MONTEREY PARK – A determined Laura Aceves overcame pain and injury and a fresh field to win the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase Saturday at the California Community College Track and Field Championships at Mt. San Antonio College.
What made the freshman’s accomplishment all the more impressive is that it came less than 24 hours after breezing to a state meet victory in the 10,000 meters in 80-degree starting time temperature.
Despite the unusual early evening heat, Aceves finished 200 meters ahead of second-place finisher Daisy Esparza of Fullerton College and left the rest of the pack one lap behind. She ran an impressive 37 minutes 30.09 seconds.
“I just wanted to run at my pace and stay focused,” Aceves said.
Esparza finished in 38:32.65 for second place and Cerritos’ Karina Sanchez (38:46.89) was third.
“The heat kept Laura from setting a new state record in the 10,000,” ELAC Coach Louis Ramirez said. “If it wasn’t for the hot temperature, she’d be a new state record holder.”
But as Ramirez noted it appeared the grueling race run in the heat nearly took its toll on Aceves when she returned to the track the next day for the 3,000 steeplechase. Aceves had sore calves, shin splints and a 2-inch blister on her right big toe.
Also, she faced a highly-competitive field in which eight of the top 10-ranked runners in the state were running fresh. It included 2013 state runner-up Karla Vernola of Moorpark and Modesto’s Becky Hobby, the 2014 Northern California champion.
Aceves took the lead from the start, staying slightly ahead of Vernola and Hobby. Vernola dropped off the pace after the second lap with only Hobby staying close. Aceves began to distance herself from Hobby and held a 30-meter lead by the fifth lap.
But Aceves, who was running at a state-record setting pace, ran into difficulty and stopped momentarily at the water barrier. After hesitating, she took a step back and jumped over it, but landed in the deepest part of the water. As she struggled to get out of the three-foot water pit, Hobby emerged before she did and slipped past her to take the lead.
“Mentally, I knew I was in pain, but it didn’t bother me physically,” Aceves said. “But when I got to the barrier (for the final time) I wanted to prevent injury to my left leg. I usually land on my left leg, so I tried to adjust landing on my right.”
Displaying the grit and determination that enabled her to win the state cross country championship last fall and the 10,000 meters on Day 1 of the state meet, Aceves responded quickly to the surging Hoggs and almost immediately regained the lead and never looked back.
“I just said to myself that I had to pick it up and run faster,” Aceves said.
Aceves finished strong, and left no doubts when the race was over as she crossed the finish line 15 seconds ahead of Hobbs. Aceves ran 11 minutes 15.14 seconds. Hobbs finished in 11:30.07 to finish second. Kathy Heinneman of El Camino was third (11:38.24).
In the men’s 3,000 steeplechase, ELAC’s Gonzalo Ceja placed third. Ceja, who dominated the field at the Southern California meet the week before, ran 9:33.06. Cuyamaca’s Ryan Maize (9:17.03) won the race and American River’s Chris Kigar (9:19.54) was second.
ELAC’s Daniel Zaragoza placed eighth in the men’s 10,000 meters. The freshman ran 33:01.33. San Diego Mesa’s Steven Martinez won the race in 32:00.31