By Diana Viera
Freshman Toni Lopez is the Dons’ first individual Orange Empire Conference champion in women’s cross-country.
“Finding out that I was the first female athlete in history was pretty cool. That’s something that no one can ever take away because I’m the first ever to set that record,” Lopez said.
Passion, drive and hard work helped Lopez earn her championship, but she also credits her teammates and coaches.
“It took me a while to fall in love with the sport,” Lopez said. “I mean after a while, I think it was my experience with the sport, people I met, the coaches that made the love for the sport stronger and it just grew throughout time.”
She began running competitively while still a freshman at Santa Ana High School.
Her character and natural leadership ability are part of the reason her team finished with a winning record in the OEC.
“She tells us that we are better than we think, we have to believe in ourselves, and that no matter what, at the end of the day if we get last place, she will still be proud of us as a team,” teammate Liz Luciano said.
Lopez finished in seventh place at the 2015 California Community College Athletic Association Cross Country State Championships with a time of 18:28.7, her second fastest time of the season.
“She’s been an awesome, awesome runner, and she’s just getting better and better,” Head Coach Miriam Mitzel said.
For the first time since 2008, both the men’s and women’s teams qualified for the state championships.
“I think both teams, men and women, worked hard so they have definitely earned this,” Mitzel said.