SALINAS - Hartnell College sophomore Monica Ruelas used her final run on a course she had toured many times during high school and three times last year as a freshman to see again how much she's improved since last fall, winning the women's race at Harnell Toro Park Invitational and leading the No. 4 Panthers to the team title. Hartnell's 10th-ranked men's team was also victorious, taking first in a five-team competition.
As a freshman, Ruelas finished the season strong earning all-region honors and recorded her lifetime best at Toro Park in the process at 19:54. It was the first time she ever eclipsed the 20-minute barrier over the local course many high schools compete on in league and section championships. On Friday, Ruelas ran solo the second half of the course, which features three hills in succession, to a new lifetime-best of 19:03.
Last year, in the same meet, the sophomore from Gilroy High School only ran 21:11. The mark jumped Ruelas from 24th all-time to 4th overall in program history, trailing only three former All-Americans in Malena Grover, Kathy Lenno, and current assistant coach Rachel Shimabukuro. She also moves into the top 15 performers for all schools.
Ruelas lead a perfect score of 15 points to help Hartnell win the team competition with only individual Hannah Ryan of CCSF breaking up the top six Panthers. Arlene Diaz Leal (19:52) was third, Daniela Salazar (19:57) fourth, Maria Aceves (20:03) fifth, Isabelle Torres (20:06) sixth, and Lauryn Orozco (20:07) seventh. Nina Arias (20:44) was ninth followed by freshman Nerina Campos (21:03) in 10th overall to see eight women earn top 14 medals.
De Anza (51) was second and Clovis (74) finished third.
The Panthers are back on the road for the Norcal Preview Meet on Friday, Oct. 5 on the campus of Shasta College.