Hartnell College will play host to the 2017 Northern CA Championship for the second time in three years with this year's Toro Park Invitational serving as a preview meet of the trails at Toro Park. With twenty teams from Northern CA represented on Friday, it was largest meet the Panthers have competed in so far this season. On a warm Indian summer afternoon, both teams found ways to end up victorious. The Lady Panthers edged a much improved College of the Sequoias team, which placed second at the CCCAA Championship in 2016, 37 to 41 points. The men excelled producing their lowest point total this fall with 29 points to outdistanced last year's third place Northern CA team Las Positas College who tallied 68 points.
For the second time this season, the men would be without top runner Patrick Olson who was nursing a small injury and chose to sit out until the Mt. SAC Invitational. In his absence, several Panthers stepped up with their best races of the season. Freshman Rick Esqueda, who had placed second to Olson two meets in a row, enjoyed having the final stretch to himself as he recorded his first victory of his first year as a Panther. He was the only runner in the 138 runner field to eclipse the 21:00 barrier with his 20:50 time. The marks moves him into the top 10 all-time for Hartnell and 28th for the Toro Park course. The first significant change in points came in second with Sergio Coronel continuing his dream season. In third place with 400 meters to go, Coronel found another gear to improve to second at the finish line in 21:00. He along with Olson and Esqueda have become the best trio in Northern CA and are in a position to sweep the top three spots come November 3rd. Sophomore Christian Aldape found a new gear over the final mile moving up several spots to find himself fifth overall behind only his two teammates and Roman Munoz, CCS champion at Toro Park while at King City High School, and Iman Bayat of DeAnza College. Jonathan Saldana in tenth and Jaime Garcia in eleventh posted their best finishes of the season. They pulled freshman newcomer Luis Perez of Greenfield High School to eleventh. Saldana stopped the clock at 21:39 with Garcia 21:40 and Perez 21:41. Fellow fershman Jaime Martinez was the final placing Panther in 21st (22:16).
In the women's 3 mile race, freshman Arlene Diaz Leal jumped out ahead in the first 1.6 miles leading the second place finisher from the Lou Vasquez Invitational Talia Swangler by 10 meters. Following Swangler was sophomore Yvette Tavarez who was looking to improve upon her sixth place finish from two weeks ago. As a team, the Lady Giants from Sequoias showed they were ready to race and were leading the team competition 29 to 36 at over halfway into the race. Once the runners reappeared after the hills, the Lady Panthers began a final surge from freshmen Lauryn Orozco and Maria Aceves along with sophomore Olivia Jimenez. The trio would be able to change their overall positions to ninth, tenth, and eleventh overall with several last second point changes. Diaz Leal would hold on to third with Tavarez edging Jewel Jasso of Sequoias over the final 800 meters by 3 seconds. The final finishing positions for the Lady Giants would be first, fifth, seventh, twelfth and eighteenth compared to the Lady Panthers order of third, fourth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh. Arlene Diaz Leal and Yvette Tavarez work their way on to the school's all-time list for Toro Park with their first attempt on the course this season.
The Panthers will make their annual pilgrimmage to Mt. SAC in Southern California for a chance to compete against the top ranked and host Mounties who are undefeated this season on the men's side. This will be the first time the Lady Panthers will see the Lady Mounties who they bested 69 to 71 at the Fresno Invitational to take the top spot in state.