SBCC’s cross country teams look for strong year

Scott Fickerson sees plenty of potential in his SBCC men’s and women’s cross country teams.

“I really think our teams could finish in the top three in the WSC and top 10 in the state,” said the Vaqueros’ fifth-year coach.

If both teams qualify for the State Championships, it would be the first time in Fickerson’s tenure and the first time in 30 years. Last year, the Vaquero men placed 16th in the state and three women qualified as individuals.

The Vaqueros open their season on Saturday at the Southern Cal Preview Meet in Costa Mesa. They’ll host two meets at Shoreline Park and Leadbetter Beach — the SBCC Invitational on Oct. 12 and the WSC Championships on Oct. 23.

The men’s team has five returners in Mark Angelopoulos, Nery Gonzalez, Jamison Leighton, Marcial Ordaz and Omar Padilla-Lopez. Cecilia Instebo of Sweden, who placed 33rd in the state last season, is the lone returnee for the women.

Top newcomers for the men are Blane Infald and Ian Roberts while the women will be bolstered by freshmen Nicole Bartlett, Emily Bernath, Nicole Mozillo and Sara Smith.

“The men have good experience with our returning group who raced at the State Championships last season,” noted Fickerson, the 2011 WSC men’s Coach of the Year. “They need to raise their expectations and come together as a group with the new athletes. Their success will depend on their ability to come together and believe in each other — that confidence will lead to a higher level of racing.”

He said the women are a young, inexperienced group.

“It will be important to bring them along slowly and carefully to keep them healthy and teach them to race well and handle the pressure,” said Fickerson. “We’ll likely lack a lot of depth, so keeping the top group healthy will be important.”