The Saddleback men's cross country team finished in third place at the Orange Empire Conference Championships on Friday in Riverside. The Gauchos had three runners in the top seven for their best finish of the season.
Saddleback appears to be saving its best for last in men's cross country as the Gauchos had a solid finish on Friday at the OEC Championships. With only six runners, the Gauchos weren't supposed to contend on Friday and at times looked like one of the best teams in the field.
Saddleback had three finishers in the top seven in the race as Scott Hickman, Julian Lasting and Sebastian Arias finished 3-6-7 on the 4-mile trek. As a result, all were named to the Orange Empire All-Conference First Team following the race.
Hickman, Lasting and Arias were all in a pack of seven runners at the one-mile mark, looking very strong and making a run for an individual title. With one mile remaining, all three were still within striking distance. In the end, Hickman finished in third place, just five seconds out of second and 21 seconds off the blistering pace set by Riverside's Enrique Villa. Hickman finished in 21:44 on a hot day, which was three seconds ahead of the next runner in the field. Lasting and Arias were back-to-back in sixth and seventh place at the finish line. Lasting finished in 21:56.7 while Arias crossed the line in 22:08.9 for his first top-10 finish of the season.
Saddleback finished in third place with 68 team points and was just 14 points back of second place Santa Ana College. The Gauchos finished 32 points ahead of fourth place Orange Coast College, a team they have lost to on two occasions this season.
Saddleback will compete again at the Southern California Regional Championships next Friday in Cerritos. The top 14 programs from Southern California advance to the state championships in Fresno on November 17.