Track 2005

UCSB Men’s Track – Micah’s journal

Micah Tyhurst

1960 miles | 30+ hours | All worth it!

This weekend athletes from the entire Western Region met to do battle for the NCAA West Regional Championships as the first round of NCAA competition. The site was none other than “Track Capital USA” Eugene, Oregon, home of the Ducks. A dream came true for me this weekend. Wednesday I left at 3:30 pm with my teammate Chris Ashley, with whom I would share amazing memories, and started our long trip to Eugene. He and I were the only ones willing to drive up and cheer on the team, and what a reward. As we remember Oregon’s greatest, even America’s greatest, Steve Prefontaine, this being the 30th anniversary of his death, it was only fitting that this trip happen.

On Thursday we arrived in a little town called Coos Bay, though this was 3 hours out of the way, and made a stop at Marshfield High School, what an amazing sight that was. It was a crowded small mill town, yet it gave off such an aura that it chilled my spine. I had to visit Pre’s high school, and so we did. I pull off the road to get gas and ask the attendant, because you don’t pump your own gas in Oregon, where it was, it must have been meant to be because it was two streets down from where we were. We pull up and park off campus, and start our run. We go down to the track, which was amazing, and do two laps while kids practice Pop-Warner League and two runners from the high school are stretching. The runners start their run, and we follow, down to an amazing park with a great trail running all around it. As we are closing our run we do the last mile on the track, there was something in the air, and Chris and I decided to drop the last mile to 5:08.. at that place anything is possible. We chatted with the local high school runners, who weren’t sure if we knew who Steve Prefontaine was, we had some fun with that!

Back in the car and on to Eugene. Friday competition began, we went on our morning run, along “Pre’s Trail,” which was an amazing woodchip trail across from campus, and ran up to “Pre’s Rock,” where he had the accident. This was very emotional for me. I have held this man, whom I have never met, and sadly never will, so highly and admired everything he did, and to see where he died and how he is remembered was a great feeling. Day 1 of the NCAA Regional had its ups and downs. The 1500 had 3 qualifying heats, Mike Chavez in the first, and Scott McConville in the third. Neither qualified and neither PRed, but they had made it this far which is a great feat. Gabe Mann threw a PR mark of 210ft in the javelin made finals but did not through farther, and is still on the cusp of making it to Nationals, along with hammer thrower Eugene Bradley who PRed with a toss of 200ft 11in. Tetlo Emmen and Ben Armel ran the 800 in two different heats. Neither PRed and only one made finals. Tetlo ran strong in finals and made Nationals by the skin of his teeth, but he is in. On Day 2, after being delayed for 30min due to rain, Scott Brandos ran the steeple chase. after going out strong and maintaining second place, he fell off and just held on to finish. The men’s 4×400 went and their race was good, but unfortunately not good enough to qualify.

Though some had good days and others bad, one thing is for certain, that the trip was well worth it! I did and saw things and went place I had only dreamed about, Hayward Field, Pre’s Rock, Coos Bay, Track Town Pizza, everything distance runners dream about!

16 May 2005: Big West Conference Championships May 11th to 14th at UCI.
My fairy-tale season has ended, and they all lived happily ever-after. I cannot believe what was done this past weekend, our program has achieved something most only dreamed of, and few even thought of! The UCSB Track and Field Men’s team came out 3rd in the Big West, a feat not done in 12 years! And though Bethany will write about it, the Women did what I, along with others, knew they could do all along, win their first Big West Track & Field Title! This was a great weekend!

We departed from campus on Thursday evening and headed down to Irvine, what a great drive that is! I sat next to Scott Brandos, who ended up being my roommate as well, and we talked about a lot, and not a lot of it was track. It was nice to get our minds off of the task for a second, because I had been thinking about it for the last two weeks! Scott challenged me to see who could drink the most from our gargantuan gallon water jugs when we were about 30min from the hotel–the result of this was pure agony during the team meeting, and sweet relief at the end (sorry for being so graphic!) After that we went to our rooms, showered, watched TV talked a little race strategy and went to bed. Luckily I had no nightmares this time!

