By Tadzio Garcia
Defending women’s California Community cross country state champion and East Los Angels College sophomore, Laura Aceves, took second place at the Fourth Annual Rio Hondo Classic Sept. 5 in South El Monte.
The men’s team was dealt a blow before the season began. A handful of returning runners for the men’s team will not compete this season.
“I’m focusing on my studies this semester,” 2013 cross country state finalist Jesse Bonilla said. Andres Rosas, who quit the team with no explanation, could not be reached for comment.
“We are OK. Laura is trained to run her fastest time of the season at state. The men’s team is the strongest we’ve had since 2012,” ELAC Head Coach Louis Ramirez said.
“If Laura wins state, she will be the first woman in East Los Angeles College’s history to win back-to-back state titles.”
Aceves finished her Classic run in 17:52.00 minutes. Aminat Olowara, a freshman of Southwestern College and from Lagos, Nigeria, won the women’s race in 16:33.00.
“Olowara’s time is a women’s Classic record,” Rio Hondo Head Coach Gayle Watkins said.
Despite the second place finish, Aceves was pleased with her results.
“One of my goals is for the women’s team to advance to state so I ran the first mile together with the team to help my teammates before picking up my pace in mile two,” Aceves said. “I ran (33 seconds) faster than I did here at this meet last year. It felt good. I am happy with my results.”
Aceves has the second-best fastest time in the state this early new season just ahead of Yesenia Silva (17:52.3) of College of the Sequoias. Aceves upset then favored Silva in last year’s championship race with a come-from-behind sprint at the finish line.
With the fastest times in the state, Olowara, Aceves and Silva compete in the Southern California Championships Preview Meet on Sept. 19 at Woodley Park in Van Nuys.
If Aceves wins, she will become the first ELAC woman to win the SoCal Preview women’s race. The meet will draw over 500 community college athletes.
The women’s SoCal five kilometer overflow race begins at 9 a.m. followed by the women’s top seven race. The men’s top seven race begins at 10:20 a.m. followed by men’s overflow race.
ELAC’s top seven runners from each team will compete in the top seven races. All other Huskies will compete in the non-scoring overflow races.
Olowara, Aceves and Silva have posted times approaching Olympic standard times in multiple events.
Silva and Aceves will have an Olympic “B” standard time in the 1,500-meter run when they improve 15.92 and 27.15 seconds, respectively.
Olowara is 43 seconds off and olympic “B” time in the 10,000-meter run and Aceves is only short 58.66 seconds of an Olympic “B” time in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase run.
Both ELAC teams finished sixth place at the Classic. Riverside City College won the men’s team race while Southwestern won the women’s. Aceves was named to her second consecutive Classic All-Meet Women’s Top 10 Team.
ELAC sophomore Andres De La Cruz, the top runner for the 2012 ELAC men’s team, finished ninth and was named to the All-Meet Men’s Top 10 Team for the second time in three years.
Six sophomores ran personal records for the Huskies even though half of the women’s team, including Aceves, were recovering from recent illnesses.
“We trained very hard this summer and are only beginning to run faster times,” ELAC’s Guadalupe Yanez said.
Cristian Flores and Aaron Jasso, who finished as ELAC’s No. 2 and No. 3 runners at the Classic, ran personal records.
Yanez eclipsed a minute from her previous fastest time, Sandy Bautista ran a lifetime best 53 seconds faster and Vanessa Buelna improved from her 2012 best time by over four minutes. Amy Herrera ran a 2014 personal record.
Freshmen who have competed on the ELAC track and field team ran their cross country debuts include Viridiana Hernandez, a 2014 SoCal track and field semifinalist in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, Maybell Sanchez and Salvador Ascencio.
Running their initial collegiate races were Luz Badillo, Yolanda Rojas, Maria Sanchez, Justin Torres and Andrew Perez, all high school transfers.
Sanchez fell hard at the finish line. “I picked myself up and finished knowing it was my fastest time this year,” Sanchez said.