Competing against some of the best teams in the country, the Leopard cross country teams came away with great individual performances and gained valuable experience this past weekend at the UC Riverside Invitational.
The valuable experience should pay dividends as the Leopard head into a crucial time of the season with the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Multi-duals and championships right around the corner.
“I think the race was really good,” head coach Pat Wildolff said. “Almost everybody who ran improved on their time from last year and this race is excellent preparation for our upcoming SCIAC races.”
The men received a fantastic showing from senior Cecilio Barrera.
In a field of 238 runners, most of them from top Division I, II and NAIA schools, Barrera placed a respectable 54th with a season best time of 25:57 on the 8000 meter course to pace the Leopard men.
“The one thing to look at is how he competed in such a good field,” Wildolff said. “He improved over 30 seconds from last years time.”
As a team the Leopards placed 16th out of 21 teams entered in the race.
Most of the teams ahead of them were from higher divisions and bigger schools as well.
More importantly for the Leopards though, they finished in contention with their SCIAC rivals that were entered in the race.
Rounding out the Leopard scoring five was Kelly Wood finishing 88th with a time of 26:47, Efrain Partida finished 111th in 27:07 and the final two scorers for the Leopards were the brothers, Matthew and Michael Cordova, who finished 137th and 146th with times of 27:36 and 27:45, respectively, both with big improvements on their season bests.
The women’s team was one runner short of having a scoring team, but nonetheless had very impressive individual performances in a tough-deep field.
Once again the women were led by senior Alexis Candelaria, who finished the 5,000-meter course in 16th place with a season best time of 19:10 and kept pace with the top SCIAC runners in the field.
The next closest Leopard finisher to Candelaria was sophomore Jessica Varney who clocked 21:00, good enough for 84th place. Other finishers for the Leopards were Nicole Knight, 21:44 and Amanda Burchill, 23:59.
Both Leopard teams are back in action in two weeks as they head into the championship part of their season. Up first is the SCIAC duals on Oct. 15 and then the championships on Oct. 30, both at La Mirada Regional Park.
Jonathan Corral can be reached at email@example.com.