By Woody Wilk
Fresno City College Athletics
FRESNO - It was clear weather for this distance race, but four Glendale College freshmen and one sophomore provided late thunder and lightning in winning the 43rd California Community College Women’s Cross Country Championships at Fresno’s Woodward Park. Score it Vaqueros 66-113 over Saddleback College and the rest over 3.1 miles.
In the 56th CCCAA Men’s Championship Cross Country Championship, San Diego Mesa College, the Southern California champs, claimed its fourth state title on the 4-mile course, 37-67 over a strong challenge from NorCal champion American River.
The women's title was the sixth for Glendale College coach Eddie Lopez, whose squad was unbeaten throughout the 2019 season.
“(The day) went to plan because when you’re undefeated in community college, there’s a lot of pressure. We just tried to approach it as another meet. They did a great job not panicking because we didn’t start well. The team moved up and then just ran like they’ve been running all season,” said Lopez.
Leading the way was freshman Jamie Levin, 8th (18.51.7) and sophomore Phoebe Forsyth, 10th (18.53.9) with freshman Yajaira Calderon, 11th (18:57.8). All three receive All-America status by finishing 14th or higher. Freshman Bianca Biel was in 15th place (19:13.4), but 13th in team scoring. Freshman Lydia Forsyth finished 24th, (19:44.3) in team scoring, 26th in placing.
Individual first place went to sophomore Sophia Cortina (18:27.6) of Moorpark College who finished fourth in 2018 . Cortina edged 2018’s third-place winner, Olivia Burton (18:33.6) of Ventura College.
Cortina was asked when she thought this might be her day.“Honestly, not until the the last 200 meters. That’s when I saw the finish line and I went for it. The only thing kinda startling was the beginning of the race because I got caught in the middle. I wanted to be in the front pack and then hang on until the last mile. I had to work myself up, but that was fine,” she said.
Not only did SDM win the men's title, but all five runners who figured in the scoring also earned All-America honors. They were led by sophomores Stefen Rasmuson in second (20:15.0) and Isaiah Labra (20:30.4) in third as both earned All-America honors for the second straight year. Cristian Alcantar (20:44.9) took seventh, Bobby Brana (20:54.8) was 12th and Medhane Woldu (20:56.1) was 13th to complete the set. Only 41.1 seconds separated SDM’s ‘fabulous five.'
Coach Sean Ricketts could not have been prouder. “As a coach, you want your team at the end of the season to execute and run to their ability level and that’s exactly what they did today,” he said.
"They followed the plan. Our goal was to have five runners in the top 15 and to win state. And they’re champions. That’s what we’ve been training for the last two years. This group is pretty much all sophomores, so since they were freshmen we’ve instilled ‘if you want to be a champion, everything you do has to be like a champion,’” Ricketts added. Message sent; 2019 championship via special delivery.
In the mix with San Diego Mesa and American River’s joust was College of the Sequoias’ knight, Ismael Ramirez, the individual champion and NorCal champ who was All-American once again. He was eighth in 2018.
“I just felt that once I got into the last 200 meters, I could pull through with my kick and I just had to work through it,” he said.
The difference between winning it all and finishing eighth last year? “All the hard work I put in over the summer and the confidence I had coming in,” Ramirez said.
All told, the 2019 CCCAA Cross Country Championships were episodic tales of collective and individual success punctuated by great talent and hard work.