Cerritos College
Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

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Cerritos College runner takes first at the Orange Coast Classic

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Cerritos College sophomore runner Gabriel Hilbert set the pace at Saturday’s Orange Coast Classic by crossing the finish line of the men’s 4-mile race with a winning time of 20 minutes, 23.61 seconds—four seconds faster than second place finisher Hugo Gutierrez of Orange Coast College.

“It was surreal,” Hilbert said about beating 215 competitors and winning a race for the first time.

“Coming in on the last mile, I saw that first place was right there, so I just went for it.”

According to cross country head coach, John Goldman, Hilbert trailed Gutierrez by about 50 meters with less than a mile to go, but closed the gap within 200 meters of the finish line.

“[The team and I] felt pretty comfortable when he had 200 meters to go—if anyone’s with Gabe, he’s going to have difficulty because of his kick, and he outkicked the Orange Coast athlete to win the race,” Goldman said.

The men Falcons finished fifth out of 20 schools, with a team score of 160 points and an average time of 21:45.72, as the home team took first place overall with 39 points and an average time of 20:52.28.

In the women’s 3.1-mile race, Cassie Mejia was the first Falcon to cross the finish line in 10th place with a time of 19:19.80, soon followed by her teammates who completed the run within a minute of each other with an average time of 19:49.77.

Goldman attributes the women’s success in the meet to packing, where runners stick as closely together as possible during a race.

 “You can have those top athletes in the front, but if you don’t have a good pack behind you, it’s going to be difficult to keep the team score low to put you in a position where you can be successful.”

The women Falcons finished fourth out of 22 schools with a team score of 114 points, while the host Pirates also claimed victory in the women’s race with 62 points and an average time of 19:20.18.

To team captain for the women Sandra Flores, the goal was to improve from last season’s 135-point fourth-place finish.

“I wanted us to do a lot better than we did last year, and it turns out we actually did.

“It was a pretty tough race, but we did a pretty good job at it—not going out too hard, just running smart.”

Both of Cerritos’ teams had two runners take up slots within the top 15: Hilbert and freshman Robert Duran in 13th place with a time of 21:14.08 for the men; and Mejia and Flores in 15th place with a time of 19:41.04 for the women.

To Goldman, a top-five finish in a mid-season meet is exactly where Cerritos needs to be.

“The goal is to peak at the right time; some teams peak early [in the season] and we don’t want to be one of those teams.”

The Falcons have a week and a half to regroup before lacing up for next Friday’s Crystal Springs Invitational in San Mateo.

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Rebeca Vega, Staff Writer
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Cerritos College runner takes first at the Orange Coast Classic