It will be on Saturday morning when the Glendale Community College cross-country program, arguably the most successful sports program in the school, returns to competition in an event named after one of the more storied runners to have been associated with Glendale.
The Vaqueros women’s and men’s teams commence the season at Fullerton’s Carbon Canyon Park at 9 a.m. at the Mark Covert Classic, named in honor of the former Vaqueros coach who ran at least one mile each day for 45 years consecutively.
Like Covert, the women’s program has a few streaks of its own, albeit much smaller.
Glendale finished second in state last season with 126 points behind champion Orange Coast College (73) and boasted a bronze medalist in Elizabeth Nelson, who clocked in at a season-best 18 minutes, 2 seconds.
The finish marked the eighth consecutive year that Glendale placed within the top two at state and ninth consecutive year of at least a top-three position.
Prior to state, the Vaqueros finished second at the Southern California Regional Finals after clinching a ninth straight Western State Conference title.
Such good vibrations, though, were accompanied by the realization that most of the veteran squad from 2013 is gone, including Nelson, who now calls Cal State Northridge home.
Despite the strong possibility of a scoring seven with only one returner, longtime Vaqueros Coach Eddie Lopez doesn’t see a drop off ahead.
“I really think this can be a special team, a team that could win state,” said Lopez, whose women’s squads have captured state crowns in 2007, 2009 and 2011. “There’s a lot of potential. The team is young, but we have a team that loves to run and they’re real runners.”
Lopez doesn’t believe it will be a sophomore, but instead a freshman who will be out front.
Glendale’s strong Los Angeles City Section presence begins with former Los Angeles Birmingham and Granada Hills High standout Jassmine Macon, the reigning West Valley League individual champion.
“It’s been a big adjustment moving from high school to college, especially balancing the schedule between school and athletics,” Macon said. “We have a big team and it’s going to be real competitive and tough to make the top seven.”
Canyon High freshman Concepcion Flores is also expected to compete for a top spot along with fellow freshmen Mariah Ayala, Stacy Macias, Crystal Morales, Brenda Sanchez and Hoover High’s Lucik Minassian.
As for the squad’s lone returner, sophomore Glindyll Mancia has been named Lopez’ lone captain.
“I know it’s different than last year, but we’re a sisterhood and we have high expectations,” said Mancia, who finished 16th in state in 18:54.2. “I think we can be a very good team.”
As for the men’s team, a new squad is pining to surpass last year’s efforts, which included a runner-up finish at the conference finals to College of the Canyons (43-49), seventh at the SoCal Finals and 15th at state.
The second-place finish at conference snapped the Vaqueros’ string of five straight conference crowns.
“This team is going to be good, but our success begins at conference,” Lopez said. “We’re not going to talk about SoCal Finals or state until we take back conference, which is what we should do.”
Like the women’s team, the men are also undergoing a near overhaul.
Former Verdugo Hills standout Vahagn Isayan is expected to pace a squad that boasts 15 athletes, but can only have seven scorers.
Isayan is expected to battle with Crescenta Valley product Matt Manalo and Santee’s Edwin Morales for leadership.
Manalo was a central figure in a Falcons revival, as Crescenta Valley advanced to the CIF State Meet for the first time in six years and finished 11th in Division I last year.
Overall, Manalo was the Falcons’ No. 2 runner at state, taking 36th overall in 15:59.
From an experience perspective, Glendale has two sophomores in Marc Marcano and Eros Velasquez.
“When you have a big group there are just going to be some runners who will be left out,” Marcano said. “That’s tough for them, but that’s also going to help make us a better team.”
Freshman Rory Norman is also in consideration for a spot among the top seven.
“We’re going to do much better than last year,” Lopez said in reference to his men’s team. “The talent is here and the desire to compete is here. I think you’re going to see big things from them.”
Follow Andrew J. Campa on Twitter: @campadresports.