Grace Zamudio, Glendale Community College cross-country prevail at preview

No matter where or when, it seems all that Grace Zamudio does is win these days.

The Glendale Community College cross-country sophomore won yet again on Friday afternoon, claiming victory for the fifth straight time and leading the Vaqueros women’s team to triumph for the third straight outing, in the process.

Zamudio posted a time of 19 minutes 29.06 seconds in the women’s 5,000 meters at Kenny Hahn Regional Park in Baldwin Hills to take first in the Western State Conference Preview, while the GCC women and men’s teams prevailed.

“I try not to think about winning and losing,” said Zamudio, who is undefeated this season in junior college races, having won five consecutively beginning Sept. 8 at the Fresno Invitational. “I just concentrate on running the best I can.”

The GCC women collected 35 points to fend off second-place Moorpark (47 points) and third-place Santa Barbara (75), continuing their team streak of victories that saw them win the Foothill Invitational and Golden West Invitational in each of the previous two weeks.

“We’re getting better at pack running,” Zamudio said. “The split between our No. 2 runner and No. 5 is really improving.”

On Friday, Elizabeth Nelson took fifth in 20:28.49 as GCC’s No. 2 finisher, while the No. 5 finisher was Abril Ramirez in 12th at 21:16.40. Thus, the team’s overall split was 1:50.34, and the difference between the second and fifth runners was but 1:02.43.

In between, Lizzette Gonzalez took seventh in 20:47.52, while Charlene Quintanilla was 10th in 21:04.25.

On the men’s side, Issac Diosdado led the way, coming across in 21:34.60 for second place and the beginning of a parade of Vaqueros, who took the second through sixth slots.

The Vaqueros’ domination extended beyond their scoring five, as they had six top-eight finishers, nine top-13 finishers and 12 in the top 20.

“I felt like I did run well and I’m where I’m supposed to be thanks to the coaches,” said Diosdado, who finished behind winner Sturgess Gordon (21:20.53) of Cuesta in the four-mile race. “Team-wise, we ran how we’re supposed to run. We ran well and we ran as a pack.”

Following not far behind Diosdado were Kurt Lutz (third, 21:49), Yeltsen Vasquez (fourth, 21:51.31), the returning Mizrael Mendez (fifth, 21:52.66) and Vladimir Diaz (sixth, 22:08.39) to close out the scoring five. Mario Castillo finished eighth in 22:08.39. GCC won with 20 points with L.A. Valley far behind with 83 and Cuesta in third at 85.

“Our focus was to keep everyone in sight and stay together,” said Diosdado, who was part of a winning team performance for the men at the previous week’s Foothill invite. “The main goal is to run as best as we can as a team together.”

For the women, Zamudio blazed to victory, finishing ahead of second-place Cecilia Instebo of Santa Barbara by 25.93 seconds.

“The course is actually kind of difficult, so I didn’t feel my best, but I did feel in control,” Zamudio said. “I just went out and did my best.”

The course featured an uphill climb late in the race just before the finish that Zamudio said was the longest hill her team’s had to contend with so far. Nonetheless, the GCC women used it strategically to put away the victory, picking off opponents on the incline.

GCC heads to Santa Barbara and Ledbetter Park for next week’s Santa Barbara Invitational, where the women will look for their eighth WSC crown in a row and the men will vie for their fifth straight conference crown on Oct. 23 at the same Ledbetter locale. After the teams’ performances against their conference counterparts on Friday, it seems they’re poised for more conference hardware.

But the Vaqueros have their sights on grander aspirations.

“We’ve definitely progressed a lot,” said Zamudio, who was a part of the 2011 state champions at GCC. “A lot of it has to do with our training. Our training is done so we peak at the right time, which is state [in Fresno on Nov. 17].”

Added Diosdado: “It’s just a progression to state finals.”

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