The La Verne cross country teams competed in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships Saturday at Prado Park in Chino with seniors Rachael Dela Cruz and Melissa Cerrillos leading the women’s team with their 15th and 20th place finishes respectively.
Dela Cruz finished the course in 24 minutes and 34 seconds and Cerrillos finished in 24:50, enough to earn them both Second Team All-SCIAC Honors.
“Its my last race and I just wanted to go out there and be tough,” Dela Cruz said. “I just wanted to run my best and do my best to maintain my place throughout the race.”
The women’s cross country team finished in seventh place among the nine participating schools on Saturday.
“Most of the time when I’m running my race, especially when I’m tired, I have to yell at myself ‘You got this’,” junior runner Karen Cruz said.
The men’s team finished in sixth with senior Samuel Johnny finishing first for the Leopard after 27:46 and placed 35th overall for the men.
“Coach [Justin Wood] really emphasized second-half surges for us in order to be strong during the second portion of the race,” Johnny said. “We fell flat during the end of this race so we’re definitely going to be working on speed so we can have that closing kick at the end of our races.”
The La Verne cross country teams opened the year at a tri-meet against Pomona-Pitzer and Occidental, with both men and women taking third.
Sophomore Matthew Salas led the men’s team in its first race and took 11th overall while Dela Cruz finished the women’s race in 8th overall with a time of 15:31.
Salas and Dela Cruz put on another strong showing at the Biola Invitational in early September.
Both teams placed fourth overall with Salas leading the Leopards with a time of 26:44 and Dela Cruz finishing in 19:22 for the women’s team.
Cerillos helped seal the women’s fourth place finish, following Dela Cruz almost every step of the way and ending her race in 19:28.
The Leopards closed out September with the Coyote Challenge at Cal State San Bernardino where the men’s team placed eighth out of 11 schools and the women placed 12th out of 20 schools.
For the men, Salas led the Leopards with a time of 26:39.5, his fastest time ever in the 8K.
For the women, Cerrillos led the way for La Verne pacing the Leopards with a time of 18:41.
Salas made history at the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational. His time of 26:34.8 was enough to place his performance as the eighth best 8k run in ULV history.
Salas finished 13th overall and freshman Jeremiah Alarcon took 29th with his new best time of 27:17.7. The men placed fifth overall among 11 competing schools.
Cerrillos rallied the women’s team to a 38th place finish at the Pre-Nationals 6K race at Lake Breeze Golf Club in Wisconsin on Oct. 13.
Cerrillos finished in 55th place with a time of 23:14.4 while Dela Cruz powered to finish in the top 100 at 96th with the time of 23:44.7.
Sophomore Michelle Suarez to finished the 6K course in 25:21.9 as sophomore Ashley Garnica posted a time of 26:30.7.
Sophomore Reiko Fujimoto finished strong with a time of 27:18.7 to round out the five scorers for ULV.
Both teams are set to attend the NCAA West Regional Nov. 10 in Spokane, Washington.
Regional qualifiers will advance to the NCAA National Championships Nov. 17 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
“I’ve been hammering home to them about the championship mentality,” Wood said. “Whenever and wherever we race, were ready to compete at the highest level.”
Andrew Alonzo can be reached at email@example.com.