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A first-place approach

Mizrael Mendez has excelled for the Glendale college men's cross-country team

October 04, 2011|By Charles Rich, charles.rich@latimes.com
  • Mizrael Mendez has run to the front for Glendale Community College.
Mizrael Mendez has run to the front for Glendale Community…

Mizrael Mendez isn't overly excited with the fast start to his cross-country career at the collegiate level. That's not his style.

When Mendez gets to the starting line to race for the Glendale Community College men's team, there's no strategy planned out before taking to the four-mile courses. He's not overly excited, he's not visualizing and he's trying to block out all distractions once the starting gun goes off.

Thus far it's worked out well, as he's been accumulating first-place individual performances for a Glendale college team eyeing another Western State Conference championship in October and an appearance at the California Community College Cross-Country Championship at Woodward Park in Fresno in November.

Mendez, a freshman, knows what's at stake and he hasn't disappointed in the first month of the season, recording three first-place finishes.

"I don't go out there worrying about anything, like times," Mendez said. "I just set aside all expectations and run my race to the best of my ability.

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"Some people try to visualize a race the night before, but, for me, it's just about walking up to the starting line and going out there running my best. You know pretty much who you are racing against and everybody is running the same course."

For Mendez, there's been plenty of accomplishments for a Glendale college squad that finished sixth in state last season.

He's stepped in and been the consummate runner needed by the Vaqueros, who are set for their most important slate of meets in the coming weeks.

Mendez kicked off the season by posting a 25-minute 58.7-second first-place finish at the Fullerton Invitational on Sept. 3. He followed that by clocking 21:17 to place sixth overall at the Fresno Invitational on Sept. 10.

At the Orange Coast Classic on Sept. 17, Mendez finished first with a mark of 20:21.40. The Vaqueros came in third place in the meet.

In his most recent race Sept. 23, Mendez, a Birmingham High graduate, clocked 20 minutes to win the Golden West Invitational and led the Vaqueros to a second-place team finish at Central Park in Huntington Beach.

"I don't know what I got after certain splits," Mendez said about his performance at the Golden West Invitational. "I just felt good going into that race and I took the lead early.

"If I hadn't done that, then I would have tried to come back at the end. I never let the lead runners out of my sight."

The winning attitude that he's brought to Glendale college hasn't surprised Vaqueros Coach Eddie Lopez.

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