Glendale Community College cross-country enters championship with different expectations

Even eight meets into the season, two weeks deep inside the postseason and the Glendale Community College men’s and women’s cross-country teams are still talking about making strong impressions and proving something to themselves.

Perhaps that’s just the calling card for a program with near unparalleled success over the last decade or maybe there’s something more to the rhetoric.

Both squads will take part in Friday morning’s California Community College Athletic Association Southern California Championships at Central Park in Santa Clarita.

The Vaqueros women get started at 11 a.m., while the men take their turn at noon.

“I think it’s a good thing to have experience having run here and that should help,” Vaqueros sophomore Elizabeth Nelson said. “We’re just looking to do our best and try to run as a team more than individuals. That’s been a problem for us and we’re working on getting better at that.”

Glendale finds itself on familiar terrain, as the Vaqueros will be running at Central Park for the third time season, having already participated at the Southern California Preview on Sept. 13 and then at the Mustang Challenge the following weekend.

The Glendale women are coming off crushing Moorpark, 56-105, for a ninth straight Western State Conference title at Oxnard College on Oct. 24, while the men settled for a heartbreaking runner-up finish to College of the Canyons, 43-49.

While either result can be used for motivation for a potential Southern California championship or state title run, apparently the bar is not that high yet.

“First things first, we just want to get that slot to state above all. The higher we place the better,” Vaqueros sophomore Enrique Ramirez said. “I don’t want to say we’re not trying to win a championship, but we’re just trying to get into the top three. If you look at our talent, we have the capability to be top three.”

Ramirez is one of a few returners from last year who witnessed GCC’s men’s SoCal championship team have a bit of a letdown in finishing sixth with 118 points, which wasn’t that far off the pace of race-winner San Bernardino Valley College (95 points).

That squad then rebounded to take second in state the following week.

Ramirez is also buoyed by the team’s third-place effort at the Southern California preview, as the Vaqueros finished third with 105 points behind Northern California entrant America River (19 points) and Cerritos (95).

“I know we didn’t do as well as we wanted to at the conference finals, but I think we’re going to be OK,” said Ramirez, who finished third in conference with a mark of 20 minutes, 50.26 seconds. “We’re actually in good shape and healthy and I think we’ll be fine.”

As for the women, the Vaqueros were second at the preview race in only being topped by Southern California powerhouse Orange Coast College, 40-99.

The score wasn’t that different from last season’s SoCal championship, won by OCC over GCC, 53-105.

“Honestly, we know how good Orange Coast College is and our goal is to make them work,” said Nelson, who was runner-up at conference finals in 18:54.97. “We don’t want to roll over. We want to get to state and make Orange Coast earn that championship.”

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