The Southwestern College men’s cross country team, braced by a core of top state-level talent from the high school ranks, stepped off the 2013 season Sept. 6 by winning the team title at the Rio Hondo Invitational.
While injuries hampered the Jaguars’ performance for much of the intervening season, it appears that coach Duro Agbede’s team is peaking at the right time after winning the team title at the prestigious Mt. San Antonio College Invitational on Oct. 18.
Freshman Miguel Lopez, from Castle Park High School, won the individual men’s title with a fast time of 20:50 on the 4.0-mile course rated as one of the most challenging in the nation. He topped a field of 186 runners, defeating runner-up Michael Ramirez from Hartnell College by nine seconds.
Lopez’s performance led Southwestern to the team championship in a 22-team field with 42 points. The Jaguars finished 27 points ahead of runner-up El Camino.
Lopez averaged 5:13 per mile. Three other Jaguar runners — Steven Lepe (Monte Vista), George Martinez (Sweetwater) and Alejandro Rosario (Montgomery) — placed among the top 10 finishers in the community college division.
Lepe finished fifth in 21:12, followed by Martinez (sixth, 21:17) and Rosario (10th, 21:32).
Also for SWC, Carlos Sibaja (Chula Vista) finished 21st in 21:57 as the team’s fifth scorer.
The Mt. SAC title showing couldn’t come at a better time. The Pacific Coast Athletic Conference championship meet is scheduled Friday in Mission Bay, followed by the Southern California regional championship meet Nov. 8 in Santa Clarita.
The state championship meet is Nov. 23 in Fresno.
At midseason, the Jaguars were ranked eighth among the state’s JC men’s teams. Part of that was due to Southwestern competing in invitationals loaded with four-year universities while injuries also played a factor.
The Jags finished 10th in the Stanford Invitational on Sept. 28.
Lepe, Martinez and Castle Park grads Daniel Vazquez and Lopez — all high school state meet qualifiers last year as seniors — have led the Jaguars on the course this season.
All four finished in that order — first through fourth — to push SWC to the top of the team standings at the Rio Hondo Invitational.
Vazquez has since been sidelined by an injury.
Southwestern’s depth, however, has been its blessing. The Jags finished second overall at the Brubaker Invitational on Oct. 11. Lopez placed fifth among individuals on the four-mile course in 20:44, followed by Lepe (seventh, 20:47) and Martinez (13th, 21:05).
“The best challenges (for the No. 1 runner on the team) have been between Steven, George and Miguel,” Agbede said. “We will need to get Daniel back to have a strong pack of four (front-runners) to win the conference championship and hopefully make a statement at the state championship.”
Lepe, Lopez and Martinez were the team’s top finishers at the 8K Stanford Invitational while Martinez, Lepe and Lopez finished in that order two weeks earlier at the 8K UC Riverside Invitational on Sept. 14.
Martinez finished second among individuals at last year’s San Diego Section Division I finals while Lepe was second among Division III racers; Lopez and Vazquez were members of Castle Park’s runner-up team qualifier in Division III. Vazquez was fourth among Division III individuals – five seconds behind Lepe.
Sweetwater Red Devils place 2nd at Jaguar Invitational
Led by Gerardo Marquillo’s sixth-place individual finish and braced by three place-finishers among the top eight individuals and four in the top 11, the Sweetwater boys cross country team finished second at last Friday’s Jaguar Invitational at Kit Carson Park in Escondido. The Red Devils finished a scant two points behind team champion Mt. Carmel in the large school varsity division.
Marquillo navigated the three-mile course in 16:28, followed by teammates Bryan Alvardo (seventh, 16:32), Carlos Aviles-Sullivan (eighth, 16:36), Alexis Diaz De Leon (11th, 16:41) and Carlos Bernal (22nd, 16:54).
Mt. Carmel’s Derek Morton led all finishers in the 113-deep race with a winning time of 15:43.
The Red Devils also left their mark in the large school varsity girls race as Erika Gonzalez finished second among individuals with a time of 16:52 (2.7 miles). Sweetwater finished eighth in the team standings.
In the small school varsity division, Montgomery paced Metro Conference teams with a fifth-place finish among boys squads, followed by Southwest (ninth) and San Ysidro (17th). Southwest finished 10th in the girls team standings, followed by Montgomery (11th) and San Ysidro (13th).