By Nick Escalera
It was another weekday morning driving to work and attending school for most, but to Riverside City College men’s and women’s cross country team it was a chance at a conference title.
The No. 2 state ranked men’s team came away with their second straight Orange Empire Conference title backed behind a first place finish by Joshua Silva, while the No. 4 state ranked women won their third consecutive conference title on Oct. 28 at Central Park.
The men competed in a four mile run and finished with an overall time of 1:46:50, averaging 21:22 a runner.
They have held a top five state ranking every single week since the season began and showed exactly why they belong at the top finishing almost a whole minute faster than second place Santa Ana College (1:47:49) and nearly two minutes faster than third place Orange Coast College (1:48:44).
The Tigers’ top three runners along with Silva, were Michael Simpson with a time of 21:24.7 and Isaiah Quiambo with a time of 21:29.1
“We had a goal to go back to back and we were able to get seven guys in the top 15,” Quiambo said. “It was overall just good day for us.”
Silva won the race with a time of 20:52.7 but was the only Tiger to finish in the top five of the race.
“I feel we did really well as a team being able to group and stay together not letting the other runners from others teams get in the way, keeping our numbers low allowing us to win conference,” Silva said.
The Tigers did however have 10 runners who finished in the top 20, the most by any other school that finished in that group. The next closest total was Santa Ana with four runners and Orange Coast with three.
“I thought the guys ran great and we showed a lot of depth with 16 guys finishing ahead of the No. two team’s fifth man,” said men’s coach Jim McCarron
It wasn’t just the men who held their own as the women began the season just outside the top five working their way up the state rankings.
The women ran in a 5K meet averaging 20:22 a runner, finishing with a total time of 1:41:52 edging out Saddleback College (1:42:20) by nearly 30 seconds. Santa Ana College finished third in the race with a time of 1:45:51.
Both RCC and Saddleback were tied timewise going into their sixth runner, but Carissa Gomez came in before Saddleback’s Charlotte Owen by 6.9 seconds giving the Tigers the lead and eventual victory.
Natalie Vaughn, Sarah Hollis and Robin Valencia were the top three runners for the Tigers with Vaughn finishing fourth overall while Hollis and Valencia finished in the top 15.
“We put so much hard work this year trying to accomplish our goal of placing in the top three in the state,” Hollis said.
RCC’s cross country program hasn’t seen a state title since the men won it in 1994 but have been on the rise for the past three years placing in the top five,10 ,and 15 respectively in both men’s and women’s state championships.
“That’s what our goal is,” women’s coach Damien Smith said. “Every year gets better so we can be in the top three and get on the podium.”
RCC men’s and women’s cross country teams will continue their season in Woodward Park in Fresno on Nov. 19 at 10 a.m.