Hartnell College women’s cross country team placed second at the 2021 California Community College Athletic Association State Championship: (from left) Coach Chris Zepeda, Sofia Camacho, Valeria Lozano-Gomez, Andrea Villegas, Ashley Ochoa, Jazmin Mora, Faith Mora, Mariah Changco and Coach Arlene Diaz-Leal. (Contributed Photo)

SALINAS — Strong contributions from South Monterey County runners earned the Hartnell Panthers cross country women and men’s teams second- and third-place finishes, respectively, on Nov. 20 at the 2021 California Community College Athletic Association State Championship in Fresno.

Hartnell College women’s team placed second to nationally ranked Mt. SAC of Walnut, and the men’s team placed third behind San Diego Mesa and Mt. SAC. 

Sofia Camacho (seventh place, 18:48) and Valeria Lozano-Gomez (ninth place, 18:50) earned All-American recognition for the Panther women, and Isaac Gensel finished in second place (20:11) for the Panther men and was an All-American runner.

Andrea Villegas placed 20th (19:24) for Hartnell, and Ashley Ochoa, a Gonzales High graduate, placed 28th (19:40). Also placing for the Panther women were: Jazmin Mora (41st, 20:01), Faith Mora (68th, 20:41) and Marian Changco (69th, 20:44).

Placing for the Panther men were: Esteban Deniz (17th, 20:39), Daniel Correa (19th, 20:39), Frankie Maciel (29th, 20:56), Eli Ainsworth (31st, 20:59), Ricky Diaz III (36th, 21:05) and Mario Avila (58th, 21:27). Deniz, Correa, Diaz and Avila are all King City High graduates.

Hartnell College men’s cross country team placed third at the 2021 California Community College Athletic Association State Championship: (from left) Coach Chris Zepeda, Isaac Gensel, Esteban Deniz, Daniel Correa, Francisco Maciel, Eli Ainsworth, Ricky Diaz III, Mario Avila and Coach Arlene Diaz-Leal. (Contributed Photo)

In junior college cross country, the women’s distance is 3.1 miles and the men run 4.0 miles. 

“Our men’s team was anchored by South County toughness,” said Chris Zepeda, head cross country coach for Hartnell. “Esteban and Danny at 20:39 are only seven seconds behind Edgar Bonilla’s time, and Ricky subbed in well. Mario will be really tough next year. Ashley’s 19:40 was amazing. She’s a future star for sure.”

Gonzales High Athletic Director Margie Daniels, who is also the cross country and track and field head coach, applauded Ochoa for her emergence as a standout for the Panther women.

“Her strengths are that she is driven, hard-working, committed and a talented runner to boot,” Daniels said. “Ashley is one of the most coachable athletes you’ll find. She really takes in direction and welcomes constructive feedback. A coach is lucky to have an athlete like her on their team.”

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