The Rincon/University boys ran away with a 20-point win at the 22nd annual Los Mezquites Invitational on Saturday, but the Rangers were left with a bittersweet feeling.
Two-time Mezquites winner and 2011 Division I state runner-up Ryan Silva had a solid lead about halfway through the 3.1-mile Kennedy Park course and said he was on pace to run under 15 minutes 30 seconds.
However, an official accidentally sent him off course, according to St. Augustine Catholic coach Tim Bentley, who directed Silva to go back.
Silva ran about 160 extra meters and fell into the mix by the time he returned to the course. Then the senior said he hit a "mental block" and was unable to recover to win the meet for the third straight year.
"My mind was just too distracted," Silva said. "It's all my fault in the end. I should be a better racer than that, and I know this course. But sometimes races get the best of us.
"I'm going to put this behind me; we've got Twilight coming up."
The Desert Twilight Festival is Friday in Mesa.
Casa Grande Vista Grande's Adrian Ortega won the boys race in 16:57.3 and Rincon junior Ahmed Mohamed, a first-year runner, finished second in 17:05.3.
St. Augustine's Zach Alderete took third, and Flowing Wells' John Henry Hervol finished fourth before Silva placed fifth in 17:29.7.
"I really wanted that one-two finish (with Silva), and I really thought we had it," Mohamed said. "It's a really tough course so second place is not bad at all."
The Buena boys finished second with 73 points in the 20-team meet hosted by Sunnyside. Dallen Haws finished seventh in 17:39.2 to lead the Colts.
Pusch Ridge Christian senior Sarah Macdonald easily won the girls race in 20:30.3 and led her squad to a second-place finish behind Vista Grande. The Lions also had Grace Johnson (22:09.0) and Mali Smith (22:13.6) finish in the top nine.
"I've always wanted to win Los Mezquites, and it's been a goal of mine," Macdonald said. "My time wasn't too good, but it was a 3.1, and it's really hot out. Plus it's a tough course."
Rincon senior Kendra Knittel, also a first-year runner, placed second in 21:01.5. Macdonald, last year's Division IV cross country champion, said Knittel was on her tail early on.
"She was freaking me out," Macdonald said. "Then about three-fourths of a mile in, I decided to surge, and that got her behind me. I pulled away from there."
The confusion with Silva in the boys race was likely because of Friday's events featuring 955 elementary school and middle school runners. Rincon coach John Radspinner said the course for that race was the one Silva was sent down.
"The St. Augustine coach saved him and got him to come back," Radspinner said. "I feel so bad; Ryan won this sophomore and junior year and wanted to go out with a big finish."