By: Jorge Campos
After a four-year hiatus from collegiate competition, the Santa Ana College men’s cross-country team is back and on track.
A casualty of state-wide budget slashes, the men’s team was cut along with tennis, men’s swimming and men’s track in 2008. So far, men’s swimming is the only other team to be resurrected.
Head Coach Miriam Mitzel was given the go-ahead to field a team and begin competition in late August. It came with the burden of putting a team together in a month.
Mitzel accomplished this in two weeks, close to the team’s first meet of the season, the Palomar Invitational on Sept. 6.
“We didn’t have time to recruit, we set up a table in front of the library the first week of class and started recruiting there,” Mitzel said. “I didn’t know if I was going to be able to field a team.”
Composed of six freshmen, the Dons finished in fifth place at the Palomar Invitational, the first meet SAC has competed in since 2008. Dons freshman Edwin Ortiz-Lopez finished sixth overall.
“It’s not about the talent. It’s about the guts. We run with our hearts,” Ortiz-Lopez said.
The team has exceeded even the most modest of expectations.
“Just imagine what these guys could do with a full summer program of training,” Mitzel said.
The Dons finished 11th in its second meet and eighth in the third, the SAC-hosted Brubaker Invitational.
In the fourth and final regular season meet of the year, the Orange Empire Conference Championships, the Dons finished in fourth place, four points behind third place Riverside City College.
Both Ortiz-Lopez and freshman Geovany Garcia finished in the top 15 in a field of 80 runners.
With a strong showing in the OEC Championships the men’s team qualified for the SoCal finals, one step from the State Finals. Not bad for a team that hadn’t run together until August.
“It feels good to be back, and be working everyday. Hopefully we make it all the way to state,”
The Dons have not competed in the State Final in four years, the last time SAC fielded a team.
“Some of them haven’t run in a year or two, and they just came and placed fourth, I think that is really awesome,” Mitzel said.