State glory within Glendale's grasp

Battling various illnesses hasn't kept Karen Rosas from flashing her winning form late in the 2011 Glendale Community College cross-country season.

The Vaqueros are hoping that trend doesn't stop, as Rosas may once again be under the weather when she competes in the California Community College Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno at 10 a.m. today after returning earlier in the week from a recruiting trip to frigid Colorado with flu-like symptoms.

"It's kind of crazy because for the last three races, which have been the most important races of the season, I haven't felt completely OK, health-wise," said Rosas, who battled a similar illness to win the Western State Conference crown on Oct. 25 before overcoming food poisoning to claim the Southern California individual championship in 17 minutes 54.6 seconds on Nov. 11. "That's the only thing I'm concerned about, but I am positive with the team and we all want to go out there and give the best.

"I know the girls are ready and they're clicking, which is really important because the team needs to feel it, not just me."

With Rosas leading the charge, the Vaqueros women have won their last seven races, including conference and Southern California Regional titles, and have their sights set on capturing the state crown after finishing second last year. Alyssa Selve and Angela Martinez have been formidable at the front of the pack, as well, bolstered by good depth throughout the roster.

"It's going to be close. Karen and Alyssa and Angie are top-three, so between those three, we could have a state champion," Vaqueros Coach Eddie Lopez said. "The main thing is just to keep doing what we've been doing all year with those three in front and have our other four girls run their race and not follow the leader or go out too fast, or too slow."

Lopez projects Orange Coast to be the top competition, although the Pirates hardly put a scare into the Vaqueros at the SoCal championships, finishing a distant second, 27-100.

"I know one [Orange Coast] girl was missing [at SoCal], [she's been] their No. 1 and No. 2 off and on, but we can't worry about them," Lopez said. "If we can run the way we did at Southern Cal, then we should be OK, we should do very well."

The men's team placed fourth at SoCal behind Mizrael Mendez (eight, 20:37.2), who also battled illness.

"[Mendez] is doing a lot better," Lopez said of Mendez, who originally attended Mt. Whitney High before transferring to Birmingham. "He loves this course.

"Most of our guys [do]. Kurt [Lutz] was on the [Saugus] team that finished second in state last year, [Alexander] Nelson's run well there, we're ready to go."

Issac Diosdoda and Nelson finished right behind Mendez on Saturday, but Lopez stressed the need for the whole pack to get better positioning early in order challenge American River, the top team from Northern California, as well as San Bernardino Valley, L.A. Trade Tech and San Diego Mesa, all of which finished ahead of Glendale at SoCal.

"We have to get out quicker the first 100-200 meters and get position and not get stuck in the back," Lopez said. "We can't afford to get stuck in the back or in the middle, we've got to get out and race.

"There's going to be about five or six teams going for the top-three, it's very competitive this year."

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