After four years of running for the Conquistadors, three City Championships and three previous California Interscholastic Federation State Championship appearances, senior Justin Hazell became the first ever Conquistador to win the CIF Cross Country State Championship at Woodward Park in Fresno on November 25.
“Justin has taken the world by storm with his incredible perseverance and drive to become the best at his craft,” said CIF Los Angeles City Section Sports Information Director Dick Dornan. “We are very proud of what he has accomplished for ECR and our section.”
With a winning time of 15:04, Hazell not only set a school record, but became the first ever Los Angeles City Section cross country runner to win a state title.
“It felt like a dream when I crossed the finish line,” Hazell said. “It felt great knowing that I represented the City section and El Camino.”
During his high school career, Hazell ran his way into the State finals all four years, shaving his times down dramatically each season. In his freshman year, Hazell ran a 16:34, which was the third-best time on a team that won the City Section that year. Just two years, in his junior season, Hazell ran a 15:10.7 at State, which placed him fourth among the top runners in California and set him up for a chance to win the title this season.
The 2014 season was the first time the Conquistadors had ever won a City title, and they have since won two more, going back-to-back in 2016 and 2017.
Besides talented runners entering the program like last year’s seniors Ethan Estrada and Cody Brdar, Hazell has not been the only reason for the school’s emergence as a City Section powerhouse.
In 2014, the school hired an alternative school science teacher, an alumni of UCLA, head coach Jun Reichl, who had ran cross country and track in college and was on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll during that time.
“Coach Reichl brought a different dimension to the program when he started,” athletic director Richard Yi said.
Now in his fourth season as El Camino’s head coach, Reichl has led his boys to City titles in three seasons and had his girls finish in the top five the past two seasons.
Reichl has been able to guide many talented Conquistador runners to become some of the top runners in the area, all the while maintaining a positive and respectful relationship with all of his runners.
Although Hazell will be graduating, the junior boys are going to look to build on the last few years of success. It will be a tall order to repeat as City champions for a third straight season, but under a motivated young coach with a core of strong experienced runners, El Camino looks to stick around.