RIVERBANK -- Monte Wood had to be sure, so the Riverbank cross country coach checked his records, thumbing through old times and resurrecting old races.
When that didn't provide a definitive answer, he phoned a former coach Jeep Oliveira with a history at Willow Hills Reservoir, the site of the Sac-Joaquin Section Cross Country Championships.
And just for good measure, Wood scoured the section's archives.
Yep, just as he had suspected, Mikayla Florez had charged her way into rarified air. With a second-mile push and a blitz up the final hill, Florez created space for herself in the lofty lore of the Stanislaus District, passing household names such as Hobby and Garcia.
Florez recently captured her second consecutive section championship, establishing a new Division 4 course record at Willow Hills.
How fast was fast?
Florez covered the rolling, 5-kilometer course in 19 minutes, 3 seconds faster than former Hughson ace Becky Hobby ever did. And considerably faster than Riverbank's First Lady of the 5K, Maritza Garcia, a 2006 graduate and former California state champion.
"She didn't even realize it. That's a very tough course, one of the toughest in the state with its hills," Wood said. "She could have run faster, too. There was no one with her the final two and a half miles. It helps having someone on your shoulder, and she'll get that at state."
Florez carries the torch for a large contingent of district runners headed to Fresno on Saturday for the CIF State Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park.
There will be 14 individuals including Sonora's Steven Grolle and Enochs' Faith Makau, the fastest of the district's boys and girls qualifiers, respectively and the Livingston boys team.
Yet Florez may attract the most attention because of the company she now keeps and the titles she holds.
She is a three-time state qualifier as a junior, with a list of accomplishments that puts her on par with Garcia, the queen of Bruin distance-running.
Florez has won back-to-back D4 section titles and emerged from Hobby's long shadow this fall to win her first Trans-Valley League crown.
Now, she arrives in Fresno with a groundswell of momentum courtesy of her record-setting run at sections.
"It shocked me," she said before Wednesday's workout, "but I know I worked hard to get there. It boosted my confidence; made me feel good."
All that's missing from her impressive résumé is a state championship a feat accomplished by Garcia in 2005.
Florez has shown marked improvement at the state meet. She was 72nd as a freshman and 17th a year ago.
She's gunning for a sub-18-minute finish this time around, a mark that would put her on the podium.
"I get really nervous before my races. I try not to show it," Florez said.
What she has working in her favor this time around is a proven game plan. Running hard for the first time all season, Florez won the Roughrider Invitational at Woodward Park in October.
That morning, Florez and Wood decided to attack the course as if it were the state meet. It resulted in an 18:36 nearly 25 seconds faster than her season best, Wood said. That time was nearly two minutes faster than the next small-school competitor an eternity in distance running.
Wood is excited to see what she can do Saturday with stiffer competition and stronger, fitter legs beneath her.
"She's been on pace to be at her best at the end of the season," Wood said. "She's a very talented runner, and the time to let all that shine is now."