By Tadzio Garcia
Husky runners posted their personal best times at the Rio Hondo Invitational, helping the cross country team to victory last Friday.
For the first time in recent years, both the men’s and women’s team won team championship titles at a regular season meet.
Thirteen Huskies ran and 12 of those ran the best times of their careers. Eight Huskies were named to the Invitational’s top 10 teams. Johana Ceja and Daniel Rincon each won their respective races and Ceja clipped the 19 minute mark, her season goal, winning the women’s 5-kilometer race in 18:56.
“This helps me believe that I can break 18 minutes and finish in the top-14 at state, something (assistant) coach Loera tells me I can accomplish with hard work,” said Ceja.
Rincon finished at 21:49, 48 seconds off his previous personal best, taking the men’s four-mile race, even though he ran with an injury.
“I went to the meet to support the team and not to run, because I had some pain in my thigh,” said Rincon.
“After Ceja won the women’s race, I knew I could have the same impact for the men’s team, so I ran. A Rio Hondo runner led the first two miles, but I ran smart and kept a slower pace until the last 1.5 miles when I comfortably pulled ahead. The pain returned after the race, but I’m OK,” said Rincon.
The men’s team placed 1-2-3 leading the Huskies to an upset of conference rival, Long Beach City College. The Huskies won by 29 points, avenging previous losses by 82 and 94 points to the Vikings in meets earlier in the season.
Both teams ran without some of their best runners. Long Beach ran without their top four runners and ELAC ran without three of their top six runners. Following Rincon were Ramiro Ramirez, who placed 2nd, Adrian Gaytan, 3rd, Lupe Baquero, took 9th place, Carlos Lopez, grabbed 11th place and Marcos Lopez who passed a Long Beach runner near the end of the race for 18th place.
Tops for the men’s team running to the best times of their careers were Ramirez running 1:35 minutes faster, M. Lopez running 1:24 faster and C. Lopez trimming 1:05 minutes off his personal best. C. Lopez has established himself as a top-five Husky runner. Only the top five placing Huskies score points. The Rio Hondo Invitational men’s top-10 team included Huskies Rincon, Ramirez, Gaytan, and Baquero.
The women’s team beat host Rio Hondo College by 19 points to win its first cross country title in nine years. Huskies that won top-10 women’s awards include Ceja, Valerie Rivas, who won 3rd place, Kimberley Julio, who placed 4th and Bette Bosch, who placed 10th.
Rounding out the women’s team results included Olivia Reyes, 11th place, followed by Sara Lujan at 12th place, Maria Cruz, who won the closest finish-line sprint of the day, earning 13th place by five seconds over a Golden West runner.
Tops for the women career-best times were Julio and Lujan who both ran 1:06 faster than their previous best times of their two years as members of the cross country team.
The team races this Friday at the Santa Barbara Invitational all day, at Leadbetter Beach, known as one of the most scenic cross country courses in the state.