By Tadzio Garcia
For the second time in school history, the East Los Angeles College women’s track and field team won two individual state titles in a California CCAA Track and Field Championships.
Three-time All-American freshman Laura Aceves won the 2014 10,000-meter run on May 16 at Mt. San Antonio College and added another gold medal in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase the next day. She won the 2013-14 CCCAA cross country state finals women’s race to earn her first All-American status.
“Laura was the only long distance runner, women’s or men’s, that won two 2014 state titles, which goes to show you how difficult it is to win two long distance races in two days,” ELAC track and field Head Coach Louis Ramirez said.
Sophomore Kemarley Brown of Merritt College from Oakland turned in the championship’s best performance winning the men’s 100-meter dash with a new world record time of 9.93 seconds.
Sophomore Gonzalo Ceja of ELAC took third place and the bronze medal in the men’s steeplechase, the best individual men’s state finish for ELAC since 2008, when 2012 Olympian Kenneth Medwood won the 400-meter hurdles at state for the Huskies. As a result Ceja received All-American status.
Ceja’a third place finish came after he won the event at the 2014 SoCal championships. He has the ninth fastest time in the country. Ryan Maize of Cuyamaca College, the runner up at SoCal with the eighth fastest time in the nation won the steeplechase. Chris Kigar of American River College, the NorCal champion with the fifth fastest time in the nation took the silver medal. Ceja finished third.
“I was running to win and was disappointed with my third place finish. I gave it my all so I’m happy with winning All-American status,” Ceja said.
Sophomore Daniel Rincon-Zaragoza also reached the state finals winner’s podium for ELAC after taking eighth place in the men’s 5,000-meter run. Rincon-Zaragoza didn’t know he was in position to get eighth place and make the winner’s podium in the 5,000 run. “I felt sick and wanted to quit with a couple of laps left, but heard the ELAC fans cheering then so I pushed to finish. Getting a winners nod was special,” Rincon-Zaragoza said.
Riverside City College won the men’s team title for the third consecutive year while winning its sixth title in seven years. The ELAC men’s team took 24th place. There are 60 track and field teams.
The ELAC women’s team scored 20 points of off Aceves’s two wins, good enough for a 13th place with College of the Sequoias. Mt. SAC won its first women’s state title in four years edging defending champion Cerritos College.
Aceves is in good company in winning two titles for ELAC. Sylvia Mosqueda won three state titles for the Huskies in 1986, the 800, 1500, and 5,000-meter runs. Mosqueda’s record in the 5,000 run in that meet is still a community college national record.
“I have a lot of work ahead of me to keep improving. My goal next year is to break the state meet records in both events and compete in the 5,000 run at state,” Aceves said. Aceves won the silver medal in the 5,000 run last week in the Southern California Championships held at Riverside City College.
In the steeplechase, Aceves’ state title time is 30.68 seconds off the five-year state record of 10:44.46 set by Cassie Mitchell, then of Orange Coast Coast College. Aceves will need to drop 1:40.95 minutes in the 10,000 run to break Michelle Icban’s (Orange Coast) 2003 state meet record of 35:49.24.
2013 marked the first year Aceves worked with a team sport, cross country. She was introduced to T&F this semester. Her first place winning time in the steeplechase, 11:15.14, was 1.48 seconds off her personal record, which is the fourth fastest time in the nation among community college women.
She has the third fastest time in the nation in the 10,000 run and the fourth fastest in the steeplechase.
Aceves overcame adversity to win two state titles according to Ramirez. “She lost two toenails two weeks earlier while winning a Southern California championship in the same event. She led from the onset and won by more than a minute. She was four seconds from lapping the third place winner (sophomore) Karina Sanchez of Cerritos,” Ramirez said.
In the steeplechase, it looked as if the 10,000 run had taken its toll on Aceves according to Ramirez. “She had sore calves coupled with a two-inch blood blister on her big toe she got from the 10,000 run. Laura lost concentration with 200-meters left, stopping at the water barrier and unsure how to get over. She took a step back and jumped over the water hurdle, but landed in the deepest part of the (water) pit,” Ramirez said.
While Aceves waded in three feet of water while moving to get out, Becky Hobby of Modesto Junior College took advantage and passed her. Aceves responded with a sprint with 200-meters left passing Hobby and to win by more than 15 seconds.