By Tadzio Garcia
The 2014 season was highlighted with nine Huskies qualifying at the California Community College Athletic Association State Championships for the third time in the last 15 years.
In 2001, ELAC advanced 14 to the state finals with the women’s team taking second place and the men’s team finishing 11th. ELAC qualified 10 to the 2011 finals.
Defending state champion Laura Aceves earned her second-consecutive All-American status while taking third place. While Elans Oscar Ogwaro and Sergio Lares accomplished this for the men’s team in both 2006 and 2005, Aceves is the first from the women’s team in East Los Angeles College’s history to do so.
The men’s team, a preseason top-10 state team according to Head Coach Louis Ramirez, fell on hard times and did not recover.
Two Huskies became homeless prior to the beginning of the semester after which affected their faster summer times according to Ramirez.
“Something like this wasn’t expected, but all you can do is keep your head high, stay positive and things began to work out,” Ramirez said. “It took a lot of courage for these young men to work and compete with the team.”
Three other runners from the men’s team returning from ELAC state finals experience, officially dropped from the team at the beginning of the semester. Jesse Bonilla, Andres Rosas and Louis Requilme-Colin all plan to return to the team in the fall.
They took a break to focus on studies. Bonilla was the No. 3 runner for ELAC last year. Rosas, a 2012 state finalist was returning a top runner for the team according to Ramirez.
During the summer, the two-time state finalist and sophomore Andres De La Cruz, ELAC’s No. 1 men’s runner, had some tough competition during summer training.
Freshman Salvador Ascencio burst on the scene with times on the heels of De La Cruz. When Ascencio had no place to live, his times began to drop each week until the final two meets of the season.
“I’ve recovered and now live in an apartment thanks to determination, hard work and help from my teammates,” Ascencio said.
De La Cruz had an incredible run this year. He placed 29th at the SoCal Preview and ran 30 seconds faster at the SoCal Championships seven weeks later on the same course. He was named to SoCal All-Meet Men’s Second Team.
He was also named to All-Meet First or Second Teams in every race this year, except for the state finals.
Ogwaro, who advanced to the 2012 USA Olympic Trials in the marathon and the 10,000-meter run, did this same feat as De La Cruz in 2006.
Aceves, who began running competitively in team competition at ELAC last year, will compete in a marathon next month on the road to qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Trials according to Ramirez.
Aceves also enters the ELAC record books as the first woman Husky with having won All-Meet First or Second Team status in every race of her cross country career as a Husky. Two meets were against four-year university athletes.
“I always keep in mind to win, but more important, I focus in each race on what I’ve just learned and what I can learn from my results,” Aceves said. This helped her improve her times in seven races this season that she competed in last year an average of 45.3 seconds faster.
She placed third with a time of 17:57.8 minutes at the state finals behind winner and freshman Aminat Olowora of Southwestern College (16:59.7) and Yesenia Silva of College of the Sequoias (17:33.8). Silva’s only losses in two years of CCCAA completion was the 2013 state finals to Aceves and this year’s state finals.
Olowora, a Nigerian 2016 Olympic hopeful, broke the state meet record previously ran in 1985 by ELAC’s Sylvia Mosqueda (17:06.0).
“Laura got cut off from the leaders (Olowora, Silva) who sprinted from the get go in the beginning of the race. It was too much of distance for her to recover,” ELAC Assistant Head Coach David Loera said.
The women’s team finished near the bottom of each meet from mid-season on due to injuries, but they pulled it together at the South Coast Conference Championships.
Six Huskies ran lifetime best times then, Stephanie Trelles, Ruby Padilla, Viridiana Hernandez, Luz Badillo, Amy Herrera and Vanessa Buelna. ELAC received an at-large bid to the postseason.
Proving this was no fluke, ELAC won 19th place at the state finals with upsets against No. 4-ranked Butte College, Santa Rosa Junior College (7), De Anza (8), Fresno City (9), Cuyamca (12-tie) and Ventura (14) colleges.
ELAC bested No. 12 and defending state team champion Orange Coast College out of the playoffs at SoCal.
Padilla, Hernandez and Herrera each ran personal records.
The men’s team, hampered by season-long injuries, ended their season at SoCal. De La Cruz and Cristian Flores, ELAC’s No. 2 runner, finished 60th and 57th places, respectively.
De La Cruz’s personal record was at the 2012 SCC finals, which was good enough for him to be named Freshman of the Meet.
Aceves’s fast time this season was in the Mt. San Antonio College Invite, the nation’s largest cross country meet that drew over 25,000 athletes. Aceves won the women’s community college race.
Her personal record at ELAC was when she won the 2013 state finals women’s race to sprint ahead of Silva in the last 100 yards, handing Silva her only defeat that year.