Vaqueros cross-country seeking SoCal success

GLENDALE — More than a week after the Glendale Community College women’s and men’s cross-country programs won Western State Conference championships in Santa Maria, it’s time to look ahead.

That’s precisely what both squads have done in getting prepared for the prominent Southern California Championships, which will take place today at Kern County Soccer Park in Bakersfield.

There’s plenty at stake for the Vaqueros. The top 14 teams from each race will qualify for the State Championships, which will be held Nov. 22 at Woodward Park in Fresno.

To get to Fresno, however, Glendale college Coach Eddie Lopez said his teams must first be up to the task of handling today’s race on a 3-mile course that will feature grass, rolling hills and asphalt.

“We can control what we are doing because both teams are running well,” said Lopez, who saw the women’s and men’s teams finish first and 10th, respectively, at last year’s event at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut. “The races should be close.”

The women’s race will start at 2 p.m., and the men’s portion of the meet will begin around 3.

Glendale college’s women’s team, which went on to capture the state championship last year for the first time since 1980, will figure to be up against top teams such as Southwestern College, Orange Coast Community College, Cerritos College, Mount San Antonio College and Riverside Community College. Southwestern College is ranked No. 1 in Southern California by gocollegetrack.com, followed by Orange Coast and Glendale colleges.

“We’ve been doing cycles of training, comparing six weeks ago to now, and there’s been a big improvement,” said Lopez, who was tabbed the state’s women’s coach of the year following last season. “I think we are now faster and stronger. We want to get under a minute between our first and fifth runners because that’s where the points are going to be.”

Glendale college, which has won two straight SoCal championships, will turn to freshman Katie Dunn, who won the individual conference championship and has won six of her seven races this season. Glendale college sophomore Justina Sadauskaite placed second overall in the conference race.

On the men’s side, Lopez said the Vaqueros are aiming for a top-five finish. The main contenders figure to be San Diego Mesa College — ranked No. 1 in Southern California — along with San Bernardino Valley College, Orange Coast, Riverside and Mt. SAC. The Vaqueros, who have won 18 of the last 22 conference championships, are ranked eighth in Southern California.

“I think we are capable of going top five,” Lopez said. “Maybe we can do better because they are running faster.

“We are strong and real deep.”

The Glendale college men’s team figures to be led by Crescenta Valley High graduate Nathan Sellers, who took second in the conference meet and Francisco Quijado (ninth).


 CHARLES RICH covers sports. He can be reached at (818) 637-3228 or charles.rich@latimes.com.

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