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Catch them if you can Phillip Brents | Wed, Sep 05 2012 05:22 PM

It appears the Castle Park Trojans and Sweetwater Red Devils will be carrying the torch for the area’s boys cross country teams this fall. 

Not only are the two west side teams picked to contend for the South Bay League championship but many observers are also picking them to emerge as the two best teams this season in the entire Metro Conference, the Mesa League included.

That’s a bold statement, but one that may very well be deserved.

However, if you happen to be a Trojan fan, you won’t be seeing your team compete in any local races in Chula Vista until late September. That’s because head coach Juan Lozano has elected to enter his team in outside area invitational meets that offer somewhat more challenging fields.

The Trojans will not be competing in either of the South County’s two major invitationals: the 18th annual Mustang/East Hills Realty Invitational on Sept. 7 and the 39th annual South Bay Invitational on Sept. 21.

Instead, Castle Park will step off its season in this Saturday’s Vaquero Stampede in East County, then compete the following Saturday at the Bronco Invitational in North County.

The Trojans will then head for Balboa Park’s Morley Field to compete in the Mt. Carmel Movin Shoes Invitational on Sept. 15 and then to Griffith Park in Los Angeles to compete in the Jeff Bell Invitational on Sept. 22.

Castle Park will finally make its “home” debut on Sept. 28 in a dual meet against league rival San Ysidro, but it’s quickly back to the L.A. area to compete the following day in the Palos Verdes Invitational.

After a league dual meet against Chula Vista on Oct. 5, the Trojans will compete in the Central Park Invitational in Huntington Beach on Oct. 6 and will join many of their Metro rivals at the regional-draw Mt. SAC Invitational on Oct. 20 in Walnut. 

League duals follow on Oct. 26 and Nov. 2 before the Metro finals. This year’s section championship meet is Nov. 17, followed by the state finals on Nov. 24.

Lozano isn’t knocking local teams by any means but, in his words, is simply “thinking beyond the South Bay.”

“Going to some place you’ve never been before is exciting and I think when you’re excited, you have a tendency to race better,” the CPHS coach said.

Racing better, running faster, is definitely on Lozano’s mind this season.

If the Trojans manage a top three finish at the Division III section finals, they will qualify as a team entry to the state championship meet in Fresno.

“We’ve sent individuals before but I don’t know if Castle Park has ever sent a team before,” said Lozano, a CPHS alumnus.

Lozano said competing against talent-rich programs, especially from North County and the greater L.A. area, should help his team in reaching its goals.

To be the best, one needs to race the best.

“We want someone to beat us because we want to get better,” he said. “We want to show it’s not the number of kids who compete at a school that counts but the quality of the kids.”

For a team wrapped in a small package, Lozano’s message carries special meaning.

 “We want to be the best we can be,” he said. “We don’t want to set limits on ourselves.”

Needless to say, it should be an exciting season.

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