The Saddleback women's cross country program won it's first-ever conference championship on Friday in Riverside. The Gauchos had five runners finish in the top-10 in running away with the Orange Empire Conference title.
Saddleback has been competing in women's cross country since 1979 and has been a member of the Orange Empire Conference since 2000. On six different occasions the Gauchos have finished in second place, including a heartbreaking loss two years ago when edged by Riverside in a tiebreaker.
Saddleback set the record straight on Friday with a dominating victory. The Gauchos finished with a team total of 29, which was 15 points better than their arch rivals from RCC. Saddleback finished 2-3-7-8-9, claiming five spots on the Orange Empire All-Conference Team.
Holly Morales led the Gauchos with a second place finish on Friday, crossing the finish line in 19:14.4. Shortly thereafter, Dana McGrath was a third place finisher with a time of 19:23.8. Saddleback had a pack of runners bunched together down the stretch, with Megan Good finishing seventh (19:45.0), Alexis Park eighth (19:45.3) and Cayla Porter ninth (19:52.3). Morales, McGrath and Good were all named First Team All-Orange Empire Conference by virtue of finishing in the top seven while Park and Porter were named to the second team.
"I'm really proud of what our team accomplished," head coach Matt Sherman said. "Hopefully they can take this momentum into next weekend at the Southern California Regional Finals."
Saddleback came through the one-mile mark in a pack of five, keeping the pressure on the rest of the teams in the conference. Nearly two-thirds of the way through the race, very little had changed as the Gauchos were looking like a well-oiled machine. Things started to spread out down the stretch as the harriers with the most gas remaining in the tank made a mad dash for the finish line. A sea of cardinal and gold crossed the finish line over a 30-second time frame, with a smattering of orange and black from Riverside and orange and blue from Orange Coast.
Saddleback now sets its sights on a Southern California title when they compete at the Southern California Regional Finals next Friday in Cerritos. The best-ever finish for the Gauchos at the SoCal Finals was fourth place in 2016 when they went on to finish fifth in the state.