Runner overcomes obstacles, gets to finals

THE 2011 CROSS COUNTRY TEAM — Bottom row: Gloria Hernandez, Ana Contant, Esmeralda Zuniga, Valerie Rivas and Robin Estrada. Second row: Adrian Gaytan, Johana Ceja, Bette Bosch, Maria Cruz, Sara Lujan, Kimberley Julio, Linda Alvarado and Raul Herrera. Top row: Assistant coach Steve Morales, Ramiro Ramirez, Carlos Lopez, Enrique Baez, asst. coach David Loera, Michael Romero, Daniel Rincon, asst. coach Ernesto Zuniga, Fernando Jauregui, Carlos Segovia, Marcos Lopez, Lupe Baquero, Jose Lopez and head coach Louis Ramirez. Missing: Olivia Reyes and Stephania Perdon. CN/Tadzio Garcia

By Tadzio Garcia

Johana Ceja advanced to the cross country state finals while the men’s team ended its season in a cold downpour at the Southern California Championships last Saturday in Ontario.

Favored to earn a top-14 finish at SoCal, Ceja qualified for state by placing 41st out of 191 runners after straining her left foot last Thursday while trying to catch the train for work. “I did not race my full potential due to my left foot bothering me while racing,” said Ceja.

Despite her injury and the cold rain, Ceja made her move in the last 150 meters. “I was boxed in by a group of several girls when I sprinted ahead except for one girl who wouldn’t let me. She ended up tripping me,” said Ceja.

Ceja scraped both hands and knees but got up and continued to sprint after the pack. Other runners passed Ceja, who couldn’t catch up to the runners she earlier passed. “I didn’t have the same energy after the fall but I gave it my all,” said Ceja.

Ceja is the lone Husky to qualify for the state championships on Nov. 19 at Woodward Park in Fresno. Valerie Rivas also ended her season for the Huskies running her fastest time of the year in 21:29.98 minutes. “Rivas had a good season and should be our leader next year,” said coach Louis Ramirez.

The men’s team failed to qualify a runner for the state finals for the second time in the last decade after finishing 26th out of 28 teams. The Huskies lost to South Coast Conference rival Pasadena City College by 8 points, a team they beat last week in the SCC finals. The Huskies edged Fullerton College by two points.

Daniel Rincon was tops for the men’s team with a time of 23:19.95 finishing 118 out of 197 runners. Rincon fell nine spots short from qualifying for the state finals. He was followed by Adrian Gaytan, who qualified for state last year and Ramiro Ramirez.

Ramirez, who had worked the night and morning shift prior to the race said his legs felt heavy in the cold rain. However, he ran faster than he did last week in the SCC finals. Rounding out the Huskies were Lupe Baquero, Fernando Jauregui and Jose Lopez.

Carlos Segovia qualified for the SoCal finals as an alternate. “Although we didn’t qualify for state, we demonstrated that we never gave up because we don’t back down for anyone,” said Baquero.

Baquero finished nine seconds off his top mark during his ELAC career while running on the slow muddy course. Not to be outdone was Jose Lopez who ran his fastest time of the year in 23:46.66.

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