What a difference a year makes.
A full season after winning his first cross country race, Berkeley High junior Alex Enscoe repeated as the Alameda-Contra Costa Athletic League champion, winning Wednesday’s varsity boys race at Tilden Regional Park by 31 seconds. But in addition to Enscoe’s individual triumph, he led his team to its first ACCAL team title, ending Alameda High’s long reign at the top.
“This was our most important race as a team,” Enscoe said. “Winning this one was our main goal going into the season.”
After years of trailing Alameda, the Yellowjackets won Wednesday’s final race with a true team effort. While the Hornets had the second- and fourth-place finishers, Berkeley placed in spots five through eight to push for the title through strength of numbers. Although Alameda had the next two finishers, Berkeley wrapped things up by taking the 11 and 12 spots to close out the scoring and win by a margin of 23-34.
“Berkeley has had a superb season,” Alameda coach Brian Lodge said. “They were good last year, but they’ve improved so much this year. We’re going to have to come up with something next year to challenge them.”
Berkeley head coach Dave Goodrich said Wednesday’s win was the payoff for a hard summer and fall of work for his varsity group, which has largely been running together for three years.
Just as in the first league meet of the season, Enscoe watched Alameda’s Yoji Reichert and Marty Skeels take an early lead in the race. Enscoe doesn’t like to be the pace-setter, preferring to sit back and let the other runners tire themselves out. By the time the race reached the top of the final hill, he knew the title was his.
Enscoe’s emergence this season has been startling, even considering his breakout race last year at this event. He won all three of Berkeley’s ACCAL meets and has established himself as a favorite for North Coast Section honors. He ran Wednesday’s race with the cock-sureness of an undertaker, just waiting for his targets to fall.
“Last year I knew I had a chance to win, but I had never won a race before,” Enscoe said. “This year I came in feeling a lot more confident, like I couldn’t lose.”
Enscoe crossed the finish line before Reichert even came into view along the final stretch for a time of 16:54. Reichert came in at 17:25, then Pinole Valley’s Austin Hicks at 17:45. Skeels finished soon after, but then a flood of Berkeley runners filled the lane. Nic Riley, Bradley Johnson, Alex Weissman and Jon Finney crossed the finish line in that order with Enscoe urging them on, sealing the win. Sarmed Anwar and Gordon Jenkins finished Berkeley’s day, finishing just before the 20-minute mark.
Alameda’s dominance didn’t take a holiday in the girls’ race, with the Hornets taking the top seven spots. Corrine Roberts was the first-place finisher.