By Tadizo Garcia
Freshman Laura Aceves won the women’s individual title at the Rio Hondo College Cross Country Invitational in a time that was rarely surpassed last season by anyone in the state.
South Coast Conference rival LA Trade Tech College won the women’s team title snapping two-time defending champion East Los Angeles College’s consecutive title streak in the process.
The Huskies settled for fourth place out of eight teams, sandwiched between SCC rivals Pasadena City and Long Beach City colleges.
Aceves blew by the competition finishing in 18:23 minutes, winning by 13 seconds over Andrea Contreras of Oxnard College. Vanessa Martinez of Oxnard College took third place. “It was a good race for me, but my goal is to improve each week,” Aceves said.
“Last year, Martinez won the Invitational women’s race in 19:22 and only took third this year with a time of 18:39. We’ll take it,” said Geno Sharp, 14-year head coach of Oxnard College.
“These times are very fast,” said Gayle Watkins, head coach of host Rio Hondo.
Evelyn De la Luz of LATTC took fourth place in 19:06. She placed 14th at last year’s state finals in 18:55.58.
“The course is flat and fast,” David Loera, ELAC assistant cross country coach said.
Aceves is the second women’s champion at the Invitational in two years. Johana Ceja won the 2011 race in 18.56. Ceja graduated from ELAC in June and transferred to California State University, Long Beach, where she plans to walk on the cross country team.
All-American Megan Magdaleno, who took third at last year’s Invitational, was on hand to support the team.
“Everything they learn here at ELAC is important to their future,” Magdaleno said. Magdaleno now runs for Cal State Northridge.
Freshmen Ruby Padilla and Guadalupe “Lupe” Yanez sprinted to close wins at the finish line in front of screaming fans.
Padilla edged Destini Hernandez by less than a second. Yanez beat Baillie LeDesma of Southwestern College by less than two seconds.
“I sprinted with more than 100-meters left. I pushed to pass her and keep the lead at the line,” Padilla said.
Sophomores and team captains Karina Toribio and Briana Lewis rounded out the Husky scoring.
“We are an exciting team. It was a good start for both the women’s and men’s team. The race identified some problems we need to fix, such as bringing up times of our three, four and five runners,” Head Coach Louis Ramirez said.
Aceves was named to the Rio Hondo Invitational Women’s Top-10 Team. Gonzalo Ceja, top Husky for the men’s team, was named to the Men’s Top-10 Team after posting a lifetime best mark.
“The personal record is great, but I was disappointed with only placing seventh. I ran with the lead pack the entire race. However, guys passed me near the end. Each runner that passed me was like a slap in the face,” Gonzalo Ceja said.
Southwestern College won the men’s title by taking the first four spots. ELAC placed sixth behind PCC (third place), Oxnard and San Diego City. The Huskies beat Golden West, Long Beach City and Rio Hondo colleges.
Gonzalo Ceja sprinted ahead of Brendan Greene at the finish line also by less than a second. Afterwards, in a spirit of collegiality, Greene congratulated Gonzalo Ceja. “I told him he did a nice job,” said Greene.
Kris Chacon was ELAC’s No. 2 runner taking the No. 23 spot. Cristian Flores, Jesse Bonilla and Rene Flores rounded out the Husky scoring.
Adrian Gaytan, who will compete for the track team, placed third at the 2011 Invitational. The Huskies men’s team won the title that year taking the first three spots.
“The meet has grown so the times get faster,” Gaytan said.
Sophomore Andrew Torres, who won highest GPA at 3.58 last year, finished out of a scoring position.
“We stress education first important to each student’s success in life,” Ramirez said.