By Tadzio Garcia
The Huskies got their strongest results in six years at the Ben Brown Invitational held at Cal State Fullerton last Friday and Saturday stunning the crowd with first place finishes.
They did this without recent East Los Angeles College All-Americans Jill Schmidt and Shawnta Barnes.
Schmidt left off where she did two years ago in the women’s high jump at Ben Brown as a Husky. She won the event but this time as a member of the Cal Poly Pomona track and field team.
Gonzalo Ceja and Avanti Armendariz raced to upset wins. Ceja won his heat in the men’s 3000-meter steeplechase in record fashion. As a result he has the 13th fastest statewide time of California community college men.
“I felt fresh the entire race. I stayed behind the leaders and made my move when they tired. I maintained control of the lead and paced myself with enough reserve to kick it near the end and win the race,” Ceja said.
Avantit won his 200-meter dash heat beating runners from four-year universities such as USC, host Cal State Fullerton and others.
The meet featured over 40 colleges and universities with 1,500 athletes competing in over 2,500 event spots.
Ceja ran a personal best in his steeplechase victory. Not far behind were teammates Salvador Ascenio, who ran a personal best and Michael Vallejos. Their times placed them in the top-30 individual statewide rankings. Ascencio is No. 25 and Vallejos is No. 27.
In winning his 200 dash heat, Avanti stunned the crowd and beat Erik Fruth of Cal Lutheran University. Avanti’s time of 22.68 seconds placed 33rd overall of the 109 runners. He beat KJ Comrie of Cal Poly Pomona who finished in 23.32 seconds, AJ Allen of Alaska Anchorage (23.41) and Allen Williams of USC (23.59).
“Thanks to my teammates, who encouraged and pushed me every day in practice. We are here for each other. It was a positive experience and we have a great team,” Avanti said.
Assistant Coach David Loera said that in order for Avanti to be competitive this year in the South Coast Conference he would have to run 22.30. After his finish, Avanti had the 64th fastest time in the state. 22.30 will give him a top-five SCC time.
Avanti, along with teammates Michael Vallejos, Aaron Jasso and Nelson Lucia edged USC for second place in the first 4 x 400 relay heat. The Trojan faithful screamed to deafening sounds, but ELAC beat them by almost a second. LA Trade Tech beat the Huskies by .27 of a second for first place.
Michael Vallejos kicked off the Huskies to second place after the first lap. Avanti took over first in the second lap while Jasso kept the first place pace after three laps. Lucia, the last leg had enough kick to outsprint USC. “We did good even though we didn’t get first place,” Lucia said,
“We were still very excited. We improved our time.. It was a great run and we had fun,” Avanti said.
The relay team hasn’t named official Huskies due to injuries. “So that’s good that we placed second, but we won’t be satisfied until we win a first place,” Avanti said.
Jasso placed a strong fifth place in the 1,500-meter run beating Ronald Larrieu of Loyola Marymount. “I dropped my time and that’s important. Still, I will improve,” Jasso said.
Olivia Reyes, debuted in the 5,000-meter with teammates Johana Ceja and Megan Magdaleno. Reyes chose not to compete in the women’s steeplechase. Reyes owns the fastest steeplechase time in the state, which she accomplished in the season-opening meet at Mt. SAC.
Ceja took ninth place in the last event of the meet, the 5,000 run. “I’ve am comfortable and look forward to competing in this race this year,” said Ceja
Magdaleno, who finished All-American in the 2012 cross country finals finished 10th while Reyes took 17th place. All three bested Jessica Hawley from the Master’s College. “I felt good about our race,” Reyes said. Magdaleno added, “it was late and cold, but we warmed up and it was all good.”
Pee Lee led the jumpers with a fifth place finish in her heat in the women’s triple jump. She finished with a personal record.
“It’s too early to think about records. What I took away from this meet are two things. I will work on hanging longer in the air and work to finish my jump,” Lee said. Lee’s result landed her the No. 29 longest jump in the state with teammate Vanessa Moore in the No. 32 spot.
Moore finished fifth in her long jump heat and as a result leaped into the 15th longest jump in the state.
Adrian Crespo and Jessica Herrera finished 10th and 12th, respectively in the women’s hammer throw event. Crespo threw a personal record.
“The team is dropping times and throwing farter in each meet. We have excellent results early season in the sprints, long distance, throws, and jumps,” Husky Head Coach Louis Ramirez said.
There were almost 2,000 people in the stadium at Ben Brown. The long distance runners compete at the Occidental College‘s Oxy Distance Carnival on Friday from beginning at 5:30 p.m.
“It will be a big event with a big atmosphere and will be exciting to watch,” Ramirez said.