A week after both the Cerritos College men’s and women’s cross country teams captured the South Coast Conference Title, they both qualified for the California State Championships by finishing second and fourth overall in the Southern California finals held at Fairfield Park in Costa Mesa Saturday, Nov. 3.
The South Coast Conference Championship was the first in the history of Cerritos College men's cross-country.
It was the fourth overall conference title for the women's team.
The men’s team almost had a catastrophic outcome when Munir Kahssay and Brandon Taylor were said to be disqualified at the finish line after completing the 4-mile race.
Initially Marco Ochoa, Orange Coast College’s Head Cross Country Coach acting as Meet Manager, said that Cerritos’ 2nd and 4th place runners had been disqualified.
It was later learned that Cerritos runner Brandon Taylor was misidentified as the second runner disqualified, when in fact Tommie Poston was penalized for what was termed a “decorum violation”.
According to Cerritos College Athletic Director Dan Clauss, that decision is currently being appealed.
A decorum violation would keep the runner from participating in the next meet.
In this case that is the California State Community College Cross County Championship.
Ochoa said after the race, ”The first guy (Kahssay) to get disqualified was second place in the race.”
“They (racers) have instructions to move along the chute (Pathway set up for the runners to go through in order of finish)…and he was not listening to directions, and I kept telling him over and over to get going, get going, and he ignored me.”
“He was backing up the whole line.”
Continuing, Ochoa said, “He bad mouthed one of my coaches prior to this.”
“He also gave me an attitude and did he not listen to my instructions. He ignored all my instructions and so finally I gave him an ultimatum.”
“He still ignored me, so I said, ‘okay, you’re out’.”
Cerritos College head coach Christopher Richardson was quick to respond to the heated decision by the race officials.
Initially, he did not know what was happening as he was celebrating with the rest of the men’s team in what seemed like a very high finish in the preliminary race being used as preparation for the State Finals coming up Saturday, Nov. 17 in Fresno.
Richardson engaged in a discussion with both Ochoa and another man, who was identified by the name or title of "Dean" regarding what had happened in the seconds after both runners crossed the finish line and seemed to be on their way to collecting their official time bands.
After nearly an hour of back –and- forth dialogues, all sides were seen shaking hands and splitting.
A few moments after the presentation of the women’s awards, the announcer said the final results were available for the men’s division.
Khassay and Taylor were reinstated as finishing second and fourth for the race.
Khassay said, “I just fell off at the finish. I was tired and I couldn’t do anything.
“I got second place."
The Men’s team received second place honors.
The women finished fourth overall and will travel with their male counterparts to Fresno to compete for the State Team Championship, as well as individual honors.
Top female finishers for the Falcons were runners Maira Solis and Carina Sanchez, who placed 15th and 19th respectively in the 5-kilometer race.
Additional representations on the women’s team were Amineh Beltran, Kaela Crone, Patsy Hurley, Julia Piecnik, and Isabel Medina.
Both teams ran essentially the same race with the men’s division adding an extra mile to its length.
All participants started in groups of over 200 runners for the women and nearly the same for the men.
The course included romps over dry dirt, across lush grass, up and down through small hills and finally a steep climb up a hundred-yard hill, which claimed many runners on their way to the finish.
They each had to traverse “the hill” twice before heading for the finish line.
At the completion of her run, Carina Sanchez said of her effort, “It was horrible.”
“I had an awful race, a bad race today.”
When faced with the big hill at the end of the race, Sanchez said, “It wasn’t that big of a hill.”
“It’s just that I didn’t have it today in the first mile.”
It reminded her of the first time she raced at Fairfield Park way back on Sept. 15 when temperatures were said to reach 105 degrees that day.
Sanchez said, “I had another bad race.”
“The first race of the season I felt horrible.”
To prepare for the State Championship, Sanchez commented, ”I think I just have to rest up a little bit, I mean last time (at the preliminary race) I placed third, so I know I can beat these girls.”
Sanchez added, “It’s just an off day for me.”
Both Cerritos College cross country teams have two weeks to prepare mentally and physically for the State Championship slated for Saturday, Nov. 17 in Fresno’s Woodward Park.