Olson and Mejia, Jr. Lead Panthers to Runner-Up Finish

2018 Men's Runner-Up squad
2018 Men's Runner-Up squad

The men's team headed into the 2018 championship race as the defending champion but with a line-up that including only two members of last year's team and only one all-region runner. The Panthers had yet to defeat top ranked American River College and spent better than half the season also trying to get over an improved College of the Sequoias squad. But with Patrick Olson, Luis Perez and Alfredo Mejia, Jr. having placed ahead of ARC second runner at the regional preview meet on October 5 and Nick Merillana running well the last two meets, the Panthers set out with a strategy to play the numbers in an effort to upset the Beavers. Those four would run aggressively from the start hoping to place as many before ARC fourth finisher and then rely on Jacob Niles, Andres Rodriguez, and Victor Nambo to pick up the fifth Beaver over the final two miles. According to the early scoring just after the first hill loop at 2.2 miles, the Panthers lead 60 to 66 but that advantage would disappear as the score at the 2.98 mile scoring mat had the Beavers up 66 to 72 with Merillana unfortunately unable to sustain his top 10 placing and Niles, Rodriguez, and Nambo buried between 30th and 45th place. The Beavers would take back the title and prevent the Panthers from a three-peat but in a tradition that dates back to 2010, the Panthers would earn another top three trophy for their ninth in a row. Hartnell still trails American River 12 titles to 8 for most in the region since 1984 when all schools began competing together. The next closest is now extinct West Valley College with just three. Hartnell only trails American River College by one for top three team finishes 20 to 19 since 1984 with College of the Sequoias the next closest with 11. Anchored by a repeat all-region honor for Patrick Olson in fifth, the Panthers would tally 99 points to edge College of the Sequoias with 102. Sophomore Alfredo Mejia, Jr. would surprise many but himself with his sixth place all-region finish. He was only an alternate in 2017 his performance will go into the bank of stories of Panther men who made the most of their one opportunity to run the regional championship race. Luis Perez ran gamely for as long as he could despite a leg injury the last three weeks. He would place 27th, followed by Jacob Niles in 35th in his first regional race. Nick Merillana would be 39th to finish the scoring. Victor Nambo 44th and Andres Rodriguez 46th completed the top seven for the Panthers.

 The men take a string of six top 10 finishers and the last three years in the top 5 into the championship on November 17 at Woodward Park in Fresno.