Tuesday night I received a phone call from my mom, my high school track coach, Greg Wells, who had battled cancer since my senior year just passed away. I came to a complete stop as my mom said the words, I was in total shock. He meant a lot to me and is one of the two men at Loyola High School who is responsible for making me what I am today, and I owe a lot to him. This was devastating news, my first thought was, I have to call my old teammates, tell them, and make sure they are ok! So I did, I spoke to one at length, David Torrence who runs for Cal and last year ran the 1500m at World Junior Championships finishing 5th in a 3:43 (4:00 for the mile). We helped each other out, it made me feel a little better. The next day I woke up and had a cough and sore throat, which was not fun!

Friday I woke up, throat hurt a little more, but that didn’t matter it was time to perform and this time it’s for the team, not for me! My race was not until 7:55pm Friday night, so I hung out in the hotel almost all day. At 2pm I went to watch Scott, Alex and the other girls run the steeple and 1500m trials. The Steeplechase was very exciting; Scott and Alex Cardiasmenos (senior) ran the smartest races they have run all year. The pack got out quickly and held a fast pace, Scott and Alex hung back and let everyone tire while they hit their splits, eventually everyone except for two people faded as Scott blew by people in the last lap and finished 3rd to receive All-Conference honors, and lowered his PR to 9:00.32 (4th All-Time). Alex finished a strong 6th and PRed in his last steeplechase as a Gaucho.

The Men’s 800m time trials went well with every Gaucho qualifying to the finals, where they ended up finishing 1,2,8! Armel capped his Big West career with his 3rd Championship (only the second person to win the 800 three times) and Emmen finished right behind as they have always been known to do, with Justin Coburn (junior) finishing 8th and scoring for us in that event. Armel and Emmen ran the 3rd and 4th legs on the Championship 4×400 team as well! The last event, that was a great way to end the two days!

There was no trial for the Men’s 1500, it went straight to finals on Saturday where school record holder Scott McConville finished 4th and Mike Chavez (sophomore) finished 6th, both scoring big points. The 1500 this year was the second most stacked race in the Conference this year, second only to the 5k!

The last two distance events at the Big West Conference Championships were the 10k (Friday night) and 5k (Saturday afternoon). The 10k featured very fast runners, but the 10k is a game and it could be anyone’s. From the gun we ran 1:24 for the first two laps — 5:36 pace– a little slow. It picked up to 78s for the next two, then slowly started to go faster, 10:22 through 3200m. Then all hell broke loose. The leaders threw in a 75, then a 75 then another 75, then down to 73 and those were held for a while, then we dropped to 71s, our Gaucho pack held together for a long time, Loren Bland (red-shirt junior), Art Avitia (junior) and Jeff Gardina were all there with me! With 8 laps to go, the front pack had broken from me, and I had to just keep telling myself that we were over half way and that I couldn’t give up now! With 5 laps to go Jeff Gardina and a Utah runner, Clark Bryner, passed me which moved me back to 6th. The battle with my mind and willpower began! I had to finish strong and I had to score high! With 3 laps to go something snapped and I got in a zone. I saw the Utah runner coming back, I passed him, and I saw Jeff start to come back. Jeff had put such a gap on me that I could not close on him, though with 400m to go I kicked hard and almost caught Jeff, but no matter what we still got the points. Loren and Art ran a great race, working together and finishing 8th and 9th so Art got the point, though we say they shared it! Senior Jason Boyce had a good race and finished his last 10k as a Gaucho strong. But we were all coming back the next day for the 5k! That was the hardest race I had ever run, and my legs for the next 20min felt like they would cramp in every spot if I started to run, I had to walk for most of my cool down, until I had a talk with Dave Monico, coach and former teammate! He too finished 5th in the 10k last year, and he gave me advice, focus on the 5k now, forget about the 10. So I did!

