All year, the Hancock College women's cross country team ran toward a berth in the Southern California Preliminaries.

The Bulldogs reached that goal with a 10th-place finish at the Western State Conference Championships Oct. 20, good enough for an at-large berth in the So Cal prelims.

Hancock finished ahead of just two teams, but because Hancock finished eighth at the conference mid-season meet, veteran Hancock coach Louie Quintana said that was good enough for Hancock to get into the So Cal meet.

"I'm excited (about the upcoming So Cal Prelims),'" said Hancock sophomore Maria Uvalle. "We've worked hard for this."

Quintana said, "We've had individuals qualify for the prelims, but this is the first time in recent memory that we've qualified as a team."

The So Cal Prelims will take place at 10 a.m. Friday at Central Park in Santa Clarita. Runners will compete on a 5K course there.

"It's pretty flat except for one big hill," said Quintana.

Besides Uvalle another sophomore, Brianna Magana, is the only other returner from the 2016 Hancock program. Magana is the Bulldogs' top runner.

The other five Hancock runners who are slated to compete at the So Cal Prelims Friday are all freshmen. They are Yadira Castellanos, Alina Delabra, Elisa Garcia, Cherry Inay and Mireya Lopez Martinez.

"I'm very excited about the way we ran at the conference mid-season meet and the finals," said Quintana.

"We put our best team times together at the mid-season meet and the finals. There were other teams trying to get an at-large spot (in the So Cal prelims), but we finished ahead of them because of our team time."

Quintana said that the quality of competition at the Southern Cal prelims would make it hard for Hancock to advance to the So Cal finals as a team.

However, "I think our top two runners (Magana and Uvalle) have a good chance to advance individually," said Quintana. "You have to finish in the top half to move on."

Magana said she really didn't concentrate on cross country when she attended Righetti High School.

"I was in other sports; swimming, water polo, cheerleading, before cross country," she said.

"I really liked cross country once I got into it," she said. "I just like to run."

Magana said her favorite courses have hills, so the hill on the Central Park course should make her happy.

"I like hills because they motivate me to try to make it to the top," she said. "I'll see other runners fall back, but I'll try my hardest to push it to get to the top."

Besides being in charge of the Hancock cross country program, Quintana also coaches the school's women's and men's track teams.

Uvalle and Delabra said they will run track this spring. As for Magana, "I'm thinking about it," she said.

Meanwhile, "I'm really excited about the Southern Cal prelims," said Delabra. "It will be a new experience for me."

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Sports Reporter