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ANA VENEGAS , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Esperanza's Rich Medellin was selected by the Register as the girls cross country team of the year.

Girls cross country coach of the year: Rich Medellin, Esperanza

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Over a 35-year coaching career at Esperanza, Rich Medellin has many fond memories.

The girls cross country coach recites these memories to his team, hoping to inspire them to great things. The most frequently called upon story is of the 2007 team, the last Aztecs team that qualified for the Nike Nationals.

As Medellin tells it, the program was “at the top of the mountain,” but a new road block was taking shape. When Yorba Linda High opened in 2009, it cut the Aztecs program in half.

“I kind of at that point was thinking, ‘Should I stay? Should I quit coaching?’” Medellin said. “I decided I was going to stick this out and get us back to the point where we were in 2007.”

The Aztecs were on the rise a year ago when they finished third at the CIF State meet.

This year didn’t provide an Orange County championship nor a league title. The team only began to realize its potential when it ran the top time in Division 3 at the CIF-SS Prelims.

The following week, the team finished first at the CIF-SS Finals, earning the program’s first title since 1996. Shannon Mac Kellar, Sapna Dholakia and Summer Shea placed in the top 10 for the Aztecs.

For restoring Esperanza’s top-tier status, Medellin has been selected the Register’s girls cross country coach of the year.

“I talk about that (2007) team so much,” Medellin said. “They get tired of that. Now, they want to kind of one-up them. They won a CIF championship, which is something that team in 2007 did not do.”

The Aztecs finished fourth at this year’s state meet.

Medellin rallies his teams around the mantra, “One team. One dream.”

“My goal is to get us back to that national caliber,” he said. “Ultimately, our goal is to shoot for the stars and try to make Nike Nationals. I’m extremely proud of the girls.”


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