Glendale Community College track and field Coach Eddie Lopez is basically conceding any thought of a team title when the Vaqueros women take to the Cerritos College track for the 2012 California Community College Track and Field Championships.
"Laney [College] is going to win it, but as the other teams cancel each other out, we're going to be right there for second or third with Cerritos and Antelope Valley," Lopez said. "Every point counts. We start with the 10K, get some places there."
Second place may be the goal for the team, but several of its members are after bigger prizes.
Freshmen Grace Zamudio and Justice Shank, the top seeds in the 10,000 meters and high jump, respectively, lead a group of 13 Vaqueros qualifiers across multiple events.
The 10K will take place tonight, as Zamudio will try to duplicate her championship performance at May 5th's California Community College Athletic Assn. Southern California 10K Finals at San Diego Mesa College, which took place a week ahead of the rest of the SoCal finals in San Diego, where the GCC women took a program-best second-place finish.
"She has a chance to win, if she's right there at the end, she's got to go for the win, but she's got to make sure [the other runners] do the work," Lopez said. "She has probably the most speed out of the whole group. That's been her advantage."
Glendale's Nohemi Martinez is seeded fourth in the 10K.
When the meet resumes and concludes on Saturday, the Vaqueros will be well-represented in the 5K by the second-seeded Zamudio, fifth-seeded Angela Martinez, sixth-seeded Nohemi Martinez and seventh-seeded Cecelia Nicolas.
"They're going to run well," said Lopez of his 5K group, which employed a pack strategy in Saturday's SoCal Final, where Zamudio finished runner-up. "They've been running at this level for the last month. They're rested, they're focused. ...That's probably our best event."
Shank is riding the momentum of setting a new school record in the SoCal finals (5 feet 7 inches) and winning the SoCal title, but Lopez said the goal will simply be to shoot for first place rather than an eye-popping mark.
"She looks good in practice," Lopez said. "Again [she needs to] go in there and just make sure that she starts at a good height, not too high and get a good warm-up. She's one of the favorites there, so we expect her to be All-American.
"Basically what we tell them is just go with places. She's got to go for the win and then height comes when she wins. Just like the 5K, we're going to run for times, we're going to go for places, move up, feel good, then you keep going and save your best effort for the end. ...There's more stress the other way around I've found."
The Vaqueros also have high hopes for Nicolas and Angela Martinez in the steeplechase, where their second and third seed times are separated by just .15 of a second.
"Cece had the fastest time in the state, but fell in the water jump and that's what cost her the Southern Cal title," Lopez said. "That race is very demanding, so you never know. We've got to stay out of trouble."
Fourth-seeded Alyssa Selve will also compete in the 1,500, while Zamudio, who also qualified for the 1,500, elected to withdraw from the event to devote her energy to the 10,000 and 5,000.
Vladimir Diaz will be the Vaqueros' lone men's representative in the steeplechase.
"We think he could be top three," Lopez said. "He's looking better. We're looking for him to be All-American."