It all came down to a numbers game and even as good of a runner as Stockdale's Blake Haney is, one of him was not nearly equal to a McFarland team full of standouts.
Despite dominating the boys race of the Kern County Cross County Championships at Hart Park on Saturday, posting a winning time of 14:49.3 for the 3-mile course, Haney couldn't stop a McFarland onslaught.
Paced by second-place Danny Garcia, who crossed the finish line 35.6 seconds after Haney, the Cougars easily bested the Mustangs boys for top team honors, 32-81.
Overall, McFarland had four boys place in the top seven, easily offsetting the exploits of Haney, one of top distance runners in the country.
"I'm happy for them," McFarland boys coach Joel Lopez said. "They ran great. They've been running great all season. We're just piecing it together for the last couple of races."
McFarland's girls were also big winners, edging Shafter for first place, 77-99. Liberty was third with 114 points, followed by Centennial (122), North (154), Stockdale (163) and Frontier (169).
The Cougars' girls best individual finisher was Caroline Diaz, who took fourth in 18:39.5.
McFarland was missing its top girls runner, Veronica Garcia, due to bronchitis and a sinus infection.
Mariah Ayala of Golden Valley got off to a fast start and then held off Highland's Savannah Berry to win the girls race. Ayala's winning times was 18:12.6. Berry clocked in at 18:21.3. Bakersfield's Maggie Baker was third (18:33.1).
"I'm really happy," Ayala said. "I was really scared that she was going to catch me because all year I've been injured with my knee and my shinsplints. I was just giving it all I could today."
As impressive as Haney was, the McFarland boys demonstrated the depth that makes them a threat to win the Division II state championship later this month at Woodward Park in Fresno.
The Cougars' Luis Orozco was a close third (15:28.0) to Garcia. Teammates Abran Ayon (15:38.4) and Thomas Valles (15:47.5) took sixth and seventh, respectively. The McFarland boys lowest finishing points-scoring runner took 14th.
"I just focused on the team so we could win today," Garcia said."
Despite having just one runner finish among the top-10, (ninth-place Manual Carranza) the Shafter boys finished third with a score of 96. West was fourth (113) followed by Foothill (174), Ridgeview (191), Independence (209) and Liberty (233).
Twenty-five schools had runners compete in Saturday's event, which is the first of three post-season meets before the state championships.
For Haney and the McFarland girls and boys teams the meet was a chance to prepare for state title bids.
All three are expected to be in the mix to bring home gold medals.
It took Haney about 800 yards to get in front of the 153-runner field on Saturday. By the 2-mile mark he was roughly 30 seconds ahead of his nearest challengers.
"I just tried to get a good effort in," Haney said. "I knew it would be tough competition so I went out hard. I'll be honest, I wasn't feeling great but I'm happy with the result."
Ayala battled with several other girls in the lead pack early in the girls race before pulling out to the lead at about half-mile mark.
Berry, an experienced and talented senior tried to catch Ayala late, getting to within 20 yards of her at one point, but ultimately ran out of gas and came up 8.7 seconds short.
"I knew there would be a lot of speed so I just tried to stick with the front pack," Berry said. "(Ayala) got a pretty good led on us. I was hoping I could catch her in the end but she had it together."
The McFarland boys also clearly have their act together as the climax of the season approaches.
"We've been ranked Top-10 at Division II and based on data I think we got a shot at Division II state title," Lopez said. "We're just hoping the cards land right for us at the state meet and we can make some history that day."