By Tadzio Garcia
Johana Ceja placed fourth at the Santa Barbara Cross Country Invitational last Saturday leading the women’s team to ninth place while men’s team placed eighth.
Proving that Ceja’s first place finish last week at the Rio Hondo Classic was no fluke, Ceja beat quality runners on one of the most difficult cross country courses in California. The course leads runners plodding through the sand on the beach resulting in slower than normal times. Despite this, Ceja beat Emma Ramirez of Antelope Valley College for the first time in her East Los Angeles College career and also beat Natalie Fyke of South Coast Conference rival Cerritos College.
Antelope Valley and Cerritos are the No. 3 and No. 7 ranked teams in Southern California, respectively. The women’s team was victorious against conference foes Long Beach City and El Camino colleges. Tops for the women in the five-kilometer race were Ceja, Valeria Rivas, Kimberley Julio, Bette Bosch and Gloria Hernandez.
Hernandez ran her Husky debut bursting onto the community college cross country scene scoring the final points for the Huskies. Stephania Perdon also ran her initial race for the Huskies finishing eight seconds behind Hernandez. Perdon impressively edged an El Camino runner at the finish line. Maria Cruz, Robin Estrada and Sara Lujan rounded out the women’s team.
On the men’s side, ELAC’s results at Santa Barbara placed them on the bubble to advance to the postseason. The Huskies beat Compton College by a point.
“We have to place ahead of Compton in two weeks at the SCC finals to make the playoffs,” said Daniel Rincon, who is the Huskies No. 1 runner for the men’s team. Coach Louis Ramirez said the men’s team can beat Compton with “good grouping.”
“We missed warming up at Santa Barbara for the race which made it difficult for us, so the sand felt like wearing ankle weights. We can handle the pressure of continuing to beat Compton but it will take each of us to focus and push through,” said Rincon.
The men’s team previously lost to Compton twice this season including losing to the Tartans by a whopping 158 points in the first meet of the season. The top ELAC finishers in the men’s four-mile race at Santa Barbara were Rincon, Ramiro Ramirez, Enrique Baez, Adrian Gaytan and Jose Lopez. Lopez edged teammate Lupe Baquero by two seconds to return as a top-five runner for the Huskies.
Only five runners and two alternates advance to the playoffs. The top five Huskies were followed by Baquero, Raul “Junior” Herrera, Fernando Jauregui, Michael Romero and Marcos Lopez. Herrera and Jauregui also won by two seconds each sprinting at the finish line beating runners from Compton and Antelope Valley, respectively.
ELAC has one final challenge before the all-important SCC finals. The Huskies race in the Biola University Invitational Saturday at Irvine Regional Park in Orange, California, all day. The Huskies will compete there against four-year universities.