Saturday morning I woke up coughing and rolled out of bed to do a 10min shake out run to get my legs feeling good–as I touched my feet to the ground my quads felt as if they would give out immediately! Though I got it moving and on the run and they didn’t feel too bad! Again a lot of waiting in the hotel, our race was not until 5:25pm, so it was relaxing until then! Scott and Alex were in the 5k, as well the guys that ran the 10k and the 1500. Tim Aukshunas (red-shirt freshman) was joining in fresh to race also! The odds in the 5k were against us, any of us! With my PR of 14:17.72 I was ranked 9th which made things a little harder. I forgot all about ranking, times and everything, and kept telling myself that I can out race anyone there. The gun went off and Nick Arciniaga from Cal State Fullerton, who beat me out for the win in the 1500m at Cal-Nevada’s took the lead. We paced 4:54 through the mile, very slow. At about lap 5 I look and see 6 Cal Poly uniforms in front of me, 2 from Utah and a Fullerton, which was very bleak, because all of the people I am seeing have much faster PRs than I do. At lap 6 Ben Bruce from Cal Poly throws in a huge move to break the pack, which was successful, the pack dwindled down to 7 of us as opposed to the 10 and we were in a line. I didn’t know how fast I was going, but I am guessing it was fast, at least faster than I had gone before. Now the pack was Ben Bruce, Andy Coughlin, and Troy Swier of Cal Poly, Trevor Ball and Mike Nielson of Utah State, Jordan Horn of Fullerton and myself. More and more laps at that pace and people started to fall off. As one would fall I tucked in on him, and then went by, this happened twice, until I find myself in 4th, with Mike Nielson of Utah on my tail and Bruce, Coughlin and Ball ahead of me. With 3 laps to go Nielson moved in front of me, and I said to myself, ‘You can take 5th that’s still pretty good,’ then I look over at my teammates yelling and screaming for me and realize that I could not look them in the eye with a 5th place finish today! With 500m to go and four people in front of me, the leaders probably 10 seconds ahead, I had to go! I laid it all out there, and gave every ounce I had and then some, kicking hard I move to 4th, then Coughlin come back to me and now I am in 3rd, I make up so much ground I only lost to second place Ball, by 1.5 seconds! I had done it! All-Conference in the 5k! I could definitely look my teammates in the eyes now! As I was stepping up to the awards stand, I tripped, no one laughed though, it was amazing the respect that people had at that moment, one of the greatest moments of my life, and the greatest of my college career. Congrats to all my teammates, and we have to do it again! Next up, Cross Country!

