This time around, Southwestern emerges as the Southern California champion, having stopped GCC's run of five straight titles in that meet with a blistering 22-point performance on a flat and fast East Mission Bay Park course in San Diego on Nov. 6. Southwestern's scoring five all crossed the finish line before Glendale's Brianna Jauregui, who took 10th place as the Vaqueros' top finisher in the team's second-place, 68-point day.
"It was their home course and they run better there," Lopez said. "We're gonna have to run better."
One thing the Lady Vaqueros believe is in their favor will be the difference in course. The team readily admits it's far more comfortable with the more hilly Woodward course on which Jauregui and Vivian Ochoa were top-five runners on last year's state champion and Jauregui and Keri Molt flourished in high school as a part of the state juggernaut Saugus High squad.
"I know that [the Southwestern] girls knew that course," Molt said. "When we went down there, the [GCC] girls were kind of iffy [about the San Diego course].
"I think it's just gonna be duking it out. … Basically, who wants it more."
Another key to the race is likely the performance of Angie Martinez, the Western State Conference champion who went out fast in San Diego, but fell behind later in the race and was hindered by a calf injury.
There's no getting around the fact that for the women of GCC to repeat as state champs, a dynamic reversal of fortune from the SoCal Championships will have to take place.
Lopez believes it can be done, though, with the biggest components being the change of course and, obviously, a change in performance.