HAYWARD -- As Amador Valley High's Jena Pianin crossed the finish line Saturday in the North Coast Section Division I girls race, a smile crossed her face.
During a driving rainstorm, Pianin had adamantly refused to give up the lead. She moved into first in the first 200 yards of the 3.0 mile race at Hayward High, and fought off challenges by Berkeley's Diribe Abdo and San Ramon Valley's Christine Bayliss to defend her title with an excellent time of 17 minutes, 56 seconds.
"My strategy was to win at all cost," said Pianin, who did not get separation from Abdo until the final mile. "I wanted to find hard ground and use it."
Bayliss was second (17:59) and Abdo was third (18:01).
Acalanes' Annie Marggraff led her team to a historic victory. The Dons won their first NCS girls cross country team title since 1985.
Marggraff, a senior, led the lead pack at the one-mile mark and increased her advantage to seven seconds by the two-mile point. She ended up winning by two seconds with a time of 18:25.
"I'm overwhelmed. I worked so hard this season to get to this point," said an emotional Marggraff after the race. "I wanted to run my own race and not follow other people.
"I did it for Tad (Beach) and Manny (Myers)," said Marggraff, referring to the Acalanes co-coaches who are retiring from cross country coaching after this season.
Kelly Collins added a third-place finish (18:35) for Acalanes, which had four in the top 12 to finish with a score of 58.
The fastest time of the day was turned in by Campolindo's Aidan Goltra, who won the Division III boys race in 15:30. Goltra was second at the one-mile mark, but by the two-mile point, he was in first, one step ahead of Redwood's Fred Huxham.
Goltra made a move on a flat portion of the final mile to win by 20 seconds. Huxham was second (15:50).
"I'm shocked how well it went," said Goltra, a junior. "I didn't expect the first two miles to feel so easy."
Berkeley's Tariku Abdo, Diribe's brother, won the Division I boys race in an upset. Tariku, who finished sixth in the West Alameda County Conference championship race on Nov. 3, made a major move in the second mile and led by nine seconds at the two-mile mark. He ended up winning by 12 seconds with a time of 15:48.
"That is all personal guts. That's just willpower," said Berkeley coach Brad Johnson about Tariku Abdo after his race.
Besides Acalanes, other East Bay schools which won team titles included San Ramon Valley (Division I boys), Granada (Division I girls), Miramonte (Division III boys) and St. Joseph Notre Dame (Division V boys).
San Ramon Valley's boys team, paced by a fourth-place finish by Carl Wilke (16:02) had a team score of 40 points. It placed all five of its scoring runners in the top 12 of the Division I race.
Granada's girls team, led by a fourth-place finish from Megan McCandless (18:12), had a score of 55. It had four scorers in the top 14 of the Division I girls race
Miramonte's boys squad, paced by Tyler Hanson's third-place finish (16:01), had three runners in the top nine and four in the top 14 of the Division III race. It had a score of 58.
St. Joseph Notre Dame's boys team, led by Louis Rodrigues' runner-up finish (15:55), had three in the top six and four in the top 13 to finish with a score of 44 in the Division V boys race.