Block Again Wins NorCal Title
In the 2017 Women's NorCal Championship, comprised of twelve teams, the race quickly developed into a dual meet between the favored Hartnell College Lady Panthers and the rapidly improving College of Sequoias Lady Giants. Early in the season the Hartnell team was ranked number 1 in the state, while the COS runners were not ranked in the top 10. In their first meeting of the season, the Fresno Invitational, the Lady Panthers placed first and the Lady Giants were a distant 6th place, 60 points behind in the scoring. With each succeeding event, however, the COS runners have been closing the gap between the two teams. Racing on Hartnell's home course on November 3, the COS team repeated as NorCal Champions and in doing so the Lady Giants scored the second-lowest point total in NorCal Championship meet history, tallying 35 points to Hartnell's 41. This score was second only to the Giants' total last year when they posted a score of 30 points in winning the 2016 NorCal Championship. At the gun, the Giants charged out aggressively and by mid-point in the race held 4 of the top 5 places. But a tight pack of Hartnell racers hung close behind and began challenging through the hilliest part of the course. At the end of the race the places and the team score were determined by only seconds. The win for the Lady Giants was not obvious, and runners, coaches, and fans waited anxiously before the final scoring was announced that the Giants had upset an outstanding Hartnell team for the championship.
In remaining undefeated in Community College racing this season, COS' Alyssa Block continued her dominant racing by winning the individual title with a one minute 29 second margin of victory. In repeating as NorCal Champion, she completed the course in a time of 17:27.6, just missing, by less than 2 seconds, the course record that was set in 1997. Teammate Jewel Jasso, who has consistently been among the race leaders in every meet this season, ran her best race ever as a Lady Giant. She tenaciously fought off challenges and placed third in 19:20, besting her 7th place finish in the 2016 NorCal Championships. Freshman Antonia Lozano, coming back to cross country after not competing for over a year, has posted consistently faster times, contributing significantly to the overall team performance. Her 5th place finish, in a time of 19:32, was essential to the team win as she held off all but one of the hard-charging Panthers. Elizabeth Sartuche finished in 19:47 to claim the ninth overall place, again adding to the victory by staying ahead of 2 more challenging Panthers. Completing the top 5 for the Lady Giants and recording the best performance of her young college career was freshman Lidia Briseno who crossed the line in 17th place in a time of 20:06. The final member of the Giant Women's Championship team was Victoria Cota who posted the greatest individual improvement (70 seconds) over this same course raced three weeks ago (Toro Park Invitational). Victoria was not alone in this effort as the other 5 COS runners averaged a 58 second improvement over the previous Toro Park race. The Lady Giants came determined to compete to the best of their abilities … and they did! Coach David Bronzan remarked, "It was an incredible race between two teams that were committed to giving everything they had to achieve victory. It doesn't get more exciting than this. It was satisfying to see our ladies compete at their highest level when it really mattered."
Men's Team Qualifies for State Championships
Going in to the Men's Championship race the Giants team believed that it would take their best effort of the season to qualify for the State Championship Meet to be held at Woodward Park in Fresno on November 18. It would require a major improvement from their last race, the Conference Championships, where they had placed second, 20 points behind Fresno City College. And because this championship race was being run over the same 4-mile course as the Toro Park Invitational 3 weeks earlier, the Giants had a great gauge by which to judge their performance. So they committed themselves to a total effort, and what an effort they gave! Of the seven team members that competed, six had their best race of the season.
Leading the way for the men's team was freshman De'vyd Lawson who started fast in the strong field and was right with the leaders early in the race. By the three-mile mark, after the very hilly portion of the course, he had faded to 13th place. With an outstanding effort over the last mile, however, he battled to a ninth-place finish overall with a time of 20:54, only 5 seconds out of 6th place. Andrew Wood, 21:59, ran the best cross country race of his life and improved the time he previously ran on this course by 83 seconds to claim the number 2 spot for the Giants. Only 5 seconds behind Wood, Oscar Ochoa recorded his fastest time in a race during his 2 years on the COS Cross Country team, an improvement of 71 seconds over his race at the Toro Park Invite. Fourth man for the Giants was Luis Gonzalez who finished 12 seconds behind Oscar and 52 seconds faster than his previous Toro effort, adding to the tight team grouping. Joe Morales, in his first season of competing in cross country, posted an 85 second improvement, also his fastest time of the season. Adrian Solis and Zachary Lopez also both recorded their best races of the season to add support to the total team endeavor. The combined performances of the team members allowed them to not only reverse the loss to Fresno City College at the Conference meet, but also extend their season by qualifying for the State Championship with a 5th place team finish in the 14-team field. "They knew what had to be done, they accepted the challenge, and were rewarded for their outstanding showing. I am very proud of them!" said Coach David Bronzan.