ALAMEDA -- St. Joseph Notre Dame High senior Gabe Arias-Sheridan has good and bad memories of the Hayward High course that is used for the North Coast Section cross country championships.
As a sophomore, Arias-Sheridan set an NCS Division V boys championship course record for the 3.0-mile course with an impressive time of 15 minutes, 16 seconds. But last year in extremely wet and muddy conditions, he fell three times in the first mile of the NCS championships and finished 13th in 16:41 -- although he was able to help his team defend its title.
Clearly, at this year's section championships Saturday, Arias-Sheridan is aiming for a performance more like his sophomore year's. The Pilots, No. 1 in the state for Division V boys according to the PrepCalTrack.com Nov. 19 rankings, compete in the final race of the day at 1:25 p.m. The meet begins with the Division I girls race at 8:30 a.m.
"I feel pretty good about this upcoming race," Arias-Sheridan said. "Physically I feel good. Mentally I feel good."
As a sophomore, Arias-Sheridan did not lack for motivation for the section meet.
"I wasn't predicted to win the race," he said. "I just wanted to go out there and show everybody I could win."
But the conditions in last year's race were a major hurdle. Two of Arias-Sheridan's falls happened right after each other.
"Right after I got up from the first fall, I fell three steps later. Mentally, I was out of it," Arias-Sheridan said. "I knew I had to make up a lot of ground ... it was super muddy, so sloppy."
"After the mile, he was probably in 18th place, 20th place. He made up a lot of ground. He was running 4:45 (per mile pace) just to catch up," St. Joseph Notre Dame coach Tony Fong said.
Arias-Sheridan bounced back with a fifth-place finish at the California Interscholastic Federation Division V state boys championship race the following week.
Trevor Reinhart of Marin Academy, who won both the section and CIF Division V boys state championship races last season, will be competing in the NCS Division V race.
But the Pilots will be overwhelming team favorites.
St. Joseph Notre Dame returns four of its seven runners, including three of its top four, from last season's CIF Division V boys state-winning team.
"This year, our mentality is repeating. There's nothing more we can do. We are all focused," Arias-Sheridan said.
But Fong, whose squad won the Division V boys race at the Stanford Invitational and the Division V boys sweepstakes race at the Mt. SAC Invitational this season, doesn't want his team focusing on state rankings.
"It really doesn't matter if you are ranked one, two, three, four, five," Fong said. "You have to do the work."
WHEN: Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-1:55 p.m.
WHERE: Hayward High, 1633 East Ave., Hayward