Women's Cross Country

Lady Panthers Extend Conference Streaks

Lady Panthers Extend Conference Streaks

 

Heading into the 2018 Coast Conference Championship on the historic Crystal Springs cross country course in Belmont, the Panthers had impressive win streaks at stake. The Lady Panthers went into the 2.96 mile race with a five year team title win streak along with having the last five individual winners. The Panther men have had a stranglehold over the team title with eight consecutive victories. No less impressive was the a streak of four straight individual champions for the Panthers and only one non-Hartnell winner in 2013 since Head Coach Chris Zepeda took over the cross country program in 2006. After the dust settled last Friday on a warm afternoon in Belmont, all four streaks survived another year will have to be challenged again in 2018.

The men's race was highlighted by the overall victory of sophomore Patrick Olson. As a freshman, Olson won the Las Positas and Lou Vasquez Invitational before a hip injury forced him to miss three consecutive races. He did return to help the Panthers to the 2017 Northern CA title and earn all-region honors for his eighth place finish but the season completed with unanswered questions about his full potential. After a slow start this fall, Patrick has enjoyed a complete opposite of last fall's October seeing him lead the Panthers with a second place at the Norcal Preview and a top 5 finish at the Pat Ryan Invitational. Olson made an unexpected move just before the 2 mile mark at Crystal Springs and maintained the advantage through the downhill third mile. By far the best portion of his race was the final kilometer where he extended his winning margin to 29 seconds. Olson's time of 21:44 over the 4.195 mile course places him in the top 25 all-time for Hartnell at Crystal Springs and among company of four previous community college All-Americans in Edgar Bonilla, Jorge Sanchez, Michel Ramirez, and Miguel Gallegos. The strong running continued for the Panther with sophomores Nick Merillana (22:44) and Alfredo Mejia, Jr (22:44) taking fifth and sixth overall. It was the second all-conference honors for Mejia with Merillana and Olson earning the honors for the first time. The Panthers placed another four in the top 14 overall to take the team win with 27 points. Andres Rodriguez (9th), Jacob Niles (10th), Victor Nambo (11th) and Jesus Avalos (13th). Only Niles had previously earned all-conference honors with his performance in 2017.
 
Sophomore Monica Ruelas remembers placing a disappointing eighth at last year's Coast Conference Championship in a time slower than she ran in high school at Toro Park. This fall has been about distancing herself as much from the path she followed most of last season. Ruelas lead this year's race from the gun and held a significant lead at the mile mark over teammate Arlene Diaz Leal, CCSF runner Hannah Ryan, who had recently recorded an impressive 22:57 6km mark, and teammate Daniela Salazar. The sophomore from Gilroy High School ran the entire race by herself in a time of 18:35 despite an unusually warm afternoon on the course. The mark catapulted Ruelas to the #5 all-time mark behind double all-American Malena Grover's 18:24 from 2015. Ruelas may only have Grover's 18:06 in front of her after this year's CCCAA Championship with the only question being how close she can get to it. Salazar, a freshman from Watsonville High School, who had covered the Crystal Spring course in 21:21 as a junior in high school, completed this time in second place at 18:53 to move to 13th all-time. She ties 2015 All-American and current assistant coach Rachel Shimabukuro's mark also run at the Coast Conference Championship. The Lady Panthers would enjoy eight all-conference honors with Arlene Diaz Leal (4th), Nina Arias (6th), Isabelle Torres (7th), Maria Aceves (8th), Nerina Campos (9th) and Elizabeth Cazares (13th). With four Lady Panthers earning all-conference at freshmen, their streak of team titles may be tough to break in 2019. The Lady Panthers scored just 17 points in their win and have not had a score over 24 points in five years.

Heading into the 2018 Northern California Championship, the Lady Panthers will take in the top ranking and an opportunity to rewrite the regional record book. The lowest winning team score is 31 points from 2016 but the Lady Panthers scored just 21 points at the Norcal Preview meet. The Panther men are ranked second behind American River College which also holds the fifth spot in the state. The Beavers bested the Panthers 53 to 63 on October 5 setting up a potential very close championship 4 mile race on the course at Shasta College.