The Rancho Santiago College men's cross-country team is off to an impressive start this season.
The sophomore-dominated Dons have won the MiraCosta and Fresno invitationals and are 3-0 in the Orange Empire Conference.
Rancho Santiago had four of the top 13 runners and finished with 61 points at the MiraCosta Invitational Sept. 19. Grossmont and San Diego Mesa, two schools that also figure to make a run at the state championship, tied for second with 73 points. Rancho Santiago also won the Fresno Invitational Sept. 12.
"This team has a lot of potential," said Rancho Santiago Coach Al Siddons. "From what I've seen so far in the invitationals, we look like we are in the top five in the state."
Rancho Santiago is led by a strong pack of sophomores, including Dave Moore, The Times' 1985 high school runner of the year at Orange High School.
Moore, who finished second to Glendale's Richard Erbes in the Southern Section 4-A cross-country championship in 1985, finished fourth overall and was the top Rancho Santiago finisher at MiraCosta.
Sophomore Carlos Nava emerged from the pack to win Rancho Santiago's first Orange Empire Conference meet last Friday at Citrus.
The Dons took the top five spots in the race and picked up conference victories over Cypress, Citrus and defending champion Orange Coast in the quad meet.
Freshman Art Garza finished second, sophomore Bob Ervin third, Moore fourth and sophomore Manual Adame fifth.
"We have a really good group," Siddons said. "Most of them have that extra year of experience, and that really helps."
The Orange Coast women's cross-country team, which won state titles in 1980, '81 and '82, finished second behind MiraCosta last season and should challenge for the state title again.
OCC lost Harolene Walters, who was the conference runner of the year last season, because she didn't enroll this fall.
But it still has a strong group led by Tracy Wright. Wright finished fourth overall as OCC won the Fresno Invitational. Wright then won the MiraCosta Invitational, as did the OCC team.
Wright is joined by returning sophomores Loi Curl, Debbie Lies, Delinda Patino and Deanna Feser and transfer Candice Hansen from Cuesta College.
"We're finally back where we used to be," said OCC Coach Gordie Fitzel. "We have some depth and some speed. . . . We've faced some of the best and beat them so far this season."
The $260,000 refurbishing of the running track at Rancho Santiago is expected to be completed in the next two weeks.
The old all-weather surface was removed and is being replaced with an improved polyurethane surface, and the length of the oval has been changed from 440 yards to 400 meters. The steeplechase pits were redone and the lanes for the high jump, long jump and pole vault runs have been resurfaced.
"It should be the best track in Orange County when it's done," Siddons said.
Ken Swearingen is going for victory No. 100 as Saddleback football coach Saturday when the Gauchos play host to Orange Coast. Swearingen, in his 12th season at Saddleback, has a record of 99-19-1.
Swearingen, who coached at El Camino for 14 seasons before moving to Saddleback, has a career record of 197-50-6.
Fullerton Coach Hal Sherbeck (206-59-6) is the only community college football coach in the nation with more victories.
Community College Notes:
Marcial Beltran of Fullerton has run two impressive races this season. He finished second at the MiraCosta Invitational as he ran a 20:38 over four miles, and he was third at the Fresno Invitational the week before with a time of 20:15. . . . Kathy Van Wyk, the 1982 winner of the Broderick Award as the nation's top collegiate softball player, will be an assistant coach at Orange Coast this season. Van Wyk was 35-1 in 1982 for Cal State Fullerton, which finished third in the College World Series. She joins first-year Coach Johnnie Brooks and will work mostly with pitchers and catchers.