Avalos Takes Conference Title in Tough Team Loss

Panthers place eight in the top 14 but finish second at the Coast Conference Championship.
Panthers place eight in the top 14 but finish second at the Coast Conference Championship.

The Hartnell College men took a nine year winning streak into this year's Coast Conference Championship at Toro Park but had been unsuccessful in besting conference foe DeAnza College in two meets heading into Wednesday's championship. Despite early season wins against the Dons at the Fresno Invitational and Chabot Invitational, the Dons had bested the Panthers at the Modesto Pirate Invitational and the Toro Park Invitational. The last two had been determined by 10 points or less and the conference championship came down to less. The Dons were able to outlast the Panthers 27 to 29 over the four mile course with thirteen of the top fourteen coming from both programs. This was the first conference title for DeAnza College since the conference was renamed from the Golden Gate Conference to the Coast Conference.

There was some bright spots for the Panthers including the overall win by sophomore Jesus Avalos. The thirteenth place finisher a year ago, Avalos used improved health and experience on the course to win comfortably by 18 seconds. His winning time of 21:03 was an 8 second improvement over what he ran October 4 at the Norcal Preview Meet. Last year, Avalos did not compete in the Northern California Championship race and will be a contender for All-Region honors as a sophomore. The next eight placing Panthers were all freshmen, pointing toward a very strong squad in 2020. Frosh Isaac Gensel found himself back in his normal role as the second man. He placed third overall in 21:24 just three seconds off DeAnza's top runner Ethan Sunseri. Rigo Garcia was sixth overall, Jiovanni Garcia eighth in a course personal best 21:46, Alexis Ojeda in eleventh in a course best 21:52, Elliot Ruiz in twelfth, Joseph Loredo thirteenth, and Daniel Correa in a signficant best 22:06 in fourteenth for the final all-conference spot. 

The conference streak has ended but the Panthers will take a nine consecutive year top 3 team finish streak into next Friday's championship. The Panthers will be ranked fifth going into the race with four teams all very evenly matched the top three trophies.