For all the accomplishments Northwest senior Robbie Martinez-Garcia has compiled, his repertoire has lacked a marquee cross country triumph.
Briefly Saturday, it appeared as if another meet would escape him when Bishop Carroll's David Thor passed Martinez-Garcia with about 200 meters left in the City League boys race at Cessna Activity Center.
"I was kind of glad because it gave me a little bit more to fight for," Martinez-Garcia said. "That way he didn't pass me at the end, so I had the advantage. He took the lead from me, so the pressure was on him to keep it."
The adversity brought out the best in Martinez-Garcia, who out-kicked Thor to the finish line and won by less than a second in 16 minutes, 24 seconds.
After leading virtually the entire race, his victory wasn't easy.
"I wanted to lead the race," Martinez-Garcia said. "I wanted the race to be my race. I didn't want to run anybody else's race."
In a season plagued by illness, two teams hit hardest shined on Saturday morning. The Carroll boys' team, decimated for the past month, put six runners in the top 13 to run away with the team title, with Northwest sliding into second place after fighting many of the same battles.
The Carroll girls team locked up its team title, minus top runner Kaelyn Balch.
"We were a little nervous," Thor said. "We knew we could come off with a win, but with all the sicknesses we really didn't know how we were going to do. If we pulled together and worked as a team, we knew we were going to do it."
The win was an emotional one for Carroll, punctuated with Thor's return to the top.
"Before the race we all gathered as a team and said, 'We're going through the flames for our team,'" freshman James Hampton said.
Thor ran a season-best time, as did Hampton (17:04); solid races came from Clint Kissling (16:47), Gage Garcia (17:20), Andy Schepis (17:36) and Spencer Bailly (17:44).
Less suspense surrounded the girls' race when Balch decided to hold out due to an nagging arch injury. Kapaun Mount Carmel's Mackenzie Maki wasn't pushed in winning in 14:32.
"It was a different race," Maki admitted. "I haven't run alone for awhile. I was used to running with (Balch), so not seeing anybody was brand new for me."
Balch's absence also affected her team's mindset.
"We knew we had a pretty good chance of winning," Anastasiya Menestrina said. "But without Kaelyn, we knew everyone had to run their best."
That's exactly what the team did, led by Menestrina's season-best time of 15:40 to place third. Other runners for Carroll were Brandy Tholstrup (16:11), Kristen Sponsel (16:16), Christian McCaulley (16:24), Natalie Englert (16:34) and Megan Walden (16:45).
"This definitely pays off for last year where we had half the team injured the week of City," Menestrina said. "It's just real exciting. It's a great way to go out senior year."
At Cessna Activity Center
Girls 4k race
Team results — Bishop Carroll 32, East 59, Kapaun Mount Carmel 87, Southeast 115, North 116, Heights 119, Northwest 153, West 243, South 259.
Individuals — 1. Maki, Kapaun, 14:32; 2. Eichkorn, North, 15:26; 3. Menestrina, Carroll, 15:40; 4. Greene, East, 16:03; 5. Tholstrup, Carroll, 16:11; 6. Sponsel, Carroll, 16:16; 7. Schaller, Kapaun, 16:19; 8. McCaulley, Carroll, 16:22; 9. Dunn, East, 16:33; 10. Englert, Carroll, 16:34; 11. Meyers, Heights, 16:37; 12. Lumpkins, East, 16:42; 13. Walden, Carroll, 16:45; 14. Allen, Southeast, 16:46; 15. Kniep, North, 16:48; 16. Livingston, East, 16:52; 17. Hanna, Heights, 16:58; 18. Cross, East, 16:58; 19. Smading, East, 17:05; 20. Masood, Southeast, 17:06.
Boys 5k race
Team results — Bishop Carroll 30, Northwest 53, East 58, Kapaun Mount Carmel 107, Heights 151, Southeast 172, North 207, West 228, South 235.
Individuals — 1. Martinez-Garcia, Northwest, 16:24; 2. Thor, Carroll, 16:25; 3. Heil, East, 16:43; 4. Kissling, Carroll, 16:47; 5. Marsh, East, 16:57; 6. Hampton, Carroll, 17:04; 7. Garcia, Carroll, 17:20; 8. Johnson, Northwest, 17:24; 9. Herbert, Northwest, 17:35; 10. Wescott, Kapaun, 17:35; 11. Schepis, Carroll, 17:36; 12. Parker, East, 17:39; 13. Bailly, Carroll, 17:44; 14. Seamster-Davis, East, 17:48; 15. Surmeier, Northwest, 17:48; 16. Shaw, Heights, 17:49; 17. Deck, Heights, 17:50; 18. Glasgow, Kapaun, 17:51; 19. Baldessari, Kapaun, 17:54; 20. McCormick, Northwest, 17:58.