Women's Cross Country

Record Run for Lady Panthers at Norcals

Record Run for Lady Panthers at Norcals

 

The 2018 Hartnell College women's cross country team started the season with the same performance as last year, a shocking overall team victory at the Fresno Invitational over last year's defending state champion Mt. SAC. Last year's team would only place ninth come the state championship over the same course after such a promising start. This year's squad spent the summer evaluating their potential and setting goals for this fall one of which included winning the Northern California title with the lowest team score in history. This goal was established to give the Lady Panthers a shot at an even greater goal, the program's first CCCAA state championship. Despite a revision of the 5k course from the early season Norcal Preview meet that saw the Lady Panthers score a low 21 points for the win, the result come Friday's championship was even more impressive. The team would tally an amazing score of 19 points to lower the team score record of 30 points set by College of the Sequoias in 2016, a team that placed second at the state championship. In setting the record, all seven ladies contributed by placing inside the top 14, a first for any Northern California women's team.

In the race itself, sophomore Monica Ruelas who had been a four race win streak, ran in the lead position for nearly the entire race before Julia Gonzalez of Diablo Valley College pulled away over the final hill loop for a 10 second victory. Ruelas would placed second overall giving the Lady Panthers their highest finisher since future NCAA D2 All-American and 1500m state champion Malena Grover placed second in 2015. Ruelas only tenth overall as a freshman and received her second all-region honor for her efforts. The future of Hartnell women's cross country next year would cross just five seconds later in freshman Daniela Salazar. Salazar will face Gonzalez in 2019 but on a familiar course at Toro Park for the Northern California Championship. Sophomore Arlene Diaz Leal put together her best complete race since last year's regional championship. She would place fifth overall and become a rare top 5 overall repeat all-region recipient to go with her fourth place last year. Freshman Isabelle Torres lead a charge of the Lady Panthers in the final mile that would pull the remaining four ladies into the top 14. She would place eighth in her first regional championship. One of this fall's great stories would cross in tenth overall in Nina Arias. Arias was an alternate on last year's regional team and was barely a top 14 all-conference runner. She would find her stride in October stepping up for her teammates and place sixth at the conference when several teammates were less than 100%. Her improvement might prove vital come November 17 at the state championship. Following Arias and two spots behind, sophomore Maria Aceves would recover from last week's illness for solid twelfth place finish. Aceves would cap a great sophomore contingent that all earned either their repeat all-region honor or a first for Arias. In fourteenth, freshman Nerina Campos would pick up the last all-region spot. Campos had not run cross country since her junior year of high school before joining the Lady Panthers this fall. Campos was instrumental here using her track speed to pull her teammates through the halfway mark in the race. The women's team title was their eighth since 1984 when all schools began competing in one division and their fourth since 2010. The title also moved Hartnell into second position for the most top 3 team finishes at the Northern California Championship with their fifteenth trophy trailing only American River College with eighteen.  With their low score of 19 points, Hartnell has four of the top 10 lowest team scores in the regional championship as well. With Salazar, Torres, and Campos returning as top 14 finishers, the 2019 team looks primed for a repeat regional title to match back to back titles in 2002-2003 and 2014-2015.
  
The Lady Panthers will head into the CCCAA Championship ranked fourth in the state despite beating at one time Mt. SAC, Glendale, and Saddleback College. The only team the Lady Panthers have not beaten is last year's fourth place team LA Harbor who was this year's Southern California champion. Since 1984, the Lady Panthers have only placed in the top four at state on three occasions in 1998, 2014, and 2015. .