The temperature reached 90 degrees in Stockton on Oct. 27, the day of the Big 8 championship cross-country race, and the competition between City College and American River College was just as hot.
But the Panthers’ women’s cross-country team was able to earn its second straight Big 8 Conference championship at Oak Grove Park.
The Conference title is the Panthers’ third overall conference title since 2009, as they edged out American River College by two team points and 13 seconds.
City was led by Jasmine Loyola with a 3-mile time of 20:09.7. Alyssa Ayala finished 6th, Perla Gonzalez-Rodriguez 8th, Daryia Greene 11th, Deja Johnson 15th and Lauren Foster 27th, for a team score of 40 and a total time of 1:43:35.
Loyola finished second overall, in front of ARC’s Haven Lambrite. Ayala outlasted the Beavers’ Aryana Archuleta by less than three seconds, and Greene overtook two other Beaver runners in the final stretch, giving a crucial point swing to the Panthers.
“I saw a lot of freedom and power and confidence (from the team),” said City head coach Marisa Avendano. “It was really cool to see them take off.”
Loyola and Ayala earned 1st Team All-Conference honors, while Gonzalez-Rodriguez and Greene made 2nd Team.
Loyola, a sophomore kinesiology major, said the team prepared for the Big 8 as if it was any other race.
“You could tell the entire team was nervous, but at the same time, our coach told us to just go out and let it loose, and that’s exactly what we did,” she said. “Running is about having fun. At practice, we go hard and do what coach asks, but when it comes to racing, we put it all in gear and have fun.”
The Panthers ran in the NorCal Championships Nov. 3 at the hilly Toro Park in Salinas. It’s a course that City raced earlier this season.
“It’s nice to know the way it felt the first time,” said Avendano. “When there’s a really tough course, it just seems like every time you make a turn, there’s another hill. That can easily be very discouraging when you’re already exhausted.”
The team finished fourth overall during the NorCal race, with Loyola again leading the way – 10th overall – for the Panthers.
Top qualifiers from the NorCal meet will move on to the state finals Nov. 18 at Woodward Park in Fresno.
Avendano said the team puts forth its best efforts on challenging courses when they’re able to break down the whole route into sections.
“What’s the toughest part of the course?” she said. “How are you going to feel when you get there? What is it that you need to tell yourself in this moment? When you go out there, and you’re really pushing for something that you’ve never done before, it’s going to be challenging.”
Or, to keep it simple: “Run with confidence, and just enjoy the experience.”
For more info on SCC Women’s Cross-Country, visit http://sccpanthers.losrios.edu/sports/wxc/index