A strong start just couldn't be sustained by the Glendale Community College women's cross-country team at Saturday's Southern California Championships, as the Vaqueros' season-long nemesis Orange Coast College once again had the last laugh.
Running on the Pirates' home course of Fairview Park in Costa Mesa, the Vaqueros were leading the race through more than the first mile and Glendale No. 1 Grace Zamudio ended up winning the race. But Orange Coast's entire scoring five was able to cross the finish line between Zamudio and Glendale's next finisher, leading to an easy win for the Pirates, 53-105, their fourth over the Vaqueros this season. Moorpark was third with 130 points.
"It's their home course and I think we went out too fast, they're a good team and we haven't beat them all year," said Glendale Coach Eddie Lopez, whose team won the Southern California title last season. "I thought we did well, second place. Any time you go to a meet like that. ...taking second in Southern Cal is pretty good."
Zamudio continued her stellar sophomore season by winning her eight race in a row in 18 minutes 9.43 seconds, with a cushion of more than 17 seconds over runner-up Cecilia Instebo of Santa Barbara (18:27.40).
"I'm actually very pleased, I PR'd by I think 20 seconds, so I'm actually really happy," Zamudio said. "I went into the race knowing that we really want to do well as a team and contributing that one point [to the team score] is kind of my job. I was focusing on scoring that one point for my team."
Orange Coast's top finisher was freshman Karen Silvas (sixth, 18:55.08), but the Pirates also saw sophomore Carmille Garcia take eighth in 19:04.92 before sophomore Chelsea Clifford and freshmen Raeanna Cortez and Leanne Allen all crossed the line in succession 12th-14th.
Glendale got a 17th-place finish from sophomore Charlene Quintanilla (19:28.01), who was followed by Elizabeth Nelson (24th, 19:42.33), Lizzette Gonzalez (27th, 19:46.06), who Lopez said was hampered by a knee injury, and Abril Ramirez (37th, 20:01.57).
"We were ahead of [Orange Coast] for a mile and a half," Lopez said. "We need to just try to get out good, but not going out too fast. We're better when we chase them."
Zamudio said the Vaqueros will be focused on trying once again to take out Orange Coast at the State Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno on Nov. 17
"They're a very talented team, I'll give them that," Zamudio said. "We've been chasing them all season, but I'm actually really proud of how my girls did this week. If you look at the times from earlier in the season, pretty much every girl dropped at least half a minute.
"We're actually very proud of how we did and, if anything, we're just very motivated to end the season well at state."
The Vaqueros men finished a distant sixth in the team standings, but in terms of actual points were much closer to first-place San Bernardino Valley (95 points) than the Glendale women were to Orange Coast. Just 23 points separated first and sixth place teams, as Glendale finished with 118 points and looked to be a couple of adjustments away from having an outside shot when it competes at the state meet on Nov. 17.
"That's the closest race I've seen at Southern Cal in my 26 years," Lopez said.
Sophomore Kurt Lutz led the way for Glendale with a 10th-place finish in 20:30.08, as L.A. Trade Tech's Omar Cortes won the race in 19:48.44.
Issac Diosdado was 14th in 20:32.83 for Glendale, followed by sophomore teammates Mario Castillo in 24th in 20:50.92 and Vladimir Diaz at 31st in 21:00.16, but Lopez was disappointed that sophomores Yeltsen Vasquez and Mizrael Mendez slipped to 39th (21:10.93) and 54th (21:30.28), respectively.
"Our fourth and fifth guy have to do a better job," Lopez said. "Mario was our third man and he should be our fifth or sixth.
"Again, it's going to be close [at state]. It's just a matter of packing up in the front."