Hard work results in near state championship for cross country

Robert Beaver

For the Cerritos College men’s and women’s cross country teams, the 2012 season was about the time they almost won the state championship.

The Falcons had it all — talent, training, and a consistent season to back up it’s contention for the state title.

Munir Kahssay and Karina Sanchez led the men’s and women’s teams respectively, to 12 podium finishes out of their combined 18 races throughout the season.

Kahssay, who was raised in Ethiopia, had won four races, one of which led the men’s team to it’s first South Coast Conference Championship win.

Sanchez had also won a race, which helped lead the women’s team to it’s fourth conference title.

On top of that, the men’s and women’s teams were able to win meets when their best runners weren’t competing.

For a moment, it looked like the Falcons were one of the teams to beat going into the state championship in Fresno, Calif., in November.

On a wet race day, Kahssay and Brandon Taylor led the competition while teammate DeShaunte Lewis followed behind with about one mile left to go.

The state title was in Cerritos College’s grasp until an American River College athlete unleashed a kick in the final half-mile that was too fast for Cerritos College runners.

Taylor and Kahssay fell to 11th and 13th places respectively, while an exhausted Lewis crawled across the finish line in 102nd place.

In the women’s race, Cerritos struggled to finish within the top 30 positions. Sanchez took the team’s top spot at 32nd place.

The men’s and women’s teams finished sixth at the state competition. American River College and Orange Coast College won the men’s and women’s state titles respectively.

“Toward the end we had a spell of bad luck, but overall it was a pretty good season,” assistant coach Daniel Ozan said.

“Both teams had a good shot (at the state title) or at least the top three. It wasn’t our time. It’s an experience that we will learn and grow from,” Ozan said.

Despite the unexpected finish at state, the cross country team made notable accomplishments during the season and are eager for what the future holds.

The men’s team bested the state champions American River College at the Lou Vasquez Invitational in San Francisco earlier in the season.

Ozan added that all team members improved their personal records over the course of the season.

Kahssay became the second Cerritos College athlete to ever finish a four-mile race in under 20 minutes.

Sanchez set a personal record in cross country by finishing a 5K race in under 19 minutes.

The runners will get another shot at success in the Spring for track season.

“Everyone is motivated for track,” Sanchez said. “Even though we didn’t win this year, we will be a smarter team going into next season.”