Victory was bittersweet for the cross country teams on Nov. 3.
Although both the women’s and the men’s teams are continuing on to compete at the state championships, neither team claimed the Southern California Championship title at Fairview Park in Costa Mesa.
The women’s team took second place in the 5K race with 105 points even with one of its top runners, Lizette Gonzalez, running with tendonitis.
Orange Coast, the hosting team, took first with 53 points and Moorpark took third with 130 points.
The team had to overcome another obstacle, which was losing its number-two runner, Nohemi Martinez, earlier in the season.
Grace Graham-Zamudio again took individual first place with a time of 18:09.43, an entire 18 seconds before the second place runner. She also improved her time by 29 seconds since she last ran the course in September.
After taking individual first place in nearly every race this season, Graham-Zamudio continues to stay humble. “I was nervous before this race, we’re coming down to the last two that are all we’ve been training for,” Graham-Zamudio said.
Although team captain Charlene Quintanilla took 17th place with a time of 19:28.01, she improved her time by an impressive minute and a half since she ran the course in September.
“We don’t have talent,” Quintanilla said. “But we work hard and believe in our hearts that it’s possible.”
Head coach Eddie Lopez had to remind the women that second place is nothing to be disappointed about. “We’re doing well, very well,” said Lopez. “Anytime we take top three, I’m happy.”
“We went too fast the first half mile and the girls know that, we got [a good start], but we had to pay the price.”
Both the women’s and the men’s team took the Western State Championships on Oct. 23, but those wins did not translate into a win at the Southern California Championship.
The men’s team took sixth place in the 4-mile race with a score of 118. The competition was fierce as there was only a 23-point difference between first and sixth place.
San Bernardino Valley took first with a score of 95, Cerritos came in second with 97 and Riverside came in third with 106 points.
The top runner for the Vaqueros, Kurt Lutz, finished strong and took 10th place with a time of 20:30.08, a 50-second improvement since he last ran the course.
Lutz was trailing team captain Isaac Diosdado for most of the race, but flew by him towards the end. Diosdado took 14th with a time of 20:32.83.
“I wanted to get to him, not only to run with him, but so that we could surge to the finish together,” Lutz said.
Although all of the men improved their times from the last time they ran the Fairview Park course in September. Lopez thought they could have improved even more.
“We didn’t run to our potential,” said Lopez. “We should have had a trophy, but we didn’t.”
For now, the team has to shake off this loss and focus on the state championship competition.
“I told them it’s better not to get a trophy at Southern Cal and get a trophy at state,” said Lopez.
“They can actually win it, because it’s only 23 points [between sixth and first place].”
Throughout the next couple of days the teams need to forget about the past races, good and bad, and focus on the next one.
“The physical work is already done,” Lutz said. “I just need to work on my mental state. I hope I don’t choke.”
The cross country teams will compete in the state championships at Woodward Park in Fresno on Saturday at 10 a.m.