The power may be shifting in the Orange Coast College cross-country program this season.
The OCC women's team has been the strength of the program, winning its fourth state championship of the decade last season, to go with titles in 1980, '81 and '82.
But this season, the men's team appears to be just as strong.
The OCC men handled their first Orange Empire Conference challenge this season with a 25-32 victory over Fullerton Friday.
OCC expected to be challenged for the Orange Empire Conference title by Fullerton, Rancho Santiago and Saddleback.
The victory over Fullerton displayed the real strength of the OCC team--depth. Fullerton took the first two places, but OCC took the next five. Brad Sigler was third, Mike Marckx fourth, Chris Hobson fifth, Chris Parmer sixth and Joel Hunt seventh.
"You never like to say how good you are this time of year because too many things can change," OCC Coach Gordie Fitzel said. "I think we have enough to win the conference but that also remains to be seen. We have a long way to go. We have good depth and should improve as the season goes along."
The men's team may be better right now, but Fitzel isn't counting out another state title bid by the OCC women, who are 1-0 this season.
"We are better than I thought we would be," said Fitzel, who oversees both programs. "But then last season at this time, I didn't think we would be making a run at the state title either.
"We are young. Most of the time, we like to carry over a few top runners to the next year but it didn't work out that way this year."
Marcial Beltran of Fullerton appears to be one of the top male cross-country runners in the state. Beltran, a sophomore, was second at the Fresno Invitational Sept. 10 before winning each of his next two races.
He ran the fastest leg in the Orange County Relays Sept. 17 at Central Park in Huntington Beach. Beltran also won the race in the dual meet between OCC and Fullerton last Friday.
"Right now, he's probably the top runner in the state," Fullerton Coach Jim Kiefer said.
The wrestling season opens this week with Cypress traveling to Palomar Friday at 7:30 p.m. in a matchup of two of the state's powers. Cypress finished third in the state last season and Palomar fifth.
Mike Flook takes over as coach at Cypress this season for Ray Haas, who is taking a sabbatical after 21 seasons and a 283-38-3 dual-meet record. Flook was an assistant at Cypress the past three seasons.
Four members from last season's team return for Cypress, including All-Americans Bill Montgomery and Ralph Rucker. Montgomery was third at 134 pounds and Rucker third at 158 in last season's state meet.
Art Orozco, who was eighth at 150 pounds, and Randy Gonzales, who was sixth in the heavyweight division, also return.
Golden West, which was fourth last season in the state meet, opens at 1 p.m. Saturday at Bakersfield.
Rancho Santiago opens Oct. 5 at Pierce at 7:30 p.m.
Community College Notes
Greg O'Halloran, who caught last season for the Orange Coast baseball team, is now catching for the Canadian Olympic baseball team in Seoul. O'Halloran, who played at De La Salle High School in Ontario, hit .377 with 3 home runs and 31 RBIs for OCC last season. O'Halloran has signed a national letter of intent to attend Illinois next season. . . . The OCC football team has been hit by a series of injuries to its running backs. Freshman Robert Lee has been bothered by a sore back and might redshirt. Lee has yet to suit up for a game this season. Teammate Tyler Riddell broke his hand in practice and is expected to miss four to six weeks. . . . Mike Crowley, one of Golden West's top receivers, broke a finger in practice last week and will be out at least two weeks.