Toting ice chests and picnic lunches, dedicated parents and supporters swarmed into race areas early Saturday in Glen Helen for the Inland Empire Cross-Country Challenge.
Teams from Murrieta Mesa, Vista Murrieta, Chaparral, Temecula Valley, Murrieta Valley and Great Oak traveled to the 12th annual invitational.
The event was divided into three challenges: one for Small Schools (CIF Divisions 4 and 5), another for Medium Schools (CIF Divisions 2 and 3), and the last for Large Schools (CIF Division 1). It was also broken down into Riverside County schools, San Bernardino County schools and an over-all combined counties category.
Races for were also divided into Boys & Girls, Freshmen, Junior Varsity and Varsity levels.
The Sweepstakes Race had schools in each county competing head-to-head for county titles, as well as for overall Inland Empire Championship titles.
Races began at 7:45 a.m. and ended at 11:30 a.m.
The boys varsity team form Vista Murrieta High School captured the Riverside County and Overall Sweepstakes championships.
The girl’s varsity team from Great Oak High School managed the same feat, capturing both championships.
Runners were inspired by a guest appearance from Brenda Martinez, a Rancho Cucamonga High School and University of California Riverside graduate, three-time All-American who currently holds the title of No. 1 women's miler.
It was a homecoming of sorts for Martinez, who competed in the event as a high school runner.
Martinez signed autographs and awarded trophies to the winning teams.