RIVERSIDE - It was truly a race to the finish in this year's Orange Empire Conference (OEC) men's and women's cross country championships on Friday morning hosted by Riverside City College. On a day where the sun shined bright and the stake were high, it was the women of Saddleback College and the men of Riverside City College who took home the championship trophy.
For the eighth time in the last 11 years and the fourth-consecutive season, the Riverside City College men's cross country team has been crowned the OEC Cross Country Champions. They finished with an overall time of 1:50:18 to equal 33 points.
"I am very proud of the accomplishments of our team," said Head Coach Jim McCarron. "We ran without some of our top guys today and we still lived up to high expectations"
One of those high expectations was the reigning 2017 OEC Men's Cross Country Runner of the Year Enrique Villa. Villa, who hauled in the crown at last year's championship meet, came to play once again and dominated the field to haul in his second-consecutive title. He placed approximately 16 seconds ahead of the second place finisher with a mark of 21:23.1.
The Tigers saw each competitor land in the top-15 with sophomore Austin Dai placing fourth overall with a clip reading 21:47.3. Freshman Kevin Lopez placed eighth with a mark of 22:18.6, while sophomore Nathaniel Steele followed at his heals with a mark of 22:23.0 to earn ninth place.
Santa Ana placed second overall with a team time of 1:51:37 to equal 54 points. Freshman Servando Aviles landed in second place with a time of 21:39.0 to pace his team. Freshman Barajas-Ramirez Giova landed in fifth place with a mark of 21:55.2, while sophomore Dalton Aviles placed 12th with a mark of 22:29.2.
Saddleback finished in third place after accumulating 68 points and an overall team time of 1:53:05. Sophomore Scott Hickman hauled in the bronze medal with a third-place finish at a time of 21:44.0. Freshman Justin Lastings (21:56.7) and freshman Sebastian Arias (22:08.9) finished in sixth and seventh place, respectively.
Orange Coast (1:55:06) placed fourth and Fullerton (1:57:46) placed fifth.
Saddleback earned their first women's cross country championship in program history. Their entire lineup landed in the top-20 leading to an overall score of 29 which included a team time of 1:38:00. Freshman Holly Morales was the top finisher for the Gauchos as seen in a final time of 19:14.4. She was backed by third-place finisher Dana McGrath who crossed the finish line at a clip reading 19:23.8.
Freshman Meagan Silves of Orange Coast College was crowned the 2018 OEC Women's Cross Country Champion after finishing in first with an overall mark of 19:07.4. She finished approximately seven second ahead of the second-place finisher to prove her dominance.
Riverside placed second overall with 44 points and a team time of 1:39:31. Mirroring Saddleback, the Tigers also saw each runner place in the top-20. They were paced by freshman Aily Camacho who placed fourth overall with a time of 19:31.9. She was followed by Sujey Esteva who placed fifth overall with a time of 19:37.9.
Silves' first-place run pushed Orange Coast to a commanding third-place finish with an overall points total of 69 and a team time of 1:42:35. Sophomore Andrea Anaya was the second-best finisher for the Pirates after crossing the finish line at a time of 19:39.3 which was good for sixth place.
Santa Ana placed fourth with a team time of 1:47:42, followed by Fullerton (1:55:54), and Norco (2:22:21).
(Nicho DellaValle, Riverside City Athletics)