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The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Running with the pack; Women’s XC builds foundation for success

City College Women’s Cross Country starts the 5k Big 8 Preview race at Oak Grove Regional Park on Sept. 15th. ©2017 Dianne Rose

Nick Pecoraro
Sports Editor
[email protected]


Persistence pays off.

For the City College women’s cross-country team, that’s just one of the pillars of team-building that keep the Panthers motivated to capture another Big 8 Conference championship.

After months of training amid demanding schedules and two third-place finishes, City claimed a first-place finish at the Modesto Junior College Invitational Sept. 29 at Legion Park, with five of its runners placing in the Top 10.

Perla Gonzalez-Rodriguez led the way in the women’s 5K, with a time of 20:14.6, good for a second overall finish. She was followed by Jasmine Loyola (3rd), Alyssa Ayala (4th), Deja Johnson (9th) and Daryia Greene (10th) for a team time of 1:44:52 at the MJC Invite.

Despite busy schedules for all her runners — between school, work and practice — coach Marisa Avendano saw this result coming.

“Based on the way they’ve been running in practice, it really wasn’t a surprise to me,” said Avendano. “This year’s been a little bit challenging. Many of our girls work. Some of them have classes full-time. The running part is only a small portion of the things that they’re doing. The beauty with running is that you can run on your own — there’s a course everywhere.”

So, besides persistence, what are the keys to creating a winning mentality amid such a hectic work and class schedule? Sophomore Jasmine Loyola says it comes down to trust and communication.

“At the beginning of the season, we talked about what we can do to be better as a team,” said Loyola. “We all knew that we were going to be super busy this semester, and we talked about how we can still be a team. Communication was No. 2, and No. 1 was trust. We trust in (Avendano’s) workouts. She tells us exactly what to do, and she listens to us. Trust in our training and our coach, and believe in what she says. Just keep having fun.”

When a team has persistence, trust, communication, and its runners are enjoying themselves, other Big 8 teams should take notice.
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“It’s fun, more than anything,” said Gonzalez-Rodriguez, a freshman originally from Sheldon High School who has paced the Panthers in each race in 2017. “We’ve been working on staying together as a team in races, and work off of each other. We can feel each other’s energy and adrenaline. It was really cool to all finish together. It doesn’t happen very often.”

It’s been a goal of the team to stick together in races, and the Panthers have increasingly shrunk the gap between its competitors.

“We try to stay at least three of us together over the first mile,” says Gonzalez-Rodriguez. “I can feel other girls when they want to be faster and keep up with the top runners. They’ve taught me a lot about staying together. I was more of an individual runner, not thinking of the team as a whole. But now I’m willing to be more united with the team.”

Ayala is a returning All-Big 8 runner from 2016’s conference championship cross-country team. Greene brings an abundance of optimism and positivity to the team, and it seems that a lightbulb has flicked on for Johnson, who is a natural sprinter, according to Avendano.

“(Johnson) just wanted to come out and get better for track,” said Avendano. “She said, ‘I think I just became a cross-country runner, because I’m nervous for the first time.’ Next thing I know, she was up there running as our fourth runner.”

In baseball, no matter where you play, it’s always 90 feet between bases. In football, there’s 100 yards from end zone to end zone. Cross-country is a different animal. Each venue proposes a different challenge.

“With cross-country, the courses are set up very differently,” Avendano said. “Sometimes they can be dirt trails. Others can be just paved road. Sometimes it will be hilly. Sometimes it will be flat, so you really need to prepare for everything.”

The Toro Park Invitational in Salinas is the next meet in which the Panthers will compete, and it’s also the site of the NorCal championships in November. According to Avendano, the course is up-and-down and requires a great deal of stamina and endurance to conquer.

“We drive up to Auburn and Rocklin, to different places to train, so we’re ready,” she said. “This last course that we did was flat as a pancake, so our girls were pretty aggressive getting out. The course we have (in Salinas) is more of a hilly course. We know that we have to show up and be strong with those hills if we want to do anything at the NorCal level.”

The Panthers run at Toro Park on Oct. 6, and again Oct. 13 at Shasta College.

For more info on SCC women’s cross-country, visit

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