Two very different strategies netted the same result for Ridgeview High cross country runners Lashya Morgan and Ivan Gonzalez.
Morgan led from start to finish in winning the girls race during Saturday's Wolf Pack Invitational at The Park at River Walk.
A short time later, Gonzalez made a late dash to pass two runners and win the boys race.
Despite their heroics, Shafter swept both team competitions, edging the Wolf Pack boys, 59-81, and the Frontier girls, 68-83.
More than 200 varsity runners from 19 Kern County high schools competed in the annual event.
Morgan finished the 5K course in a time of 19 minutes, 8 seconds, well ahead of runner-up Molly Pruett of Centennial (19:46.6). East's Sydney Roman was third (19:57.7), followed by Sydney Garza of Garces (20:15.3), and Shafter's Nicolette Aldape (20:17.5).
"I didn't think I'd win by that much, so I'm excited," Morgan said. "... I like running in the front. I just wanted to take first because it's the Wolf Pack (Invitational) and I wanted to win for the Wolf Pack."
All five of the Generals' scorers finished in the top 23 of the girls' field.
"They had a great race today," Shafter coach Darin Sundgren said. "Our girls are really coming along kind of slow. We have about 10 girls that are varsity-level type girls on our team and that's something we're really trying to promote."
While the girls race lacked excitement, thanks to Morgan's dominance, the boys race was full of drama.
Running well behind co-leaders Abel Cardenas of Shafter and Brandon Kan of Frontier at the 2-mile marker, Gonzalez sprinted past both heading into the final turn, about 500 meters from the finish line, en route to a nearly six-second victory.
"It was very intense," Gonzalez said. "I think a lot of people didn't think I was going to catch them, but for me nothing is impossible. ... It looked like they were dying out; they started out too fast. I just ran a smart race and outkicked them with my 100-meter kick."
Gonzalez, one of the top middle-distance track runners in the Central Section, ended up with a time of 16:29.1. Cardenas took second place (16:34.8) just ahead of Kan (16:35.6). Tyler Moore of West finished a distant fourth (16:52.2) and Mira Monte's Luis Tinoco was fifth (16:57.0).
Cardenas, a sophomore and first-year cross country runner, was satisfied with second. He said that he knew beforehand Gonzalez would be tough to beat.
"Turning the corner he got up to us and he just passed us," Cardenas said, recounting the end of the race. "He didn't even look back. He just went by us like nothing."
All three of the top boys placers were exhausted and barely able to stand following the race.
Pruett seemed to be in good shape after passing Roman on the final lap to take second in the girls race.
"I just feel really blessed," Pruett said. "We've been working all summer and I just feel really happy to have gone as far I have, for this season at least. But it's still the beginning. I have a lot more to look forward to. And I have a lot more competitors to go against."
Cardenas was one of four Shafter boys to finish 13th or better. Frontier, which took third with 92 points, had four runners finish in the top 16, including two of the top six. However, the Titans fifth scorer placed 52nd.
Centennial (118) and West (132) rounded out the boys top five team standings.
The Shafter boys came in as the event's defending champion.
"This has been a really nice surprise, because we have pretty much a different boys team than last year," Sundgren said. "We have one boy that consistently was varsity last year. One boy that was on-and-off on varsity last year. And the rest of varsity guys are new to varsity."
Overall, the day couldn't have gone much better for the Generals.
"I'm thrilled," Sundgren said. "I think it's great for the kids' confidence, especially on the girls side where we haven't done real well here in the past."