By Tadzio Garcia
The women’s cross country team won the 2012 Rio Hondo Invitational defending its 2011 crown while the men’s team took second place Friday morning at Legg Lake in El Monte.
“The season is off to a good start with both teams running well. The women’s team looks pretty good and the men’s team looks very strong. The kids are hungry. Today proved that ,” said Head Coach Louis Ramirez.
The women’s team edged Southwestern College by five points after running dead even throughout the race.
East Los Angeles College’s No. 4 runner, sophomore Gloria Hernandez, beat Amber Gutierrez of Southwestern by five points for the difference in scoring.
Megan Magdaleno placed third in 19:47 running a personal best. Magdaleno returns from the unranked 2010 team, which then took 15th place at the then 2010 state finals upsetting ten teams in the process.
Magdaleno and then teammate Johana Ceja led the team that year. Ceja placed first in last year’s Rio Hondo invitational.
Vanessa Martinez of Oxnard College won the women’s title this year in 19:22. “Martinez is an outstanding young athlete whose hard work paid off,” said Oxnard Coach Geno Sharp.
Rounding out the Huskies that scored were Linda Alvarado who ran to 7th place in 20:54, also a personal best and Kattie Padilla (21:00) who placed eighth.
Magdaleno, Alvarado and Padilla were named to the All-Top 10 women’s team.
They were followed by Gloria Hernandez’s 11th place finish in 21:13, her lifetime best time and Briana Lewis who ran 22:13 while out-sprinting Katherine Duncan of Citrus College by one second for 17th place.
The men’s team had the task of facing No. 2-ranked San Bernardino Valley College, who won state titles from 2006 – 2010, and Southwestern, who finished No. 14 at last year’s state finals.
The Huskies held tight with SBVC until the last mile when the SBVC runners pushed a faster pace. In turn, ELAC bested highly touted Southwestern by 18 points.
The final top-five men’s places were champion SBVC, runner-up ELAC followed by Southwestern, West Los Angeles College and host Rio Hondo.
Top runners for the Huskies were Kris Chacon who placed sixth in 20:29 and Andres De La Cruz (20:47) who placed eighth. Both were named to the All-Top 10 men’s team.
“My teammates push me when we train. We pull the best out of each other and I did better than I thought I would,” Chacon said.
Daniel Rincon-Zaragosa, who won the men’s race last year and was our top finisher last week in our season opener in Fullerton, was not able to race. He had no comment.
Husky Andres Rosas clocked in at 21:21. Rosas missed the All-Top 10 team by two seconds but edged host Rio Hondo’s top runner, Charlie Gonzalez, by two seconds for 11th place.
Team captains Carlos Lopez and Carlos Segovia also ran personal bests.
“I’m working harder than ever in everything I do. I pushed myself throughout the race,” Carlos Lopez said.
The Huskies compete in the SoCal Preview on Saturday September 15 with the results showcasing most of the top teams in the state. Both Husky teams will compete with more than 500 athletes.
The top seven runners from each college compete in the women’s 5-kilometer race at 9:30 a.m. and the men’s 4-mile competition at 10:15 a.m. Overflow races, including several Huskies, begin at 11 a.m. for the women and 11:45 a.m. for the men.