runners who finished third, fifth, eighth, ninth and 16th for 41 points.
The Giants advance to the California Community College Championships on Nov. 23 at Fresno's Woodward Park, where Ramirez raced to a first-place finish in 21:11.1 during the Central Valley Conference Championships on Oct. 28.
Ramirez, who was eight at last season's state meet in 20:39.3, hopes to lower his time enough to challenge the COS record at Woodward Park of 20:10 set by Mario Macias in 2000.
Ramirez will be challenged at the state meet by San Diego Mesa's Stefen Rasmuson (20:49.2) and Isaiah Labra (21:10.1), who finished 1-2 during the Southern California Regional Championships on Nov. 8 at Mission Bay Park in San Diego.
"I've just been dreaming about this since last year," Ramirez told DyeStat.com. "I did pretty good as a freshman. I just want to come back and go for a win."