Panther Men Place Third at State Preview Meet

Panther Men Place Third at State Preview Meet

The Hartnell College men's cross country has been on a surge of sorts the last few years moving up at the CCCAA State Championship from 10th to 9th to 8th and finally a pair of 5th place finishes the last two years. This year's squad features a whole new line-up for the top seven runners plus new additional freshmen to round out the roster. The goal remains the same, to contend for a Hartnell College's first ever state top three team trophy. On Saturday, the Panther men of 2017 made progress toward that goal placing third overall at the Fresno Invitational over the same four mile course that will be traversed in November for the State Championship. Hartnell College placed third behind last year's state runner-up Glendale College who was second overall in this meet and last  year's third place and final trophy receiving team Mt. SAC who easily defended their crown.

Leading the Panthers were two freshmen and a sophomore all with little to no experience on the championship course. Freshman Ricky Esqueda, a transfer from Northwestern University, placed eighth overall and was followed by fellow freshman Patrick Olson in ninth. Esqueda and Olson both took non-traditional paths to become members of this year's squad. Esqueda, who prepped at San Benito High School, returned to Hollister after three years away. Olson, joined the Panthers in the spring of 2017 and became a state track & field championship qualifier in the 1500 meters despite not competing in cross country in the fall. Esqueda (21:09) and Olson (21:10) move into the top 20 all-time at Woodward Park in Fresno for the four mile course. The pair was joined in the top 14 overall by relative newcomer Sergio Coronel. Coronel was well outside the squad's top seven as a freshman but a breakout spring which featured personal bests of 4:01 for 1500 meters and15:45 over 5000 meters has prepared him nicely to join the upper echelon of harriers at the community college leve. Coronel placed thirteenth overall in 21:20 and goes to 25th overall in school history. Sophomores Christian Aldape (21:44) and Jaime Garcia (21:55) completed the team scoring. Joining the top seven were sophomore Jonathan Saldana (22:20) and freshman Jacob Niles (22:24). The Panther men placed first for Northern California teams outdistancing perennial regional power American River College.

In a surprise upset, the Lady Panthers took the overall team title over state-contending powerhouses Glendale College, Mt. SAC, and Cerritos College. With a strong mix of veterans and youth, the Lady Panthers placed seven women in the top 28 overall. Sophomore Yvette Tavarez is over injuries that hampered her first fall and running healthy. Tavarez placed ninth overall in 19:43. She improved on her lifetime of 20:00 set as a high school senior while at Soledad High School. Re-entry student Arlene Diaz Leal placed tenth overall in 19:47 on her first run at Woodward Park. Freshman Lauryn Orozco also performed well in her first attempt at Woodward Park finishing in 20:04 and placing 16th. Olivia Jimenez, a transfer from Arizona Christian University and local product of Marina High School, finished right behind Orozco in 17th (20:05). Sophomore Leslie Oseguera finished in a much improved 20:12. She was followed by freshman Maria Aceves (20:29) and sophomore Jocelyn Cervantes (20:38). All told, seven new all-time top 50 performances were recorded by this year's group of women. Tavarez and Diaz Leal both move into the top 20. This was the first time in school history the Lady Panthers finished as the overall winning team after several years placing as the top Northern CA team. Just one year removed from back-to-back regional titles, the Lady Panthers also bested last year's state runner-up team and regional champion College of the Sequoias.

The men's and women's teams will compete on Friday, September 15th at the Las Positas Invitational in Livermore.