ANGELS CAMP -- Despite none of Pacheco and Los Banos' teams qualifying for the Sac-Joaquin Section Sebsection Cross Country Meet Saturday at the Calvareras County Fairgrounds, a handful of runners qualified for the section meet individually.
The top 10 teams qualified, along with the top 10 individual runners not on those 10 teams.
Pacheco's Ryan Salcido ran the best race of the local runners, taking ninth in the Division III race with a 16-minute, 39-second run, a personal record for a hill course (his best on a flat course is 16:32).
"I ran a smart race the first mile to see how the competition was, what I was up against," Salcido said. "After that I just kept on moving up places. I got into a good place."
The only other Pacheco runner to qualify was Emily Barajas in the girls JV race.
Los Banos moved on five runners, with Christian Beltran (18:01, 22nd place) and Michael Salaz (18:52, 44th) moving on in the Division 4/5 varsity boys race, Brittney Berek (22:34, 39th) and Sara Gama (22:38, 40th) advancing in the D-4/5 girls race, and Steve Georgiou (12:40, eighth) earning a section spot in the D-4 sophomore boys race.
Beltran moved up steadily, using the course's steep hills to his advantage after getting trapped in the pack near the start of the race.
"I got caught up in the pack and had to die down. I was trapped. And those hills -- I'm not going to lie, I was not ready for those hills," Beltran said. "Toward the end there was a downhill, and I started using every downhill to pass somebody, and I started passing them one by one. They tried to keep up, and it's just a little battle."
Beltran has now accomplished his season goal of qualifying for the section meet.
"It means a lot. My best friend Louis Navarro, who graduated last year, he's been training with me," Beltran said. "He wants me to go far. And I've been planning to go really far through his training and work, just trying my best, and I did it."
For Berek, moving into qualifying position meant breaking away from her twin sister Nicole, who usually runs side-by-side with Brittney. She said she'll be working on plenty of hills this week in preparation for the section course, which has smaller hills, but more of them.
Pacheco's Daysi Rivas came close in the D-3 race, but her 22:08 time put her in 48th, just out of qualifying.
"I felt pretty good because at the beginning, my time was really bad. It was like 25 minutes," Rivas said. "Then I dropped down to like 20-something in the 3-mile. I feel like I did so much better than last year."
The junior said her goal for her senior season will be to break 19 minutes.
But at least one other local runner has a more immediate goal -- Salcido said his season goal was to make the state cross country meet.
"As of right now, I think my chances are good for going," Salcido said. "The top 10 make it to state, and I was ninth. So I just have to keep my place."
For Beltran, now that he's accomplished his season goal, he has to set a new goal.
"My original goal was to qualify for sections," Beltran said. "I didn't plan anything else beyond that."