GCC track and field looking for long-distance success

With depth and a promising freshmen class, there's plenty of optimism surrounding the Glendale Community College men's and women's track and field teams.

The Vaqueros, who will begin their season Feb. 16 at the Pomona-Pitzer All Comers Meet, figure to use their depth to contend for individual Western State Conferences titles with an eye toward challenging for the conference team championships.

“We feel like we have the talent to do some damage, from conference to state,” said Glendale college Coach Eddie Lopez, who guided the men’s and women’s cross-country squads to second-place finishes at state in November. “Because we have more depth, it means there a better chance at scoring a lot more points.

“We feel like we can get at least seven to 10 athletes all the way to state.”

The Vaqueros will once again feature a lineup rich in distance runners on both teams. Lopez said both teams will likely be stronger in numerous field events, further providing the Vaqueros with an edge.

The women’s team, which finished third in conference last season, will be led by sophomore Grace Zamudio, who received All-American honors after she finished second in the 5,000-meter race and third in the 10,000 last spring at the California Community College Track and Field Championships at Cerritos College after capturing the 10K at the Southern California Championships.

“She’ll again be one of our top runners,” Lopez said. “I think it’s possible she can win state titles in the 5K and 10K.”

Among the other athletes who figure to make contributions for the Vaqueros are sophomore captains Lilia Asserian, who achieved All-American status after taking sixth in the 800 at the state meet last season, and Charlene Quintanilla in the 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000. Asserian will also take part in the 4x100- and 4x400 relays.

“Lilia is one of the top 800 runners in the state,” said Lopez, who saw the women’s team place second in the Southern California Championship and fourth in state last season.

Zamudio, Asserian and Quintanilla will be joined by sophomore Lizette Gonzalez (5K, 800 and 1,500), freshman Kelly Castillo (steeplechase), freshman Joceline Lugo (steeplechase), freshman Elizabeth Nelson (5K, 10K and 1,500), sophomore Zulma Herrera (400 and 800), sophomore Nancy Watson (200, 400 and relays), freshman Nafaseh Mataei (100, 200 and relays), freshman Jasmin Salas (relays, high jump, hurdles and javelin) and freshman Anafusi Tonga (discus, hammer, shot put, javelin, long jump and high jump).

“We feel like we are right there,” Lopez said. “It can be the best team that we’ve had in the last five years.”

The men’s team might have enough versatility to move up in conference following a seventh-place finish last season.

Like the women’s team, Lopez said there’s no reason to believe the Vaqueros can’t use their depth to accrue points.

“It will be a very good team, certainly stronger than last year,” Lopez said. “We are well-rounded and you can see the positive atmosphere during practices.”

Leading the men’s team will be sophomores Mario Castillo, who will participate in the 800, 1,500 and 4x400 relay, and Nicholas La Croix (hammer throw, shot put, discus and javelin). The duo will serve as co-captains for the Vaqueros.

Castillo and La Croix will work with sophomore Issac Diosdado, who won the 10K conference title last season and will also participate in the steeplechase, sophomore Mizrael Mendez (5K and 10K), sophomore Jason Ahn (javelin), freshman Luke Coblentz (shot put and discus), freshman Quaid Vuncannon (discus, decathlon), freshman Christopher Uribe (hammer, shot put and javelin), freshman Christian Quintanilla (100, 200), hurdles and relays), freshman Jourdan Henore (100, 200 and 4x400 relay), freshman Joseph Thompson (javelin, shot put, discus and hammer) and freshman Nathan Weston (100 and 200).

Also expected to participate are freshman Miguel Arcega (jumps), freshman Jerrod Plummer (pole vault), freshman Julian Maynes (pole vault), freshman Jacob Smith (pole vault), sophomore Jose Catalan (steeplechase, 5K and 10K) and freshman Enrique Ramirez (5K and 10K).

“We feel like we are strong in distance and better in the field events,” Lopez said. “I think you’ll see us do better in conference.”

The conference finals will be held April 29 at Moorpark College. The Southern California Championships will take place May 11 at Antelope Valley College. The state meet will be held May 17-18 at San Mateo College.

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