Felix Leads Lady Panthers to Sixth at State Preview

Felix Leads Lady Panthers to Sixth at State Preview
The American River College men's cross country team has had a strangle hold over the Northern California title for the last eight years and has stood on the top podium as team champions at the CCCAA State Championship four of the last five years. Their recent unbeaten streak against regional competition stretches  back to 2009 but that ended on Saturday at the Fresno Invitational. The competition also serves as the state preview meet at Woodward Park. The Hartnell College men's team came within one point last weekend of upsetting the Beavers and came into this week's larger competition feeling confident and prepared for another assault. This time it was not as close with the Panthers taking second overall as a team with 64 points and besting their regional rival's score of 94 points. The Panthers tied Glendale College, who soundly beat them two weeks ago at the Oxnard Invitational, but broke the tie based on head to head comparison of the first five finishers for each team. Mt. San Antonio College, last year's state runner-up team, won the meet with a low score 44 points and will take over the top ranking as a result with the Panthers now second.

Sophomore Edgar Bonilla shook the racing rust off last week with his fourth place finish at the regional preview meet. This week, in a close competition with five runners over the last mile, the former King City Mustang used his previous meet experience over the Woodward Park layout from both high school and last year to perfectly time his final move that propelled him to his biggest victory of his Hartnell College career. Bonilla took the win by one second 21:06 to Glendale College runner Shane Thompson at 21:07. Thompson was the overall winner at the Oxnard Invitational where Bonilla did not compete. Only three Panthers have previously won the state preview meet with Daniel Tapia and Diego Leon both going on to the individual state title in November. Already an All-American with his ninth place finish as a freshman, Bonilla joins a small list of potential candidates for this fall's individual title. Fellow sophomore Jorge Sanchez ran much of the race side by side with Bonilla and also found himself in contention for the overall win finishing just seven seconds behind his teammate in sixth place. Sanchez narrowly missed edging last week's Norcal Preview Meet winner Ozzie Hassan of American River College by less than one second. Last fall, Sanchez placed fifteenth in this same race. His time of 21:13 was a personal best on the course despite near 90 degree temperatures on Saturday in Fresno. Mario Perez, Jr. joined his teammates in the top 14 with his surprise thirteenth place finish in 21:40. Oscar Mora, Jr. (21:56) was 21st and frosh Jaime Garcia i(22:06) in 28th complete the scoring. Andrew Martinez (22:10) and Angel Mejia, Jr. (22:45) rounded out the top seven for the Panthers.

Sophomore Yvette Felix enjoyed a breakthrough at the regional preview meet last week in Rocklin but wanted to demonstrate it was no fluke and race better against women from Southern California. After only placing nineteenth at the Oxnard Invitational against predominantly colleges from the south, Felix showed she is steadily improving by earning thirteenth overall over the state championship 5km course. Her time of 19:42 moved her up one spot in the region and she now only trails Alyssa Block of College of the Sequoias who was the top regional finisher at 19:24. Felix took 46 seconds off her personal best for the course that she recorded last November. Fellow sophomore Beatriz Duarte followed her training partner to her best showing this season as she placed 22nd overall in a lifetime cross country best 20:20. Duarte, who was eleventh at the regional preview, moved up to fifth for Northern California women. The former Watsonville High School product has improved dramatically since last season when she was outside the top ten performers for the Lady Panthers. Alyssa Sanchez (21:25), Leslie Oseguera (21:31), and Yvette Tavarez (21:40) completed the scoring. The Lady Panthers placed sixth overall just nine points out of the top five. They still trail regional favorite College of the Sequoias who placed fourth overall. If the Lady Panthers can best the team from Visalia, they will become the first program since 1994 to win three regional championships in a row.

The Panthers will return to competition on Thursday, September 22nd at the Lou Vasquez Invitational at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco