Davis High senior Zachary Ayers powers across the finish line ahead of Bella Vista senior Sean Lacey to win the marquee boys race at the De La Salle Nike Invitational (Dan Tyree photo)
CONCORD -- Zachary Ayers of Davis High School won the varsity boys race on Saturday at the De La Salle Nike Invitational at Newhall Park.
Which is impressive enough, but when you consider how his past three weeks have gone, it's overwhelming.
Ayers came down with COVID-19 at the end of August. He has been vaccinated, which makes it a breakthrough case. His symptoms weren't too bad and it knocked him out of training for about four days. But it is a respiratory disease which can compromise a runner.
"That was a bit of a challenging moment," Ayers said. "I tried to do what I could. It definitely made me nervous. It could have been worse without the vaccine so I'm happy that I had that. Luckily I don't think it caused anything permanent in me so I'm back and ready for the rest of the season."
Ayers lost one big race but he looked like he was back in stride on the three-mile course in Concord. He beat a couple of fellow Sac-Joaquin Section runners who he will have to tangle with on the road to the California Interscholastic Federation championships in November.
"I knew the main two guys I was going up against was Braden and Sean," Ayers said. "I knew not to go super-hard at the start and take out the lead. Because they were going pretty fast at the start. So I'm just going to ride here in the front pack. My plan was at about a mile and a half in down the hill to take the lead and I knew I could hold it from there."
Ayers helped Davis to a fourth-place finish in the team scoring with 156 points. Granada (NC) was at the top with 68 points, easily winning the title. Dublin (NC) was next with 119.
Williams is also playing water polo, which makes her pretty busy.
"I am mainly a water polo player but I had always done land sports as well like basketball, soccer, and volleyball," Williams said. "So I decided to give cross country a try. I'm glad I did."
Williams started cross country and track in January. She said she may drop one in the future.
"Water polo practice I have Monday through Friday," Williams said. "Cross country, I go to the school practice three times a week and if I can't make it, I'll go on a light run."
It could be a tough decision. Williams is an attacker or utility on the perimeter in water polo.
"I think it definitely will be a tough choice to make," she said. "Right now, I'm doing both but next year I will have to choose. I think I'll see how the rest of the cross country season plays out and the track season."
The Dons took fifth place overall with 181 points. Los Gatos was the team champion with 91 points followed by Campolindo (NC) with 117 points.
Nine races were contested over the morning and early afternoon on a clear day in the East Bay. The junior varsity and varsity races were held on the three-mile course while the others ran two miles.
Megan McKenzie of Los Altos (CC) won the girls junior varsity race in 21:07.1. Amador Valley's Heejee Yoon was second in 21:25.8.
Monta Vista (CC) won the team competition with 62 points, edging Amador Valley (71) with Granada next at 95.
Dublin's Vincent Giannini was the winner in the boys junior varsity race in 16:37.0, just in front of Granada's Erik Bromley (16:38.6). Granada led the way in team scoring with 26 points. Dublin was next with 55.
Kendall Foxworthy of Carondelet (NC) dominated the girls frosh/soph race, winning in 13:11.0. Marley Nacco of Redwood (NC) was second in 13:38.6. Davis (SJ) was the team winner with 68 points. Redwood was second with 83.
Redwood's Ethan Werner won the boys frosh/soph race in a terrific time of 10:48.5. The next three finishers were all from Crystal Springs-Uplands (CC): Tarik Baker (11:00.8), Oliver Boesch (11:03.4), and Benjamin Bouie (11:10.7). That helped Crystal Springs to the team title with 39 points. Campolindo was second with 64.
Tiare Vasconcellos of California (NC) won the frosh/soph/JV girls unlimited race in 14:28.0. That helped lead the Grizzlies to the team championship with 23 points.
Dominic Barty of Woodside (CC) won the frosh/soph boys unlimited race in 11:51.5. Woodside also took the team title with 36 points.
Camplino's Hardesty Dolge won the JV boys unlimited race in 11:20.9. California won the team championship with 51 points, just in front of Davis, which scored 52.
Damin Esper is a freelance writer and regular contributor to MileSplitCA