SANTA BARBARA — From the start, Grace Zamudio left little doubt of her continued dominance.
For the Glendale Community College women’s cross-country team as a whole, however, it wasn’t until the end that its own continued dominance was safely in place.
On a windy Tuesday afternoon at Leadbetter Park in Santa Barbara, Zamudio continued her sensational sophomore season, winning the Western State Conference championship, while her teammates rallied over the final kilometer to ensure the GCC women their eighth straight conference title.
“We got off to a slow start and it was tough to compensate,” said GCC’s Lizette Gonzalez, who was the second Vaquero across the finish line at fifth overall, four spots behind the victorious Zamudio, who shredded the field in a time of 19 minutes 54.28 seconds. “For the most part, we just hung on.”
GCC’s women placed six runners in the top 15 to edge Moorpark, 38-46, with Santa Barbara (88 points) taking third in the 5K race.
“They have the talent,” GCC Coach Eddie Lopez said, “but we have the heart.”
The Vaqueros’ men’s team was dominant in packing together for a fifth consecutive WSC crown, posting 24 points with six top-eight performances to second-place L.A. Valley’s 63 points with Cuesta (92) a distant third. Individually, though, GCC’s Isaac Diosdado had his title hopes dashed by an opportunistic Angel Alcantar of Valley, who came on down the stretch for a surprising win.
“He took advantage of the wind and drafted off me,” said Diosdado, who led for much of the race. “But he had a nice kick, too.”
Alcantar won in 22:22.97, with Diosdado taking second in 22:25.02. Cuesta’s Gordon Sturgess, arguably the favorite, was third in 22:40.95, just ahead of GCC’s Kurt Lutz (fourth, 22:43.90).
“The Valley guy ran really smart. When the wind died down, he came on and nobody could keep up,” Lutz said. “I would’ve liked to see me or Isaac win, … but overall we were happy.”
Lutz began a parade of Vaqueros across the four-mile finish line as the first of five straight GCC finishers. In succession, he was followed by Yeltsen Vasquez (fifth, 22:45.76), Ashton Malone (23:01.53), Mizrael Mendez (seventh, 23:02.82) and Vladimir Diaz (eighth, 23:04.58).
“The main goal was to show who is the most dominant school in the conference,” Diosdado said, “and we came out and did that.”
The women’s race was characterized by the individual dominance of Zamudio and the unrelenting grit of the Gonzalez-led pack, which overcame third- and fourth-place finishes by Moorpark to prevail.
“The thing about this team, they never give up,” Lopez said. “We knew it was gonna come down to the end.”
Zamudio, like the rest of her teammates, was running her second straight race on the Leadbetter course after winning the Santa Barbara Invitational on Oct. 12. And after waiting until the midway point of the race to make her move and separate from the pack then, Zamudio started fast from the get-go on Tuesday.
“This week, I just wanted to go out and do my best,” said Zamudio, whose 19:54.28 time was a personal-record and far in front of second-place Cecilia Instebo (20:21.88) of Santa Barbara.
It was Zamudio’s seventh straight win this season as she remained undefeated against junior college competition.
“It’s an amazing season. We just gotta keep it that way,” Lopez said. “She’s all business now. It’s just amazing. When she turns it on, she just takes off.”
Zamudio followed in the footsteps of Karen Rosas (2011) and Angie Martinez (2010) to become the third Vaquero women’s runner to win a WSC individual title.
“As far as winning and everything, it does feel great,” Zamudio said, “but I just want to keep progressing.”
Gonzalez was running through a bout of tendinitis in her right knee, but was able to lead the Vaqueros’ charge that overcame a slow start to rally for the win.
Gonzalez took fifth in 21:19.66, just in front of teammate Charlene Quintanilla (sixth, 21:27.28).
“I think [Moorpark] tried to set a pack in front of us, but me and Charlene broke that up,” Gonzalez said.
Following Quintanilla, Abril Ramirez took 12th in 21:55.86, with Jocelin Lugo finishing 14th at 22:19.95, right in front of teammate Elizabeth Nelson (22:22.70), who took 15th.
Next up for both squads is a trip to Costa Mesa for the Southern California Championships at Fairview Park on Nov. 3, as both move forward on their quests for state. For the women, they’re looking to repeat as state champions and win the program’s third crown in four seasons.
“It’s been hard work, so it’s just one race at a time,” Gonzalez said. “We have the potential, it’s just a matter of doing it. We just have to pull together.”