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Glendale college cross-country teams look to continue business of winning in state competition

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Glendale Community College women’s cross-country team members who will be competing in state competition Saturday are, from left to right, freshman Lydia Forsyth, sophomore Phoebe Forsyth and freshman Jamie Levin, all from Burbank High.
(Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

Being dedicated, being prompt and staying focused is the kind of business the Glendale Community College cross-country teams run with.

That kind of business has brought the Vaqueros Western State Conference titles this season for both the No.1-ranked women’s team and the No. 6-ranked men’s squad.

The same business has also helped the women — which include a trio of Burbank High graduates — finish first in the Southern California Championships for the first time since 2016, and propelled the men — aided by two Crescenta Valley grads — to a third-place finish behind San Diego Mesa and runner-up Mount San Antonio College.

Heading into the California Community College Athletic Assn. State Cross-Country Finals at Woodward Park in Fresno on Saturday, the approach stays the same for both squads: take care of business.

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“It’s a young team, so they were able to adapt to the training and different racing styles,” said Glendale coach Eddie Lopez of his team’s success. “It’s their maturity level. They were able to step up. That’s the biggest thing. We only had two sophomores, so the rest are fresh women.

“They like to run. They enjoy it. The last two years, I had to push them more. Here, I have to hold them back more. Big difference.”

Helping lead the women’s team is sophomore captain Phoebe Forsyth, a Burbank High graduate who also had an impressive track and field season as a freshman.

“We just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing this whole season,” Forsyth said. “Not really focusing on the other teams and make it all about us by making sure we are doing well within our team and our girls.

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“It’s pretty easy [to stay focused]. Nothing changes. The work outs and everything are constant. We don’t panic, which keeps everything the same and makes it easier for us.”

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Glendale Community College cross country team members who will be competing for the state championship are, from left to right, sophomore Phoebe Forsyth, 20, freshman Lydia Forsyth, 18, and freshman Jamie Levin, 19, all from Burbank High School, at the college field in Glendale on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019.
(Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

Alongside her are two former Bulldogs graduates in freshmen Jamie Levin and sister Lydia Forsyth. The ex-Bulldogs athletes said although there’s just a slight difference in racing at the collegiate level and there are some the environmental differences, the training and approach remains the same as in high school.

“We’re coming out of this undefeated [in conference] and I feel like we have a big target on our backs,” Levin said. “We’re just going to stay calm and carry on.”

The women’s team, which is ranked No. 1 in Southern California and in the state, won their 15th consecutive conference title this season. At the Western State Conference Championships, Glendale finished ahead of second-place Oxnard and third-place Ventura.

“It’s business, and we just have to treat it as that going into the state meet,” Lydia Forsyth said. “We’re treating it as if it’s another race. We’re going to do our best like we always do.

The Vaqueros had three runners finish in the top 10 at the Southern California Championships in San Diego earlier this month. Glendale was led by freshman Yajiara Calderon with a third-place finish in 19 minutes, 41.7 seconds. Levin placed eighth in 19:54.9, Phoebe Forsyth came in ninth in 20:02.4 and was followed by Bianca Biel in12th with a 20:09.1 and Lydia Forsyth at 26th in 20:54.4.

“They come to practice, they go to class, they get good grades and that’s business,” said Lopez of the Burbank trio. “They’re good student-athletes and they come from a very good program. Coach [Kathryn] Nelson is on top of it. She’s very supportive of us and I’m very thankful. It’s made my job a lot easier. Less screaming and yelling.”

Among the top runners is Saturday’s race Ventura sophomore and conference champion Olivia Burton, along with Moorpark sophomore Sophia Cortina. Lopez believes the two runners will likely set the pace and be among the top finishers in the state race.

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“We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing all season, which is running in our packs,” Lopez said. “The top two runners are from our conference, so I’ve been to saying the same thing: it hasn’t changed, so follow those runners. We’ve been battling them, and they’ve been killing us, too. That’s what makes it easier for us because it’s like a conference meet.”

The Vaqueros men’s team, meanwhile, sealed their fourth straight conference title and will fight for a top-three spot in the CCCAA state meet.

At the Southern California Championships, Crescenta Valley High graduate Spencer Geck led the Vaqueros with a 10th-place finish in 21:46 and Falcons graduate Ameer Mohammed in 20th with a 22:02.4. They were followed by Kevin Keller (25th, 22:06), Albert Serrano, (27th, 22:07.2) and Marvin Guardado (31st, 22:11).

“The men are improving and we’re on a roll,” Lopez said. “I expect to be top-three. We have the possibility of second or third if we run that pack, and we ran well in San Diego [at the Southern California Championships].

“It’s a mental approach. Physically, we’re peaking and some teams aren’t, but it’s going to come down to mental toughness and you can’t give up.”

In last season’s state competition, for the first time since 2004, the Glendale women’s team — the two-time defending state champions — didn’t finish in the top three at the state final, ending one of the most prestigious streaks in CCCAA history, as the Vaqueros placed fifth. The men’s squad finished sixth.

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