Esqueda's All-American Honors Paces Panthers to Fifth Place Finish

Esqueda's All-American Honors Paces Panthers to Fifth Place Finish

With a whole new top seven line-up for the men's 2017 CCCAA State Cross Country Championship, the Hartnell College men were able to replicate last year's top five team finish. In fact, it was the third consecutive year the Panthers have placed fifth overall in the final meet of the year. Lead by freshman Ricky Esqueda in twelfth, the Panthers scored 169 points to place ahead of Glendale College who beat the Panthers at the State Preview back in September but finished behind top ranked Mt. SAC, last year's state champions Riverside City College, upstart LA Harbor College, and behind San Bernadino Valley College.

Ricky Esqueda finished as the first Panther for the fourth consecutive race since Patrick Olson was hit with a mid-season injury just after the Lou Vasquez Invitational. Esqueda ran with Anthony Alfaro of Mt. SAC in the top four overall for over 3.5 miles before being swallowed up by a chase pack and pushed back to twelfth overall. Esqueda's time of 20:40 for the Woodward Park four mile course was a personal best by 29 seconds in just his second run there. The mark moves him to eighth all-time for Hartnell College just behind fellow All-American Jorge Sanchez. Esqueda's All-American performance marks the fifth consecutive year Hartnell College has had a cross country All-American joining Michel Ramirez (2013), Diego Leon (2014), Edgar Bonilla (2015-2016), and Jorge Sanchez (2016). Sophomore Sergio Coronel completed a dream season with a small improvement over his September performance at 21:14 and 34th place in his first state championship. Christian Aldape produced a 39th place finish with his 21:19. Early season team leader frosh Patrick Olson recovered from his injury to compete in the final two meets and rallied to run 21:23. Olson had a previous best of 21:11 at the State Preview showing tremendous potential for his sophomore season. Sophomore Jaime Garcia improved his time to 21:37 to complete the scoring. Fellow sophomore Jonathan Saldana completed his career with a Woodward Park best 21:41. Freshman Luis Perez garnered state championship experience with his 22:08 personal best at the Fresno course.

The three consecutive top five team finishes is the best stretch of championship performances in college history. The season included the eighth consecutive Coast Conference Championship with the fifth consecutive individual conference champion. For the third time in college history, the team repeated as Northern California Champions following in the footsteps of the 1995-1997 and 2005-2006 teams. Ricky Esqueda became the second Northern California individual champion and just the eighth ever in college history. Next year's squad will look to equal the three consecutive team titles of the 1995-1997 squad and become just the second program to win more than two consecutive team titles in a row joining American River College.