On Sept. 28, Hartnell Cross Country sophomore Monica Ruelas (Gilroy) used her final run across a Toro County Park course she had toured many times to see again how much she’s improved since last fall.
As a Hartnell freshman, Ruelas finished strong, earning all-region honors and recording her lifetime best at Toro, at 19:54. It was the first time she eclipsed the 20-minute barrier on a course familiar to Salinas-area runners.
At the 2018 Toro Park Invitational, hosted by Hartnell, she ran solo on the second half of the course, which features three hills in succession, to a new lifetime best of 19:03. Last year, in the same meet, she ran 21:11.
The big improvement jumped Ruelas from 24th all-time for Hartnell to fourth in program history, trailing only former All-Americans Malena Grover, Kathy Lenno and current assistant coach Rachel Shimabukuro. She also moved into the top 15 performers for all schools.
Ruelas led the Panthers to a perfect score of 15 points to win the team competition, with only Hannah Ryan of CCSF breaking up Hartnell’s top six. Arlene Diaz Leal (19:52) was third, Daniela Salazar (19:57) fourth, Maria Aceves (20:03) fifth, Isabelle Torres (20:06) sixth and Lauryn Orozco (20:07) seventh. Nina Arias (20:44) was ninth, followed by freshman Nerina Campos (21:03) in 10th overall. Eight Hartnell women earned top 14 medals.