FOLSOM -- German Fernandez finished his race well before the rest of the field, sprinting through the chute and handing his number to the finish judge.
He then turned and jogged back out toward the way he came, not even realizing he'd shattered the 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) Willow Hill course record Saturday at the Sac-Joaquin Section Cross Country Championships.
A runner from another race approached the Riverbank High senior, asking German: "Would you please sign my shoe?"
But Fernandez brushed him off, his concentration on the rest of his teammates.
"I was going back to cheer them on," Fernandez said. "Winning the race is nice, but I really wanted our whole team to win and go to state."
Buoyed by Fernandez's impressive time of 15 minutes, 3 seconds and top-10 finishes by Jacob Hodge (fifth) and Chris Nunez (seventh), the Bruins won the Division IV team title.
They led a group of three Stanislaus District teams plus 15 individuals who placed well enough to advance to the CIF State Meet at Fresno's Woodward Park on Nov. 24.
Some other highlights included:
Three local girls advanced from the Division I race: Merced's Sable Browning (fourth), Beyer's Crystal Esparza (fifth) and Davis' Amanda Innes (eighth). They were joined by the Modesto boys state duo of Marty Pyeatt (fourth) and Matt Maldonado (eighth).
Bret Harte saw its boys and girls teams advance. The girls were led by overall Division IV winner Katie O'Conner (19:55).
Big Valley Christian freshman Nathan Jackson won the Division V race in 18:21.
While Fernandez was cheering for his teammates, all eyes were on him during the race.
"Runners like German come along very rarely," Riverbank coach Bruce Edwards said. "He's in a level of his own."
Fernandez, one of the top high school runners in the nation, entered Saturday's race with the team as his top goal. Individually, he was hoping to go "below 15:30."
He ended up smashing the course record of 15:50 set by James Tracy of Del Campo in the earlier Division II race. Previously, it was 16:12, set by Folsom's Jake Matthews in 2005. And the icing on the cake, his team won, too.
"We're going into state on a high note," he said. "We'll be ready."
The big surprise in the girls Division I race was Browning edging out Esparza and Innes for top local honors. Her 19:27 was one second faster that Esparza.
"My goal all along was the top five," Browning said. "I was wishing for a top-three, but some of those girls are animals out there.
"Still, I'm just proud of myself. I ran well and now I'm going to state."
Esparza said, "I wasn't running for a time, I was running for the top three."
Instead, she was fifth, and she brings a different hunger to state.
"I'm going to have a good race at state," she said. "Whatever happened here, state is the major goal."
Pyeatt knew he was going to state with his fourth-place finish in 16:31. But Maldonado, who was four places and 11 seconds back, told Pyeatt after the race he wasn't sure if he was going with him.
But when the official results were tallied, Maldonado received the final berth. Pyeatt, meanwhile, cruised.
"I caught a few guys on the lake loop (at about 1.5 miles)," Pyeatt said. "I feel I ran well today.
"Our goal was to go as a team, but this field is really tough. I'm happy that everybody ran well, and it's nice that Matt and I are going to state."
Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 578-2300.