There was genuine excitement among the men’s cross-country coaches at the Orange Empire Conference Festival run Friday at Craig Park in Brea.
The glee wasn’t so much because it was a cool, damp, perfect morning for running.
Instead, the coaches were thrilled because the conference title doesn’t appear to be an automatic for Riverside, which has won the past six.
Rancho Santiago, coached by Al Siddons, beat Riverside, albeit by a single point, 43-44, at the six-team race Friday. It was the first regular-season loss in the last six seasons for Riverside, which has dominated thanks largely to a series of foreign runners.
Riverside took the first four places at the conference race last season and seven of the first eight spots in 1991.
Darin Rabb of Orange Coast appears to be in the best condition early this season. After finishing fifth in the San Diego Mesa Invitational the week before, he won the Festival’s four-mile race in 19 minutes 43 seconds.
Rancho Santiago’s team victory was led by Fidel Zavala (second), Jorge Francisco (seventh) and Francisco Vazquez (eighth).
Irvine Valley again appears to be the class of the women’s side. This is the Lasers’ third year of existence under co-coaches Bill and Julie Leach.
In that short span, Irvine Valley has already shared a State title (1991), and won two conference titles (1991-1992).
Irvine Valley had three runners among the first eight and won with 46 points. Donna Proia was third, Mayra Medina fourth and Summer Gingrich eighth.
Orange Coast and Golden West are most likely to challenge Irvine Valley as the season progresses.
Orange Coast has been bolstered by the return of long-time Coach Gordie Fitzel, who was on sabbatical last season.
The Pirates placed Adrienne Sweester (fifth) and Erin Remy (sixth) among the top 10 Friday. Orange Coast’s other runners finished 11th, 13th and 18th.
Golden West has gotten outstanding performances from Kim Foster and Lisa Mote. The pair were first and second at the Fresno Invitational and again at the Festival.
All the Orange Empire Conference teams, as well as several of the top teams in Southern California, will compete in the Irvine Invitational Oct. 8 at Irvine Regional Park.
The Orange Empire Conference championships are Nov. 9 at Craig Park and the State meet is Nov. 20 at Woodward Park in Fresno.
The mighty have fallen: Saddleback’s 21-15 loss to Cerritos dropped the Gauchos out of the top spot in the Southland football poll for the first time in 16 weeks.
Palomar (2-0) moved into the No. 1 spot. Bakersfield (1-0) is second, Mt. San Antonio (2-0) third, Cerritos (1-0-1) fourth, Long Beach (2-0) fifth, Saddleback (1-1) sixth, Glendale (1-0) seventh, Southwestern (2-0) eighth, Los Angeles Harbor (1-0) ninth and Los Angeles Valley (1-0) tenth.
Rancho Santiago (0-0-1) is the only county team playing this Saturday. The Dons play host to El Camino (1-1) at 7 p.m. in Santa Ana Stadium. The Dons had a bye last week after opening the season Sept. 11 with a 28-28 tie at Cerritos.
Get your kicks: Cypress and Mt. San Antonio, the two teams that played for the Southern California women’s soccer championship last season, meet Friday in a nonconference rematch at 3 p.m. at Cypress.
The Chargers, who won the Orange Empire Conference title last season, are 3-0.
Cypress went 3-0-1 at the Bakersfield SoccerFest last weekend. The games don’t count in teams’ overall records because they were 60 minutes instead of 90.
Mt. San Antonio won the playoff game, 2-1, last season and went on to win the State title as well.
The Cypress men’s team is off to a 2-0 start for the first time since the program was restarted in 1986. Pat Trevino has two of the team’s five goals, and Coach Tony Baca said the performance of sweepers Eric Pichardo and Alex Camargo has also been impressive.
Community College Notes
Mt. San Antonio is the top-ranked men’s team in the coaches’ Southern California cross-country poll. El Camino is second, Glendale third, Rancho Santiago fourth, Cuyamaca fifth, San Diego Mesa sixth, Riverside seventh, Antelope Valley eighth, Irvine Valley ninth and Ventura tenth.
Glendale is the top-ranked women’s team. Mt. San Antonio is second, El Camino third, Irvine Valley fourth, Orange Coast fifth, Golden West sixth, Cuesta seventh, Rancho Santiago eighth, Ventura ninth and San Bernardino Valley 10th.