FRESNO–Top five, worth the drive.
Daniel Vazquez and Carlos Sibaja got up off the ground following a nasty spill to score crucial points that helped lead a hungry men’s cross country team to a fifth place finish in the California State Championships. Steven Lepe led all Southwestern College runners by grabbing 11th place in 203-man field and Miguel Lopez was 12th. Lepe and Lopez both earned All-American honors.
“We beat exactly who we came here to beat,” said head coach Dr. Duro Agbede. “My goal today was to place in the top five and we had to go against a lot of strong teams.”
Agbede’s main target was archrival San Diego City College, which beat SWC at the regionals. Agbede has a friendly but fierce rivalry with Mesa coach Paul Greer.
Vazquez and Sibaja were tripped and fell barely 100 meters into the race. They had to stay down for a few precious seconds so as to not be badly injured in the stampede of runners.
“Two of our runners went down and they had to get up and start again,” said Agbede. “It was brutal because they had bruises all over their legs.”
Sibaja rebounded to finish 85th. Vazquez finished 123rd.
“Today I expected to break 21 minutes in four miles,” said Sibaja, “but there was a pile-up and I got tripped from behind and fell down, hard. I started from 120th and tried to catch up, but it was too late for that. My time was 21:45.”
Despite scraped knees and bruises, Vasquez was upbeat.
“The fall did affect us, it was very competitive,” he said. “A lot of people train a whole season to get our time, so I gained from that comeback.”
Lepe took Agbede’s advice to heart, not playing the hare but also no one’s tortoise.
“I was mainly with the two Mesa guys that coach wanted me to be with,” he said. “He didn’t want me to lead the pack and be a bunny, so I stuck with them.”
Lepe finished in the lead pack.
“We basically gave it all we had,” he said. “I feel proud of what we did.”
“He lives in LA and is everywhere we compete,” said Agbede. “He came to (Mount San Antonio College), he came to Riverside and he came today.”
Lopez earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees thanks to full cross country scholarships to Mississippi Valley State. Lopez praised Agbede, one of SWC’s most successful professors when it comes to transferring his students.
“He is always there pushing me through everything and motivating me,” he said. “You see how it pays off.”
Agbede expects a powerhouse in 2014.
“This has been a very successful year because we have all freshmen with the exception of Sibaja,” he said. “The next step is to rebuild and recruit for next year.”