Panther Men Record Third Consecutive Top 5 Finish. Frosh Orozco Shines!

Publish Date: 
Dec 5, 2017

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. Led by freshman Ricky Esqueda in 12th place, the Panthers scored 169 points to bump Glendale College out of next year's meet program. Glendale College beat the Panthers at the State Preview back in September, but the Panthers finished behind top ranked Mt. SAC, last year's state champions Riverside City College, upstart LA Harbor College, and behind multiple state team champion San Bernardino Valley College. 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. The Hartnell College Women's Cross Country Team headed into the CCCAA State Championship with high hopes, but it was apparent early there was still much to learn about championship racing. A bright spot for the Lady Panthers was the performance of freshman Lauryn Orozco. Orozco placed 30th overall in a lifetime personal best for any crosscountry distance over 3 miles with 19:31 over the 5km (3.1 miles) layout. The former Soledad High School runner had not placed as the top runner for the Panthers all season but ran aggressively from the start and lowered her mark from the State Preview Meet by 33 seconds. Orozco was the fourth highest placing Northern California female improving on her eighth place finish at that championship two weeks ago. Her time moves her to twelfth all-time at Woodward DEC. 1, 2017 page 2 Park and will make her the early favorite for the Coast Conference and Northern California title and a potential All-American run as a sophomore. This was Orozco's first ever state championship appearance of any kind. Behind Orozco, sophomore Jocelyn Cervantes also jumped up from her sixth runner position at the Northern California Championship two weeks ago to second here. Cervantes, who had never run a cross-country race under 20 minutes, crossed the line in 46th in a personal best 19:48. Cervantes was the highest placing freshman last fall and improved from 111th place overall in 2016. She also improved by 50 seconds dropping her time of 20:38 at the State Preview and was the seventh highest placing NorCal female. Cervantes only placed sixteenth at the regional meet two weeks ago. Freshman Monica Ruelas placed 54th overall eclipsing the 20-minute barrier for the second consecutive time with her 19:59. Ruelas moved up one spot among regional competition placing tenth overall for Northern California women. She sits just behind her sister and fellow All-Region runner Maritza Ruelas. Fellow freshman Maria Aceves improved her time at Woodward Park to 20:12 to place 64th at her first state championship. The remaining Lady Panthers were unable to improve from September. Top runner Arlene Diaz Leal (20:36) and Olivia Jimenez (21:22) struggled in their first state championship, but completed the race while Yvette Tavarez withdrew in the final mile due to injury. As a team, the Lady Panthers placed ninth overall and second for Northern California schools. This was improvement over last fall's twelfth place team finish. This season included team victories at the Fresno Invitational, the first ever in school history, Beat the Heat Meet, Las Positas Invitational, and Lou Vasquez Invitational. They were also victorious at the Toro Park Invitational that served as the NorCal Preview Meet. The women won their fifth consecutive Coast Conference team title with Arlene DiazLeal becoming the fifth consecutive individual champion. The women's team moved up on spot at the Northern California Championship with the fourth lowest team score in regional championship history. Their 41 points established a new college record for the regional championship. With four all-region returners in Arlene DiazLeal, Lauryn Orozco, Maria Aceves, and Monica Ruelas along with all-conference runner Nina Arias, the 2018 squad is positioned well for a regional title.