MORAGA -- Campolindo High's star cross country runner Aidan Goltra may have been expected to have a target on his back this season as the defending Division III boys state champion. But he said he had a different experience.
"I think I was under the radar as opposed to having a target on my back," the senior said of the state championships. "I didn't feel like I needed to prove something. I felt I needed to win."
Goltra did that in impressive fashion, pulling away from a pair of Southern California runners near the end of the final straightaway to win the Division III state championship race for the second year in a row.
His time of 15 minutes, 2 seconds for the 3.1-mile Woodward Park-Fresno course was the fastest for any Northern California runner at the meet. It also tied for the fastest time at the state championships among all divisions this year and was the No. 3 all-time mark in Division III at the state championships.
The week before, Goltra also set a North Coast Section Division III championship course record -- 14:44 for the 3-mile Hayward High course -- and the Diablo Foothill Athletic League champion was undefeated through the state championships. At the Nike Cross Nationals on Dec. 7, he was 23rd.
For his accomplishments, Goltra has been named the Bay Area News Group East Bay Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year.
"If you look at the way he progressed in the year, he did a good job," Campolindo coach Chuck Woolridge said. "Emotionally, he wasn't really laying it all on the line until he reached the state meet. He was very savvy, poised."
Goltra's finish at the state championships was very similar to his finish in last year's state meet, where he held off Myles Smith of St. John Bosco-Bellflower to win by less than a second. This year, Goltra had to deal with both David Luna of Indio and Austin Tamagno of Brea Olinda, who both finished one second behind Goltra.
"When we hit the grass (portion of the final straightaway) and I saw David Luna was on my shoulder, I had already been through a situation like that last year," Goltra said. "I didn't think about it at the time, but I got some confidence from that experience (my junior year)."