Glendale Community College cross-country readies for final race

Days away from the culmination of a season-long effort, the Glendale Community College cross-country program was given a little preview of what to expect Saturday when the men’s and women’s teams participate in the 50th annual CCCAA Cross-Country State Championships.

An overcast sky and 63-degree weather at Wednesday afternoon’s practice on the campus track are projected by to closely resemble the same conditions as to what the Vaqueros will face at Fresno’s Woodward Park, site of the championships.

“There’s a slight chance of rain up north, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Basically what we have today is what we’re probably going to deal with Saturday,” Glendale Coach Eddie Lopez said. “This is great for us because it’s not going to be hot, but cool and fast and I think we’re ready.”

The women race first Saturday at 10 a.m. on the 3.1-mile course that is virtually identical to the path used for the high school championships. The men follow at 11 a.m. on the four-mile course.

The Glendale women enter Saturday with a little more steam than their male counterparts as the Vaqueros ladies finished second at the Southern California Championships at Central Park in Santa Clarita on Nov. 8.

The Vaqueros finished with 140 points in trailing only Orange Coast College (58). The effort clinched Glendale’s ninth straight season in which the team has clinched a top-three finish.

“We’re going for it. Going for it means not going crazy, just run the way we’ve been practicing and move up,” Lopez said. “The ladies are peaking and we’re more healthy than we’ve been in a while, which is big. We have the capability to do real well.”

Perhaps the only health concern surrounds freshman Glindyll Mancia, who finished 34th at the Southern California Championships in a time of 20 minutes, 15.7 seconds. Mancia is nursing a hamstring injury.

“She should be OK. She’s going to run,” Lopez said.

Saturday marks the swan song of sophomore Elizabeth Nelson, Glendale’s top runner who finished fourth (18:59.96) at the Southern California Championships.

“It’s always fun and always nervous to run in an important race,” Nelson said. “I think we can really do well and I’d like to see us give Orange Coast College a good challenge.”

Nelson finished 11th (18:51.21) at last year’s finals.

On the men’s side, the Vaqueros received a boost this week when sophomore Enrique Ramirez informed his squad that he would be ready to compete.

Ramirez, the team’s top runner for most of the season, did not compete in the Southern California Championships due to a nerve injury in his foot.

“He’s basically been running the last two weeks and he’s running at practice today, so he should be ready to go,” Lopez said.

In his absence, the Vaqueros finished seventh place with 164 points. That result came two weeks after Glendale was upset at the Western State Conference championship, 43-49, by College of the Canyons.

“Over the last month, we’ve been running flat at meets. We’ve ran fast during our practices, but that hasn’t carried over to the course,” Lopez said.

Glendale is hoping for some return magic from last season, as the Vaqueros finished sixth at the Southern California Championships only to rebound and take the silver at the state finals.

The two favorites heading into Saturday’s race are the American River College men and Orange Coast College women.

“Hey, anything can happen out there. I really think we have a chance to do something,” Lopez said. “It’s really now or never. If you have to ask yourself if you’re ready, you’re not ready then.”

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