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Mustangs Second At National-Level Meet; Alsaidi An All-American
Leading the Oakdale Mustang cross country club team to a second place national finish in Alabama on Dec. 3, junior Omar Alsaidi took ninth as an individual in the race, earning first team All-American status. Photo Contributed

Oakdale Mustang junior Omar Alsaidi now owns a T-shirt and will wear a ring that proclaims he is a first-team All-American. That, after he paced the Mustangs Cross Country Club Team to a second place finish out of 28 squads from across the nation in the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships. The event was staged in Huntsville, Alabama on Saturday, Dec. 3.

The Mustangs, with 164 total points, finished second to the Riverton Cross Country Club from Utah, which earned 144 points. It was an amazing performance, particularly since the Oakdaleans had arrived in Huntsville late Thursday and ran mid-day on Saturday.

A total of 283 runners (most of the runners ran “unattached” – not part of a team) stepped off at about 1 p.m., CST, on the 5,000-meter course in the ninth and final race of the day.

“It was the race that included the most elite runners and teams,” said head coach Guy Fowler.

Alsaidi exploded to a 4 minute, 45.6 second first 1,600 meters (metric mile) and was running in 22nd place at that point. During the second 1,600 meters he improved 10 places to 12th overall, as the pace slowed a bit. Alsaidi’s split was still an outstanding 5:11.3. In the always grueling final stanza of the race, Alsaidi drove himself hard at a 5:22 pace to improve four places and tie for ninth overall at the finish line in 15 minutes, 22.2 seconds, thereby earning placement on the All-American First Team. The meet’s website indicated that the first 10 finishers in a given race “will receive blinged out Championship All-American Rings along with 1st Team All-American Shirts.”

Second place finisher in the California State Meet the previous week, OHS senior Dax Daley ran the 5,000-meter course in 15:58.8 to finish 69th, while fellow senior Caleb Cavanaugh finished 88th in 16:06.9. Junior Jackson Oliveira (16:07.00) finished in 90th position, improving 38 places, having been in 128th place after running a 4:57.7 first 1,600 meters. Rounding out the top five on the Mustang club team, the ones whose times and places counted in the team standings, was sophomore Jacob Cavanaugh, who finished in 149th position in 16 minutes, 31.6 seconds, improving some 24 places after the opening 1,600 meters. Other Mustangs running in this national-level race were senior Gabe Archuleta, who finished 273rd in 18 minutes, 25 seconds, and junior Mason Oliveira, who finished 274th in 18:27.6.

Fowler was elated at the team’s performance; second in the nation. He had expected that the runners’ times would be slower than they were the previous week in the California State Meet.

“They have never before traveled that far for a meet,” he said of the runners. “But more importantly, the state meet was our goal – our pinnacle.”

Naturally, human beings experience a letdown after achieving a goal such as a state championship. The slower times are therefore understandable. One must also remember that at the Garmin meet, the Mustangs were running in the rarified air of the nation’s cross country elite and they excelled.

“It was a great experience,” said Fowler, exuding unbridled pride in the team. “They wanted to do it (run Garmin meet), and they did it. Kudos to them!”

The 2022 season will go down as the most prolific season to date in the history of not just Mustang cross country, but also in the history of cross country in Stanislaus County. It was also one of the more successful seasons in the history of Mustang sports. It was truly “that championship season.”