1 May 2005: Irvine and Card Invite.
Another weekend of fast racing for the Gauchos! We split squads this weekend at three different meets. Ben Armel, Tetlo Emmen, Scott McConville, Mike Chavez, Scott Brandos and Alex Cardiasmenos all competed at the Cardinal Invitational in Stanford, myself and freshman Brett Thomason traveled to UC Irvine to run the steeplechase at the Steve Scott Invitational, and the rest of our runners performed at Cal Poly SLO.
At Cardinal our 800m runners ran very well taking second in both of their races, Tetlo ran first with a time of 1:49.06, then Ben in the next heat ran a time of 1:48.5! Both great times, and shows tremendous consistency for both of them! Scott McConville went out hard and finished in a time of 3:49, not a PR but Scott is running consistently. In the men’s steeplechase Scott Brandos ran a 9:04, which is a PR and an NCAA Regional qualifier!
In SLO Jeff Gardina ran the 3000m and ran an 8:21.63 and took 2nd, Loren Bland was the first UCSB finisher in the 1500m and ran a 3:58, just missing the conference qualifier.
In Irvine Brett and I were joined by Ben Berkowitz who is currently red shirting in the 3000m steeplechase. There was not a steeple in the schedule for the SLO meet, and our times previously were not fast enough to get into a good heat at Cardinal. The night before, I had a dream, more like a nightmare!
[It is the next day, race day, and the gun goes off. Then all of a sudden I am in the van on the way back to Santa Barbara and I don’t remember what happened during the race. I was bothered because no one would tell me what I ran, I assumed that it was bad, and felt horrible, thinking I ran something like 9:50…] I felt like I got shot out of the starters gun right off the line. I meant to run a 76 and keep running 76s. It did not turn out to be that way, I think the dream put me over the top and I ran a 73 first lap. That was extremely too fast and I would feel that later. I tried to drop everyone and get after the time I wanted. Since I started running the steeple I had fallen twice, both times last year. Once into the water pit, head first, my foot slipped out from under me as I planted to clear it and BAM! Head first into the water, I had to swim out! The other time I fell I was pushed from behind at the conference championships.
I had let those two times get the better of me in my first two races! I went out slowly and was WAY to careful, not wanting to repeat the incident. This time, I went after it, and didn’t even care about falling; I just looked ahead at the time, 9:08.15, the Regional Qualifier and my chance to run at the University of Oregon, Distance Capital USA! On the third lap, Bret Thomason went up to clear the second hurdle and ran his trail leg straight into the barrier; he did finish the race, bravely! It swelled up pretty badly too.
On the last lap I almost fell myself, I was very tired, due to going out too hard! But I had to keep going because there was an Irvine runner right behind me! At the third barrier I stuttered and had to step it and couldn’t hurdle it…I ran hard the last two hundred charging into the water jump, and racing hard the last 70m.
As I hurdled the last barrier I could only watch the clock count down as I tried to fly to the line as fast as possible! My previous PR had been run earlier this year, a 9:32, this weekend I ran a 9:08…but it was a 9:08.84…I just missed my chance! I won the race, PRed by 24 seconds, and yet, I was still disappointed…hard to believe! Twice season I have been victim of the Bitter-Sweet races, and I really wish it would stop! Next up, are the Conference Championships at UC Irvine May 11-14th! I have the option to either run the 3000m steeplechase or the 10k on the first day of the meet, and I am definitely running the 5k. This week is an off week, just time to train for me, for some they will be going to Occidental College to get the last chance at a Conference qualifying mark. This is the tail end of the season, so we are all setting up to hit a huge peak! I can’t wait to race again!

24 April 2005: Mt Sac.
“The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare.”
— Juma Ikangaa, 1989 NYC Marathon winner
“To keep from decaying, to be a winner, the athlete must accept pain – not only accept it, but look for it, live with it, and learn not to fear it.”
— Dr. George Sheehan

It’s hard to believe that this has been going the way it has for so long, but at the same time not! I began with two quotes this week because I believe these are two of the most important quotes that someone as an Intercollegiate, or any type of athlete, especially endurance, should know. I believe that it is my will to prepare that has put me in this position; I was willing to put in the work to get to this point! George Sheehan has some of the best quotes ever, the one about pain, leads me to my recap of the weekend, and the pain it takes to race….
…FRESNO, Ca; April 22-23 we competed at the California/Nevada Championships. This includes schools from all over California and Nevada and usually works out to be a good meet. This was a down year, unfortunately, though still competitive. Many of the runners ended up running events that they don’t usually run, like me running the 1500m. To lead into this I must reminisce back to my high school years. Throughout high school I was taunted by my teammates for being the “slow one.” I am not the quickest person out there, never have been and I don’t claim to be. I was teased especially for not having a kick at the end. (Back to the present) Now I am used to running the longer races, 5k, 3k and such so from the gun I was in the back thinking to myself, “Why is everyone getting out so fast? OOOHH YEAH! THERE ARE ONLY 3.75 LAPS!!” So I move up following my race plan (break the race in three parts first 500m stick on back of the front pack, 2nd 500m move to top positions and the last 500m go for it!) and things are going well. The race was playing out just as I had known it would, the Cal Poly SLO runners in the front with two other guys pushing it making it fast so I don’t have to, it was perfect. First lap, 65 too slow for this race, that’s 4:20 mile pace! Second lap comes in 62, that’s better! The last two laps were a blur to me! I remember running up to the top 5 like I was supposed to, I saw my teammate make a move during a surge that the front runners put in. If I didn’t see my teammate I probably would not have gone! 300m to go I am still in 5th and the leader makes a break putting 10-15m on me. I am feeling amazing right now, telling myself I can win this, so I chase after him. I make up the distance and with 100m to go I pull up along side of him and all of a sudden I have put myself in contention for a win in a race I don’t even run. With 60m to go my teammates thought I had him, but he wasn’t giving up and neither was I!! My legs lost feeling, and it felt like my brain was telling them to do something and they were not answering (haven’t we all been in that situation before). It came down to the wire and with the difference of .11 seconds I lose. After the race the first thing I say is “That was SO FUN!” I rarely get to run that fast, I PRed by 9 seconds, and was so excited because I was going to receive a plaque, my first award for collegiate running! My teammate Alex Cardiasmenos (Senior) took 3rd. So the winner, from Cal State Fullerton, Alex and myself get to stand on Podiums and get announced. While they butchered our names and handed us the plaques I could only think about how much I love this sport!
This weekend also meant a season best for two of our runners in the 800m, Ben Armel, last years conference champ, ran a 1:49.92 running away from the field in the last 300m; and Scott McConville, usually a 1500m runner ran a 3 second PR of 1:52.56 and kicked a tremendous last 200m to move from 3rd to last to 2nd! Gabe Mann, a native Santa Barbaran threw the javelin 206′ which qualifies him for the Regional meet in Eugene, Oregon in May.
I would like to end this week’s journal with a quote that means more to me than any in this world could. This is from a man who never had a chance to reach his peak. Killed in a car accident at the young age of 24, Steve Prefontaine was the greatest American Distance runner, I would say, that there ever was. 4th in the world at the age of 21 with American records from the 3000m to the 5000m, he could have been even better than what some saw!
“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift”
— Steve Prefontaine (1951-1975)

