GLENDALE — After a rain storm passed through Fresno early Saturday morning, Glendale Community College men's cross-country runner Rico Gutierrez figured he could live up to his promise.
Entering the California Community College Cross-Country Championship at Woodward Park, the sophomore pledged to Coach Eddie Lopez that he would earn a top-seven finish on the 4.1-mile course. He did better.
Gutierrez clocked 20 minutes 28 seconds to place sixth in the event and earn All-American honors.
The Vaqueros took sixth with 183 points. San Bernardino Valley College won the race with 78 points, followed by American River (95), L.A. Trade Tech (134), Orange Coast (146) and El Camino (151).
Gutierrez said the makeup of the course, which featured plenty of mud and puddles, favored him.
"I love muddy courses because there are a lot of obstacles," Gutierrez said. "I just run quick around the puddles and don't think about anything else, other than living up to that promise.
"The first mile of the course was easy and then everybody started going in the second mile. There was a major uphill in the third mile and then I had the confidence that I could stay near the front going into the last mile."
The other Vaqueros who competed were Ricky Avila (25th, 21:00), Neil Jones (43rd, 21:19), Michel Noris (51st, 21:25), Nicholas Marquez (67th, 21:32), Miguel Flores (91st, 21:50) and Erick Lopez (123rd, 22:19).
Lopez said the men's squad entered the meet seeking at least a top-three finish. Overcoming teams like San Bernardino Valley proved to be difficult for the Vaqueros, who finished with a mark of 1:05.44.
"It's just such a different level at state and they went out there and put it on the line," Lopez said. "We did a lot of good things this season.
"Rico went out there and ran a great time. He's got the third fastest time on this course in GCC's history. He came into the race focused and promised he would finish in the top seven. He went for place, not time."
El Camino's David Cordova won the event (19:57).Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun