SALINAS, Calif. -- The highly ranked Hartnell College men’s and women’s cross country teams will host 17 other California community colleges on Oct. 4 at the annual Toro Park Invitational, a meet that will also serve as a preview of the Northern California Championship.
The competition at Toro County Park south of Salinas will begin with the three-mile women’s race at 3:30 p.m., followed by the four-mile men’s race at 4:15 p.m.
The Panther women are ranked No. 1 in Northern California and second in the state, behind Glendale, in the California Community College Athletic Association. They won the 2018 Norcal Championship and placed second at the 2018 state championship.
The Hartnell men’s team, which placed 11th at the 2018 state championship, is now ranked fourth in Northern California and 10th in the state.
“We are excited to host the Northern California Championship in cross country, starting with this Friday’s preview meet,” said Hartnell Head Cross Country Coach Christopher Zepeda. “This will give the programs in our region an opportunity to come to the Salinas area for the day and compete at Toro Park over the same course that will be used Nov. 8 in the championship.”
The women’s team has won three of its four meets this season, placing second at the Fresno Invitational on Sept. 7. They have been led by sophomores Daniela Salazar, a graduate of Watsonville High School, and Isabelle Torres, a graduate of Salinas High.
Salazar, who has been in a season-long battle with Julia Gonzalez of Diablo Valley College, won both the Beat the Heat event in Eureka on Aug. 30 and the Chabot Invitational on Sept. 14. She placed fourth at both Fresno and the Modesto JC Invitational on Sept. 27. Torres placed third at Chabot and second at Modesto, where she had a personal best time of 19:15.
Also running especially well for the Panthers are freshman Valeria Gomez-Lozano of North Salinas High School, who placed right behind Salazar in Eureka and Torres at Modesto, and Shantal Martinez of Notre Dame High School, who took fifth at Chabot and 10th at Fresno.
The men placed first at Eureka and Chabot, third at Modesto and sixth at Fresno. They are led by Jesus Avalos, a sophomore from King City High School, who placed first at Eureka and Chabot, sixth at Modesto and 10th at Fresno.