By Tadzio Garcia
The two-time defending Rio Hondo Invitational champion East Los Angeles College women’s cross country team begins its season tomorrow at the 3rd Annual Rio Hondo Invitational at Legg Lake in El Monte.
Leading the women’s team this year will be Laura Aceves from Mexico, a favorite to win the women’s title. “She has run 18:35,” said Head Coach Louis Ramirez. Only a handful of runners in the state topped that time last season.
“We had a big recruiting freshman class. Also leading the team will be freshmen Guadalupe Yanez, from (Bell Gardens High School) and Viridiana Hernandez (South Gate High School),” Ramirez said.
They will fill the holes left by cross country All-American Megan Magdaleno who has transferred to Cal State Northridge and Johana Ceja.
Magdaleno finished in 12th place at last year’s state finals and third in last year’s Rio Hondo Invitational.
Johana Ceja, who also graduated from ELAC last June, has transferred to Cal State Long Beach won the Rio Hondo women’s title two years ago.
“I plan to walk on the cross country and track teams competing in long distance running,” Ceja said.
Other key freshmen are Sandy Bautista, Melissa Preciado and Yvonne Rodriguez. Key Huskies returning are Briana Lewis and Karina Toribio. “This years women’s team could be better than last year,” said Ramirez.
Last year’s men’s team ran all the way to the state finals edging out Santa Barbara City College by five points for 17th place.
The men’s team, which took second place at last year’s Rio Hondo Invitational and won the title in its first year, returns with veterans Kris Chacon and steeplechase state finalist Gonzalo Ceja.
“My goal is to work to break my times all season and help the team advance to state,” said Chacon.
Andres De la Cruz, last year’s top runner and South Coast Conference Outstanding Freshman-of-the-Year, will not be returning. This leaves a big hole to fill.
If Aaron Jasso returns to the team, “we will be in good shape,” Ramirez said.
Returning to the team is Andrew Torres, “who led the team last year, along with Annai Jimenez, with GPA’s of 3.5 or higher,” Ramirez said.
Incoming freshman Jose Riquelme “has the same fire as Gonzalo Ceja,” Ramirez said.
“I’m a bit nervous about tomorrow’s meet, my first college race. I will push myself to stay with the top runners,” Riquelme said.
The women’s Rio Hondo Invitational three-mile race begins at 10 a.m. The men’s team will compete in the four-mile race, which will start at 11 a.m.