By Sean Egle / Staff Writer
Riverside City College men’s cross country team secured its third Orange Empire Conference title in six years by defeating Orange Coast College.
RCC finished the meet with a total of 26 points, while OCC finished the event with 40 points.
The Tigers had four runners place in the top five, with sophomore John Guzman taking the individual win with a time of 20:50.43, narrowly edging second place finisher Kyler Fisk of Saddleback College by just nine seconds.
Guzman was exuberant with the win and the team’s effort, more than the title itself.
“I was happy with my race execution and the collective effort the team put it in to come out on top. Our victory was absolutely a team effort,” he said.
Tigers coach Jim McCarron believes that the team acts as a unit and is successful because of the effort given by each member.
“They are a tight group that challenges each other academically and athletically,” he said.
Orange Coast presented the biggest threat to the Tigers. They had runners finish sixth through tenth but came up short on points with freshman Felix Cruz coming in at seventeenth place.
McCarron knows that expectations are always high for his group of runners, but it leads to a positive effect on course.
“Expectations are always high for them, but they thrive on that pressure,” he said.
The Tigers are currently ranked fourth in state.
Freshman Luis Gutierrez has performed all season long alongside fellow runner Guzman.
Gutierrez made his name know once again by taking the third spot on the podium with a time of 21:07.70 amongst a total of 88 runners.
McCarron was delighted with the team’s overall display, especially for sophomores Brandon Johnson and Daniel Ybarra who finished fourth and fifth respectively.
“I was so pleased with how all the guys ran; both guys (Ybarra and Johnson) exceeded expectations with top five finishes,” McCarron said.
It was sophomore Justin Samaniego who secured victory for the Tigers, coming in thirteenth place with a time of 21:58:57, edging the win from Orange Coast.
The team’s belief is at a high, according to McCarron.
“We gel well because everyone believes in what the coaching staff is doing,” he said. “For the guys to win by such a big margin in a smaller race really says a lot about the potential this team has at the state level.”
The Tigers’ overall time for the meet was 1:47:05, again defeating Orange Coast by nearly two minutes.
The team will now look to continue their success by traveling to Fairview Park in Costa Mesa on Nov. 3 to compete at the Southern California championships. Only the top 14 teams from that event will qualify for the state championships in November.
The meet will host four of the top six teams in the state meet at Woodward Park in Fresno.