A cool Thursday afternoon in Mangilao provided the perfect setting for an Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam High School Cross-Country League meet between Father Duenas Memorial School/Academy of Our Lady of Guam and Tiyan High School.

Academy sophomore Annika Almario and FD senior Roy Manaloto won the top overall spots, leading their improved teams to a win at Father Duenas Memorial School.

“Definitely a confidence booster, we are running faster each race,” said FD/AOLG head coach Brian Galang.

The FD boys celebrated a 21-38 win, their first in four meets this season. Manaloto posted the top time of 18 minutes, 34 seconds with a sizeable gap ahead of Tiyan junior Michael Sampang coming in second at 19:08. The Friars sealed the win with Ethan Alvarez, Jonan Fejeran, Aaron Gumataotao and Mattheo Cadiz taking four of the next five spots. Senior Nathan Paz broke the pack, finishing in fifth place for the Titans.

Manalato has been pacing the Friars all season.

“It does help me individually,” acknowledged Manaloto. “I won races last year, and this is my first one this year. I know that I have to push myself to get better but also push those people around me.”

“Roy has been consistently leading every race,” credited coach Galang.

In the girls race, Almario turned on the jets on her third and final trip around the FD campus, slipping past Tiyan senior Tiara Fernandez by more than 30 seconds with a time of 22 minutes, 31 seconds.

The Titans’ Ally Angoco and Myah Blas followed behind Fernandez, looking to steal the girls competition.

However, the Cougar pack closed out strong, taking the fifth through 10th spots. Sophomores Lola Martin, Rian Guzman and Nierra Ubaldo crossed the finish line within 20 seconds of each other. Seniors Maria Egurrola and Kayla Arellano followed closely beind to secure the team win.

Almario said she didn’t look back, she just kept imagining the other runners were right behind her.

“My kick has been really good,” she added. The sophomore has finished first overall for the girls in all four meets this season.

Coach Galang says the Cougars returned a good core of young runners from last season’s team.

“(It’s a) matter of staying healthy and peaking at the right time,” he added.

Tiyan head coach Steve Bair took away a few positives from the upstart Titan cross-country team that has grown from four runners in 2018 to 22 runners this year.

“We are progressing and getting better,” said Bair.

With only two runners with high school cross-country experience, Bair said it’s a matter of teaching good athletes to be good runners, adding, “We are getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.”