LITTLETON - Fountain Valley's Dominic Carrese looked around at the 30 runners next to him and suddenly slowed way down.
"Wait," he said as he stopped, "where is everybody else?"
At a partial showing at the Liberty Bell Invitational on Friday due to floods around the state, Carrese along with about 30 other runners, including seven from Vanguard, were directed the wrong way by a race official 400 meters after the starting line.
"It was a little strange," said Carrese, "but I'm just glad it's how you finish."
So are the Coursers. About three miles later, Carrese managed to cross the line first at 17 minutes, 2 seconds, while Vanguard placed three runners in the top 10 and seven in the top 24 as the Coursers ran away with the Division 4 (3A/2A/1A schools) title at Heritage High School.
"I was a little bummed about the times, but I am really proud of taking first here," said Vanguard coach Steve Read, who said the team goal is to always win state, but thinks it'll be nearly impossible with a loaded Lyons team up north. "And sure, there wasn't every school here because of the crazy weather, but it's still big time for us."
Same goes for Carrese. He's come back from a "terrible" end to last season with multiple wins this season.
"I want to be top 10 at state. I think I can be," the junior said. "I don't want to have another 19-something-minute finish at state like I did last year. I want to finish much better."
Friday was a good start.