Rosas seeking two for the road

There's a pantheon of top-caliber distance runners in the history of the Glendale Community College women's track and field program. Many of them share the common fortune of having won a state title.

Kim Lorimer, Tove Berg and Rosa Del Toro have the hardware to prove it, all having won state titles in the past decade and, in the process, setting the bar even higher for future Vaqueros.

In the case of Karen Rosas, she would like to have herself mentioned with past standouts.

"I have learned a lot of things about the history here, especially from being teammates with Rosa," said Rosas, who will take part in the 10,000-meter race at 7:45 p.m. Friday and the 5,000 at 8:05 p.m. Saturday in the California Community College Athletic Assn. Track and Field Championships at American River College in Sacramento. "I never thought I could come here and try to be a part of the tradition.

"Rosa helped me a lot and she won the 1,500 race at state last year, and I could see how much she put into being a great runner and now I'm trying to do the same thing. She inspired me a lot to be a better runner and I've become more disciplined."

Inspiration and discipline have carried Rosas with each lap around the track, as she's unquestionably evolved into the top distance runner for the Vaqueros this season.

Rosas won Western State Conference titles in the 10,000 and 5,000, clocking 38 minutes 55.79 seconds and 18:21.98, respectively. She easily won the 5,000 (17:36.43) at the Southern California Championships on Friday at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut.

"She's following in the footsteps of a lot of great distance runners here at GCC," Glendale college Coach Eddie Lopez said. "She's been able to gain strength by having put in the extra miles, which is key because she's done lots of racing over the last three weeks.

"The signature race that she had came Friday [at the Southern California Championships] because she closed the deal by being smooth and calm. With state in both of her events, we are not worrying about time. We just want her to go for the championships."

In the 5,000 at the Southern California Championships, Rosas led virtually the entire race. She bested Mt. SAC's Jasmin Pina, who clocked 17:46.25.

In the process of pulling away from her competition, it appeared as if Rosas hardly broke a sweat in the middle of a chilly evening.

"I was very happy with my performance," said Rosas, one of eight female Glendale athletes expected to participate in the state meet. "I hit below 18 minutes even though I was thinking more about strategy than time.

"I had a good week of practices and I've been able to stay focused all the way through this season."

It's taken plenty of patience for Rosas to get this far and put herself in position to win a state crown.

Rosas said Del Toro, now at Long Beach State, showed her how to fit into an accomplished program.

"I came in last year as a freshman and unknown," Rosas said. "I started working out with Rosa and I could see what a big difference running in college is like compared to high school.

"I think I've matured here as an individual. I have improved and it's a great feeling. I'm a lot more passionate about running, and I've learned the things from Rosa that are needed to be successful."

Glendale's Vivian Ochoa, who will also take part in the 10,000, said Rosas has gained the respect of her teammates.

"Because of her, the rest of us are confident that we can do well," Ochoa said. "It's great to see the way she runs.

"I watched her win the 5K and she was just so happy to win it. She's got a lot of confidence going into state."

That could be a good thing for Rosas heading down the homestretch in her watershed campaign.

She's mapped out her plan in each race.

"In the 10K, I'm not going to try to lead at any point early," Rosas said. "In the last half of the race, I'll stay patient and then shift it up another gear.

"In the 5K, it's more strategic. It's more about feeling good in that race with the way you are running. I'd like to hit a better time. It's my last race and I just want to finish on a high point."

Much like her predecessors.

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