Grace Zamudio, Glendale Vaqueros women, men ready to take on state's best

For the Glendale Community College women’s cross-country team, the title chase at Saturday’s California Community College State Cross-Country Championships will be twofold.

Although the Vaqueros have a sizable gap to close between themselves and Orange Coast College for the team championship, they still remain players to capture the crown for the second year in a row when the meet kicks off at 10 a.m. at Woodward Park in Fresno. Perhaps a likelier bet, though, is Grace Zamudio’s contention for the individual title, as the GCC sophomore hasn’t lost a race in her last eight outings this season, including winning the Southern California crown on Nov. 3.

“We’ve been training for this race since summer,” said Zamudio, who’s undefeated against junior college competition. “Putting in all the miles over summer and then that way that we trained and did our speed workouts during the beginning of the season, it was all so we could peak and have our best race this weekend.

“We’re really excited to see what we can do and we have done everything perfect. We’ve put in the miles, we’ve stayed healthy. We’re just ready to run the race of our lives.”

Zamudio’s biggest challenge for the state title figures to come from Northern California champion De Anza sophomore Katie Castro, who smoked the field on Nov. 3 en route to winning by almost a full minute.

“I’m looking forward to [the matchup], but I’m pretty confident in my training,” said Zamudio, who could give the Vaqueros back to back individual champions after Karen Rosas won last year’s meet. “With all the races that I’ve done this season, I’m ready to race. I’m actually excited, I’m not really nervous or anything.”

Glendale finished almost 50 points behind Orange Coast at the Southern California Championships meet, as its next four finishers crossed the line 17th, 24th, 27th and 37th, respectively.

Vaqueros Coach Eddie Lopez said that second and third runners Charlene Quintanilla and Elizabeth Nelson need to be up to the challenge and hopes that fourth runner Lizette Gonzalez has had enough time to recover from the knee injury that hindered her on Nov. 3.

“Liz and Charlene are really running well,” Lopez said. “Lizette had a bad knee and now she’s getting treatment and taking some medication for that.

“[Fifth runner] Abril [Ramirez] is going to be the key.”

Lopez said the entire team should be ready to hit its peak Saturday after tapering workouts this week and even taking up group meditation.

“We had shorter workouts and they’re ready to go,” Lopez said. “Mentally they’re ready, so I think they’re ready to race.

“We think that Orange Coast is going to be strong, but we just want to get up there and try and take top three.”

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