Santa Monica College (SMC) women’s cross-country runner Guillermina “Esther” Guillen has been selected as one of only 20 athletes at community colleges statewide to be on the 2005 Pepsi Scholar Athlete Honor Roll, SMC officials said.

The scholar athlete honorees are selected by the Community College League of California’s Commission on Athletics based on athletic and academic achievement, as well as leadership.

“Esther is a talented and committed athlete who willingly and consistently accepts the demands of competitive running,” SMC women’s cross-country coach Eric Barron said. “Esther learned to run outside of her comfort zone, challenging herself to deal with pain while concentrating on performance.”

Candidates for the Pepsi Scholar Athlete honor must have a minimum grade point average of 3.5 — out of a possible 4.0 — and must show outstanding leadership as an athlete or student, or in other activities, SMC officials said.

The candidates must also have participated in two seasons of sports at a California community college.

Currently, there are approximately 25,000 community college student athletes statewide, school officials said.

Guillen, 19, a five-foot-four sophomore, is a Santa Monica resident.

“I was surprised, I didn’t think I’d get it,” Guillen said of the scholar athlete honor.

Barron said Guillen, who ran both cross-country and track in 2004 and cross-country in 2005, is one of the squad’s best runners and is a “huge supporter of the team.”

At the same time, Guillen has maintained a 3.89 grade point average, he said.

She was named SMC women’s cross-country Most Valuable Athlete for 2005, and was also chosen as one of two of the team’s Most Inspirational Athletes the same year.

In both 2004 and 2005, Guillen missed qualifying for the community college cross-country state championship by just a few seconds.

Guillen grew up in San Fernando as the youngest of seven children of Raul and Maria Guillen, Mexican immigrants who were both factory workers.

Guillen said she plans to transfer this fall to either the University of California (UC) at Berkeley or UC-Irvine campus as a sociology or criminology major.

The Pepsi Scholar Athletes are scheduled to be honored Wednesday, April 5th, at the annual Commission on Athletics convention in Sacramento.