Giants' cross country has foundation for success

Giants' cross country has foundation for success

By Nick Giannandrea

College of the Sequoias has the building blocks to field one of the state' top men's cross country teams in sophomores Ismael Ramirez and Oscar Perez.

Ramirez (Redwood High) was a top-10 placer at last year's state cross country championships, while Perez (Dinuba) was a track and field All-American last season in the 10,000.

"If everything goes well, hopefully we're a top four team at state," said second-year Giants cross country coach David Sanchez, whose team opens the season Saturday at the Fresno Invitational.

Ramirez led COS' men to a 10th-place team finish at the state cross country championships last season when he crossed the finish line at Fresno's Woodward Park in 20:39.3, good for eighth individually among the 169-runner field. It was the fourth-fastest race ever run by a Giants' man on the four-mile course at Woodward Park.

"He's been training well," Sanchez said. "Right now our biggest concern is building the foundation. We're hoping he goes top 4-5 at state and improves his time."

Perez was 74th at last year's state cross country meet in 21:49.05, but experienced a breakthrough performance during track and field season, when he finished sixth individually in the 10,000 in 32:03.72.

"If (Perez) can put it together like he did in track, he can be an All-American in cross country," Sanchez said.

Ramirez and Sanchez head a group of five returning runners who competed in the state meet last season that also includes Joel Garcia (Porterville), Luciano Linares (Exeter) and Christian Gonzalez (Corcoran).

Garcia placed 81st individually at state in 21:57.9, while Linares was 117th in 22:28.3 and Gonzales was 125th in 22:36.01.

Linares and Gonzales are expected to be among COS' five-man scoring team to open the season, while Garcia is competing with freshmen Zachary Woods (Frontier), Evan Loftin (El Diamante), Victor Cisneros (Lindsay), Cristobal Vasquez (Lindsay) and Angel Barajas Galindo (Mt. Whitney) for the fifth spot on the ladder.

The Giants' men's team is rounded out by freshmen Daniel Bursiaga (Golden West), Gerardo Dicochea (Redwood), Jacob Garcia (Farmersville), Cesar Gonzales-Crossle (Mt. Whitney), Tyler Gonzalez (Monache), Dominique Izqierdo (Hanford), Antonio Munoz-Gavtan (Tulare Union) and Jonathan Padilla (Dinuba). 

COS' women's team will be led by its lone returning state qualifier: Courtney Santos (Hanford West,) who placed 100th in 21:05.5. She was also 35th at the Northern California Championships in 22:44.00.

Sanchez said he is looking for a big improvement from Santos this season.

"I'm seeing maybe a top 20, maybe even a top 14 in NorCal," Sanchez said. "I'm hoping she can stay consistent and show some improvement overall place-wise and in time."

The women's team also features sophomore Viviana Delval (Exeter) and freshmen Sky Garcia (Mt. Whitney), Katherine Nava (Sierra Vista) and Ashley Salas (Corcoran).

Only Santos will compete for the women this weekend in Fresno.

Delval, Garcia, Nava and Salas will debut Sept. 21 during a meet at Cal State San Bernardino after they build up their conditioning foundation.

COS doesn't host a home meet, but the Giants race in Fresno on Oct. 25 during the Central Valley Championships.

Other meets include the Modesto Invitational on Sept. 27, the NorCal Previews in Salinas on Oct. 4, the Brubaker Invitational in Orange on Oct. 11 and the NorCal Regionals in Salinas on Nov. 8.

The state championships are set for Nov. 23 at Fresno's Woodward Park.