Will Mauriz/Courier Christian Alcala finishes up four mile cross country run for Pasadena City College at Southern California Championships held at Irvine Regional park on November 4, 2016.
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Despite a stomach cramp and some vomiting, the men’s and women’s cross-country teams found success at the Southern California Championships last Friday.

The men’s team qualified for the CCCAA State Championships, while the women will be represented by Ramina Padashi Fard and Franceska Millanponce.

Nathan Guzman took the lead for the men and impressed himself as he finished in 35th place among 197 men, with a time of 21:26.2. Just over ten seconds later, Eduardo Urbina followed in 21:37.6, and swept up a 45th place finish.

“Beforehand, I was expecting to get around 50th to 60th place, so I was very surprised with how well I did at that race,” Guzman said.

Urbina, however, expected himself to run faster and place higher than what he performed.

“The third and fourth miles were the most difficult,” Urbina said. “There’s a hill on the third mile where everyone really needs to push themselves. I felt my body begin to breakdown.”

During the men’s 4-mile race, Marcelo Ramirez, who Guzman and Coach innocent Egbunike consider as one of the key runners, was interrupted by a stomach cramp, followed by vomiting, but he overcame both fallbacks and finished in 154th place in 23:52.1.

“It’s common for runners to throw up during a race,” Guzman said. “What isn’t common is for someone as experienced as Marcelo to have that happen to him. He’s one of our strongest runners and he was supposed to come in third.”

Men’s cross country finished the championships with a score of 86 points, qualifying for CCCAA State Championships. They are currently ranked third among seven schools, with wide score gaps between El Camino, who scored 64 points at championships, and Mt. SAC, which had a 17 point finish.

Women’s cross country did not qualify in CCCAA State Championships as a team, but two individuals from the team will be competing. Millanponce finished in 26th place in the women’s 5K race with a time of 19:40.4, while Padashifard finished in 38th place with a time of 20:01.8.

Millanponce felt that she could have done better. Similar to Urbina, Millanponce felt that the middle miles got the best of her during the race.

“Everyone starts to feel really tired during the middle miles, and is on the verge of giving up,” Millanponce said. “I had to push myself to pick up the pace. When I run, I think about the person in front of me and how I can pass by her. I do that to every girl in the race.”

Both have been the first two runners to take the lead in each race this season, which is why Egbunike considered them to be key runners of the team.

“Ramina and I push each other to a lot when we race and practice,” Millanponce said. “We work off of each other by telling each other to run faster.”

The women’s cross country team ranked No. 22 out of 27 schools with a final score of 541.

Coach Innocent Egbunike is proud of both of the team’s efforts this season because the team was able to cooperate with the adjustments of the new staff.

“I’m glad they were able to handle of those circumstances regarding the new staff because I know those kinds of adjustments could take time, but they overcame it while doing well,” Egbunike said. “I hope our team grows bigger in the future.”

With his first year being on the team, Urbina believed that the staff really pushed the team all season to get them where they are now.

“Coach Innocent is my motivation. He gives everyone as a whole and individually so much motivation when training,” Urbina said. “Coach [Tyrus] was a physically demanding coach, but it was because of him that I found myself doing things I didn’t think I was physically capable of doing.”

“Everyone on the staff this year was just so determined that we’ll do well this season,” Guzman added. “They were so passionate when they helped us train.”

When Egbunike used to compete in the Olympics, he always kept in mind to focus on doing his best while getting into the habit of taking every bit of training during practices seriously. He passed on those lessons to his team this year.

“Our next few practices before state, we’re going to work on fully executing workouts very well to build up endurance,” Egbunike said. “Building good habits during training is needed to be a championship athlete.”

Padashifard, Millanponce, and the men’s cross country hope to finish off their season victoriously at the CCCAA State Championships in Woodward Park, Fresno on Nov. 19.

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