ESCONDIDO -- Normally, the top individuals and teams run in the cool of the morning at the 2-mile Bronco Invitational at Kit Carson Park.
However, a very familiar face ran away with the Division 2 race in the heat of the day.
Three years ago, Rancho Bernardo's Jacey Farmer was one of the state's best freshman both on the roads and on the track.
But juggling soccer, where the 6-foot-1 Farmer was also considered one of the top players in the nation, with running, resulted in two years of sub-par performances because of numerous nagging injuries.
So, Farmer made a choice.
"Two, three months ago I decided to drop soccer," said Farmer. "I immediately recorded my highest mileage ever without being injured. The past two years have been really difficult with all the injuries."
It certainly didn't look difficult as she stayed with the pack for a while and then once she took off, it was vintage 2018 as she built the lead, seemingly with every step.
She clocked times of 2:13.15 for 800 and 4:53.75 for 1600 meters that spring.
"It was weird when I was in front and we went where there weren't any people," said Farmer, who has not decided on a college.
By running in the late morning, she had to face 90-degree temperatures and far less competition.
Farmer's 11:41.9 to win the nine-team, 67-runner Varsity Girls Division 2 race led a 1-2-3 sweep as Rancho Bernardo was an easy team winner over runner-up Bonita Vista, 25-77. RB junior Audra Sutherland (12:33.1) and sophomore Madison Lorenz (12:36.4) placed second and third, respectively, with The Bishop's School senior Madeline Cramer fourth in 12:42.0. Bonita Vista senior Lauren Salt, who won her race at the Vaquero Stampede last weekend, was fifth in 12:45.8.
"I wanted to run in the heat because there will be races when it's hot and I wanted to test that," Farmer said.
As for the competition, by running in the varsity girls Division 2 race later in the morning, Farmer missed out on facing Poway's Tessa Buswell and Mackenzie Rogers -- who sandwiched fast-finishing Sydney Paul of Mt. Carmel, who finished second -- in the D-1 race, the first of the 12-race morning meet.
Buswell, a sophomore, was making her first appearance at Kit Carson Park because didn't have the opportunity to compete in any invitational meets as a freshman due to COVID-19.
"The first time I saw the course was in warm-ups," said Buswell, who sped to a time of 11:33.1 to edge Paul, who was runner-up in 11:36.8. "I sat on Mackenzie until the hills with a half-mile left and then I just decided to go. I was a little worried because there was a good pack for half the race but I was in a good place the whole way."
Buswell finishing first wasn't that big of a surprise as she won Division I track titles last spring in both the 800- and 1600-meter runs. The sophomore admits 3-miles will be a challenge.
"I just wanted to win, I didn't care about the time," she said. "This is my first major invitational, so I'm pleased. Training with Mackenzie (a senior) will make running 3-miles easier."
Despite the 1, 3 finish by Buswell and MacKenzie, Poway placed second to Cathedral Catholic in the nine-team, 77-runner Varsity Girls D-1 race.
Freshman Chiara Bonomi (11:50.6), senior Lexi Arambulo (11:59.6), sophomore Alexandria Pena (12:04.9), and sophomore Scarlett Martin (12:17.3) were top-10 among scoring runners to lead Cathedral Catholic. Torrey Pines sophomore Scarlett Taylor was fourth (11:39.7) with La Costa Canyon sophomore Gioana Lopizzo fifth in 11:46.0.
Grossmont junior Russell Blakely captured the early Varsity Boys D-1 race. It was his second 2-mile invitational win in as many weeks.
"I wanted something under 10 minutes because that's what I ran last week (winning the Vaquero Stampede)," said the 16-year-old who finished in 9:51.4. "This was a tougher course, with a big hill (Vaquero was relatively flat), so getting the same time was good.
"My goal is to run 14:15 (for 3 miles) at Woodbridge later this year and winning is a good springboard. Running right at 14 as a junior sets you up for a good senior season."
Blakely won by eight seconds over Cathedral Catholic senior Blake Levy (9:59.1). Patrick Henry senior Caden Romaine Gleim was third (9:59.9) with El Camino senior Nicolas Saenz fourth (10:00.8) and Torrey Pines junior Nathan Christmore fifth (10:00.9). Senior Owen Conner was 10th overall (ninth among scorers) as the first across the line for team winner Mt. Carmel. Sundevils' teammates junior Tommy Bell (10:12.9) and senior Max Schemenauer (10:13.6) were the next two across as Mt. Carmel put up 79 points. Otay Ranch was second with 93.
San Dieguito senior James McKenzie won the Varsity Boys Division 2 race in 10:42.8.
"I train in the hot weather, so it didn't bother me," said McKenzie. "I wanted to break 50, so this is great."
San Diego junior Captain Burnett was second in 10:52.1 with senior Zachary Sherman of team runner-up Rancho Bernardo third in 10:56.1. Junior Mark DeHaro was the first across the line for team winner Vista, placing fourth in 10:58.0. Juniors Franklin Garcia (11:19.5) and Salvador Silva (11:23.6) crossed 10th and 11th, respectively, as Vista (60) was a narrow winner over RB (61) and San Dieguito Academy (65) in the team competition.
Steve Brand, a freelance writer, is a regular contributor to MileSplitCA and serves as the San Diego Section editor.
Photos by Angel Pena, Phil Grooms, Jeffrey Parenti