The College of the Canyons cross country program continues to improve each race, and with the Western State Conference championships a little less than a month away, the Cougars could be peaking just in time for another strong postseason run.
On Friday, the COC women’s team placed fourth and the men’s team finished in 11th at the Golden West Central Park Classic held at Central Park in Huntington, Beach.
Led by two top-10 finishers on the women’s side, COC’s score of 147 left the team just seven points behind third place Riverside College on the 5K course. Mt. SAC (128) finished in second while conference rival Glendale Community College finished first with a score of 22.
Glendale, which had all five runners place in the top eight spots, will likely be COC’s toughest competition at the two upcoming conference meets.
COC sophomore Jessica Ruiz finished in seventh place with a time of 19:48.5, just 13 ticks behind the No. 5 finisher. Ruiz, who earned JC All-American honors as a freshman, has once again been a reliable runner for head coach Lindie Kane. Ruiz has placed in the top-15 at every event this season.
Likewise, COC freshman Stephanie Martinez has had an impressive start to her season. Martinez placed ninth with a time of 19:54.4 at Central Park on Friday. She has finished in the top-12 at every event this season, while racking up a pair of top-five finishes.
COC freshman Díani Ellis turned in a time of 20:49.7 to finish in 30th place for the second week in a row.
Freshman Celine Whitman ran to a time of 21:44.9 to place 54th in the field of 161, while Taylor Hernandez was 57th at a pace of 21:48.6.
In the men’s race, the 11th place finish for Canyons came amid a field of 19 schools. However, the Cougars finished fourth among WSC schools competing at the event.
Once again, it was Glendale (32) taking first place followed by Orange Coast College (93) in second, and Riverside College and Santa Ana tied for third at 103 points apiece.
Other WSC schools in competition included Moorpark (254) in eighth place and West Los Angeles (264) in 10th, with Canyons finishing with a score of 286 on the four-mile course.
Canyons sophomore Jake Higdon turned in one of his best performances of the season by finishing in 20th place at a time of 21:58.2. Higdon has been the top runner for COC’s men’s team all season, with a pair of top-20 runs on his resume.
Freshman Garrett Noltemeyer ran to a 25th place finish on Friday, his best result of the season, with a time of 22:03.2.
Cody Roelofson (23:14.8) finished 81st in the field of 198 runners, while Mauricio La Plante (23:38.3) was 94th.Christopher Ochoa (24:01.01) in 117th rounded out the top-five for COC.
Canyons will next compete at the WSC Preview at 3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, at the Kern County Soccer Complex in Bakersfield.
The WSC Championships will be held Friday, Oct. 21, at Oxnard College.
—Jesse Munoz/COC Sports Information
— Photo by Mike Whitman/COC Sports Information