MORAGA -- Campolindo High's Brighie Leach had a rough experience in her first Division III girls state championship race.
"Freshman year, I ended up crawling across the finish line. My body kind of shut down about 21/2 miles in," said Leach, now a junior. "Every time I go back there, that memory kind of bugs me. I hope the good memories replace the bad."
Leach will have good memories from this season's Division III girls state championship, where she finished an impressive second on the 3.1-mile Woodward Park course in Fresno. Her time of 17 minutes, 51 seconds was tops for a North Coast Section female runner and led the Cougars to the Division III team title in that race.
Leach was undefeated until the state championships, claiming NCS Division III and Diablo Foothill Athletic League championship titles along the way. Her time of 17:26 on the 3-mile Hayward High course at the section championships was the fastest girls time of the meet.
For her accomplishments, Leach has been named the Bay Area News Group East Bay Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.
"Our main goal was the team," Leach said. "We just wanted to win state, and that's what I had my eyes on, doing what I could individually to help my team. Individually, I tried to improve from last season."
"With Brighie, I really appreciate her patience," Campolindo coach Chuck Woolridge said. "She brings to her training the same kind of attributes she brings to school. She is very organized and methodical. She is very good at executing things in a series of steps."
In her state championship race, Leach found herself in an unusual circumstance.
In the final two miles, she was far behind leader Bethan Knights of Northwood-Irvine and well ahead of the rest of the 190-runner field, but Leach didn't drop back. Knights won in 17:08, and Clare Peabody of Aptos was third in 18:09.
"Brighie was clearly better than everyone else except that one girl," said Woolridge about that race. "I thought Brighie was very poised."