Sonora Wildcat Steven Grolle saved his best for last.
Grolle, a senior, ran to an eighth-place finish to earn a medal in Division IV at the 5K CIF State Cross Country Championships on Saturday in Fresno. He was the first runner in the Sac-Joaquin Section to cross the finish line.
Grolle's time of 15:51 is the third fastest time in Wildcats cross country program history behind only Darren Holman and Jason Hart. He ran 5 seconds faster at Woodward Park this year.
As a junior, Grolle was 10th at 15:56, and 20th as a sophomore at 16:09. In his first experience at State in 2010, he was 157th at 17:27 in Division III.
In four years, Grolle has shaved 1:36 off his time since his first State race.
The Sonora senior now has two State individual medals.
In overall scoring for all divisions, Grolle placed 88th out of 909 runners this weekend.
"State is always very intimidating," Grolle said. "You go out there and think, 'It's gonna be so easy. I'm gonna go out there.' But it's very difficult. I always forget that running is very difficult, but fun nonetheless."
Bret Harte's Tristan Boblet finished 17th at 16:19, while setting a new personal record at Woodward Park. Running at a pace of 5:15, he cut 27 seconds from his 16:46 time as a junior at State.
"I definitely was more prepared this year than last year," Boblet said. "I did a lot more running this year. I got a lot more coaching from (Keith) Maurer and Darren (Holman). I was just really happy. All the hard work I put in really paid off. Last time I ran there at the Rough Rider Invitational, I had a tough time getting to the finish. This time I felt good and just went. I'm pretty happy with how I placed."
Calaveras Redskins junior Hannah Hull was 31st in the girls' race. Her time of 19:27 was a personal record. It was also the second fastest time for all Division IV Sac-Joaquin Section runners, trailing only Riverbank senior Mikayla Florez, who medaled at fifth.
"She just did not get the best start and got stuck a bit," said Calaveras head coach Tammy Lisk. "This course is hard to make up time with all the runners and the narrow paths. I was very happy with her performance. She came by the first mile in around 70th place and was around 60th or so for the second mile. She really started to move up in the last mile. … It was a nice ending to the 2013 cross country season."
In Division V, Tioga senior Matt Spring came in at 47th at 17:13. He was the first runner in the section to finish in his division.
Springs' teammate Brando Nelson-Haven, a junior, was 71st at 17:38.
For Grolle, who is one of the most decorated runners in Wildcat history, the State meet was a bittersweet ending to a remarkable career.
"The hardest thing every time is taking your shoes off after the race," Grolle said. "You can't even think. Track season is going to be amazing. I can't wait. But now I can eat pumpkin pie because, oh man, I've been missing out."