It’s been difficult for Western State Conference cross-country teams to knock Glendale Community College off its perch.
In fact, it’s been very difficult.
Last season, the Vaqueros won their 14th consecutive women’s conference title and their third straight men’s championship.
This year, coach Eddie Lopez and his teams will look to continue their dominance and add one more conference titles to the trophy case, along with sights set on Southern California and state success.
“Basically, whoever beats us, they better be fit,” said Lopez, who’s entering his 32nd year. “It’s all how a team develops — if they take care of themselves, injuries, and put the work in to be mentally tough. That’s what I always strive for. I want athletes to be tough, not to make excuses and give 100% percent.”
Though the Vaqueros endured another year without a California Community College Athletic Assn. state title, Lopez will return plenty of talent and has his share of hungry athletes who set on achieving the top spot once again.
“We know that the top team is San Diego Mesa,” Lopez said. “They have three great runners coming back. They’re going to be fit and they’re talented. ... I think we can run with everyone else — Riverside, Mt. SAC and American River in state.”
In the quest for a 15th straight title, the women’s team will be led by sophomore Pheobe Forsyth, a Burbank High graduate. Forsyth, who was named team captain, is coming off of an impressive track and field season where she won the conference title at the WSC championships in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 11 minutes, 59.3 seconds. She finished second in the state competition with an All-American mark of 11:48.56.
Behind Forsyth is a promising freshmen core. Yajaira Calderon and Burbank High grad Jaime Levin are key additions to the team and will rotate at the second or third spots
Also added is Pheobe’s sister Lydia Forsyth, also a Burbank High graduate, who will occupy the fourth spot in the lineup. Freshman Bianca Biel of Birmingham High will be Lopez’s fifth runner.
“She’s a really good runner,” said Lopez of Biel. “She never misses and always puts in the work.”
Returning sophomore Eileen Silva will round out the top six runners for the Vaqueros.
“This is the heart and soul of the team, those six athletes,” Lopez said. “They’re easy to coach, they’re motivated, they never argue. They just do the work. They compete.
“They know that we’ve been the most consistent the last 15 years. We had five girls who got scholarships to the next level, so that’s why we get them.”
The men’s team will rely on experience with a group of sophomores led by captain Albert Serrano, who was one of Lopez’s top runners last season.
Also returning is sophomore Kevin Keller and Crescenta Valley grad Spencer Geck, who is coming off of a track and field season in which he finished sixth in the steeplechase at the state competition. The duo will occupy the second and third spots, respectively.
“He has the credentials,” said Lopez of Geck. “He’s been looking good this summer.”
Also returning is sophomore pair Abraham Martinez and Eric Gutierrez.
Lopez has two impressive freshmen to add to the team in Crescenta Valley grad Amir Mohammed and Marvin Guardado of Birmingham.
“Marvin qualified for state in the 3,200,” Lopez said. “He’s a good runner and consistent, but he has to be careful about the mileage. They’re not used to the mileage, but Amir is. He comes from a good program and he’s a tough kid.”