LA CRESCENTA — Aside from a course snafu in the men's race, things went down as planned and in dominant fashion for Coach Eddie Lopez' Glendale Community College cross-country contingent.
Behind the surprising emergence of Western State Conference individual champion Angie Martinez, the GCC women obliterated their competition en route to a sixth straight conference title with 22 points to second-place Moorpark's 72 on Tuesday afternoon at Crescenta Valley Park.
And in the second race of the day, led by the second- and third-place punch of Ricky Avila and Rico Gutierrez, the Vaqueros repeated as WSC champs, winning an eye-popping 11th title in the last 14 seasons with 39 points to second-place Cuesta's 59.
"We ran our best race [of the season], the women, but the guys were right there, too," Lopez said. "We're peaking at the right time."
And Martinez is leading the way in a borderline astonishing story as she admits at the beginning of the season Lopez had thoughts about kicking her off the team and she had thoughts about quitting. For the better of both, the Burroughs High graduate is currently exceeding all expectations.
"I'm actually still surprised and still amazed," said Martinez, who won the women's 5,000 meters in 19 minutes 23.06 seconds. "[Winning conference] never crossed my mind [at the beginning of the season].
"I'm just amazed, I'm still in shock. I'm also very grateful and thankful this has happened."
GCC's women excelled to the tune of five runners in the top seven and seven in the top 10.
On the men's side in the four-mile race, Avila took second in 20:22.64 with Gutierrez finishing third in 20:27.18. Both finished behind winner Charlie Petrie (20:18.11) of Moorpark.
But the Vaqueros took a different path to the finish than Petrie, who followed the bicycle rider leading the way on the trail. Avila, however, insists Petrie and the rider went down the wrong course, which was a flatter stretch compared to the "right way" which was more of an incline.
"I told Rico during the race, I think he's going the wrong way," said Avila, who added that there was actually a brief pause with the three top runners before resuming the race and going their separate ways. "We know our course.
"It's not [Petrie's] fault. He won the race, he was smooth. He's really good. He looked smooth all race and I was surprised by him.
"It's disappointing for Rico, too. Him and I had been battling all season long. … We were there [up front] and then craziness happens."
Finishing ninth overall was Michel Noris (21:21.87), 12th was Miguel Flores (21:21.90) and 13th, rounding out the scoring five, was Crescenta Valley High product Neil Jones (21:27.38). In both races, the top 14 runners are bestowed all-conference honors.
"Yeah for both [it went as planned], except we wanted to go four for four," said Lopez of winning both team and individual titles. "Ricky feels bad, but that's the way it goes. It's tough."
With the women, there was little question, as the Vaqueros owned the top six spots in the first mile and eight of the first 10 and never had fewer than seven of the top 10 thereafter.
"[It was] probably our best race of the year," Lopez said.
Taking third was Brianna Jauregui, who made a move down the final stretch to move from fourth to third with a 19:33.50 finish.
"Brianna had a good race today," Lopez said. "She's our leader."
In a display of splendid pack running, GCC then took spots five through nine with Alyssa Selve (19:39.66), Diana Sanchez (19:48.66), Vivian Ochoa (19:50.82), Keri Molt (19:53.21) and Cecilia Nicolas (19:57.43), respectively. Molt, Nicolas and Catlin Kelly (12th, 20:18.63) were all-conference selections despite not even scoring for Glendale, another sign of how dominant the run was for a squad looking to repeat as Southern California and state champions in the coming weeks.
"As a team, I think we did just amazing," Martinez said. "We were strong."