By Nick Giannandrea
College of the Sequoias has produced two individual male winners since the California Community College Cross Country Championships began in 1964.
Ismael Ramirez will be out to make it three on Nov. 23 at Fresno's Woodward Park.
The sophomore from Redwood High will be among the favorites when the 4-mile men's race begins at 11 a.m.
Ramirez is the third-best returning placer from last season, when he finished eighth overall in 20:39.3. The only returning runners who were faster than Ramirez were San Diego Mesa's Isaiah Labra, who was third in 20:25.7; and Stefen Rasmuson, who was fifth in 20:31.9.
Ramirez enters as the only male runner in the state who finished in less than 20 minutes during the Northern and Southern California Regionals on Nov. 8.
Ramirez won the NorCal Regional title, covering the four-mile course at Salinas' Toro Park in 19:56.1. Teammate Oscar Perez (Dinuba) was second in the 120-runner race in 20:13.0.
By contrast, Rasmuson won the SoCal Regional at San Diego's Mission Bay Park in 20:49.2. Labra was second in 21:10.0 on a SoCal Regional course that played out a fraction slower than the NorCal course. The top nine finishers in NorCal all had times faster than SoCal winner Rasmuson.
Ramirez can draw on past success this season at Woodward Park, where he was second at the season-opening Fresno City Invitational on Sept. 7 in 21:11.1 (ahead of Labra, who was sixth in 21:09.2; Rasmuson did not compete), and won the Central Valley Conference title on Oct. 29 in 21:05.0.
Ramirez has his sights set on eclipsing COS' best time on the Woodward Park course of 20:11, set by Mario Macias when he won the state title in 2000.
COS' only other male state champion was Juan Garcia, who won the small schools division in 1976, covering the course in Valencia in 19:36. The state meet was combined from large and small schools divisions into one division in 1984.
COS, which was second at the NorCal Regional as a team with 71 points, will also have Evan Loftin (El Diamante), Christian Gonzales (Corcoran), Zackary Woods (Frontier-Bakersfield) and Luciano Linares (Exeter) in the men's field.
The Giants didn't qualify anyone for the 3.1-mile women's race, which is scheduled to start at 10 a.m.