Bernal competes in championships

Nick Bernal, a freshman cross-country runner at City College, recently qualified for the sport’s state championship — the school’s first male athlete to do so in 10 years.

To reach the championship meet, Bernal competed in the SoCal Championships on Nov. 6, finishing the four-mile race with a time of 21 minutes and 43 seconds to place 31st out of 207 runners.

According to assistant coach Paul Greer, the last City College men’s runner to qualify individually for the state championship was Jabari Jennings, who finished 120th of 225 in the year 2000.

City College Athletics Director Kathy McGinnis explained the significance of Bernal’s feat for the athletic program.

“We have not had a competitive men’s cross-country team in at least a decade, probably longer,” McGinnis said. “Having Nick go (to the championship) was awesome for us.”

At the championship, held in Fresno, Bernal finished 86th out of 217 runners, and despite that impressive mark, he maintains that he could have done better.

“It wasn’t the best performance that I had hoped for,” Bernal said. “But there were only about 25 seconds that separated 86th from 50th place (which was my goal).”

“(We will) use Nick’s success as springboard,” Greer said. “The number one goal next year will be to qualify the team for the state championship, which hasn’t happened in 15 years.”

Bernal said his focus for next year remains unchanged.

“Consistent improvement is the goal,” said Bernal. “I’m a realist. I’m not trying to go win state every year (but) you want to improve.”

Had he been nervous prior to the statewide race?

“Not really at first,” Bernal said. “But as it got closer to the competition, I definitely did. There was so much good competition.”

Bernal added that he is used to running races in southern California in which he generally places high, but there were “only 200-plus in the [Fresno] race and they were all so fast.”

“Nick would run each race at max effort,” said team captain Jonathan Laughter. “He never left anything in the tank at the end of the race.”

“There is no doubt that Nick is a great runner,” Laughter added. “And a lot of that has to do with his dedication to the sport and the years he has put into training.”

“I’ve been running for a couple of years now,” said Bernal, who tries to make sure to run even on the team’s days off.

According to McGinnis, Bernal will be recognized at the cross-country team banquet and the department-wide banquet for all City College athletic teams at the end of the academic year.

McGinnis said the athletic department keeps track of the accolades earned by student athletes like Bernal to help them transfer to and continue competing at four-year universities.

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Bernal competes in championships