17 April 2005: Mt Sac.
This week was probably the most nervous week I have ever had. It started off by me not knowing what heat I would be in at the recent meet, the Mt. San Antonio College Relays (aka mt. SAC). After Wednesday, I finally knew, though this was not a relief. Not only was this only brought to my knowledge two days before my race, I was in a heat that, when looked upon by any collegiate runner, would evoke the words, wow, good luck man! The heat read off as a laundry list of talented runners, one of which I had to convince myself I was. The workout that day was race pace track work, so for me 800m at 2:16 pace, I felt great and felt very ready to take on the elite group I was up against.
Friday rolled around and there I was, with my teammates at Mt. SAC ready for a great day! The temperature was a little high for some, fine for me, somewhere in the 80s. Everything was running smoothly, until a sprinkler broke. With water spewing uncontrollably everywhere the first three lanes of the track near the steeple pit flooded. A crew rushed to clear the track and get the flooding under control. This set the meet back by 30-40 minutes. This pushed my race back from 6:50pm to 7:20-30pm, or so I thought. At 6:30pm I walk down with my fellow teammate, school record holder Scott McConville, to find out the delay and to check in. I find that the delay is not nearly as long as I had assumed and the race was going to go off at 7:10!! I usually need 50min to warm up and do my routine, this made things a little more difficult and I really had to push myself to make it! I cut my warm up down to 16min instead of the usual 20. I was so rushed I almost forgot to stretch!
Men’s 5000 meters final call, everyone move to the track, said the voice over the speaker. There I was warming up with some of the best runners in the country, most of them having already run 30 seconds faster than my PR at the time. Out of the 71 people entered in the race 61 actually are there, and I was given the number 67. So with my high number came the worst starting position. There were two separate starting lines, I was in the back of one. I could compare that start to the start of a road race, people crammed in everywhere! The gun went off and there we went.
After 200m a fellow Big West Conference member from Cal State Fullerton, lost a spike, so he had one shoe on and the other off, barefoot. Another runner from Colorado lost his shoe, and just threw the other one off as well. Around the mile mark, we came through at 4:32, another man fell down, almost taking me with him, elbows were flying, feet were kicking high, and adrenaline was pumping. I was forced to move past people in lane 3 some times, and that takes a lot out of someone. Pushing on, passing people, my pack moves through two miles at 9:05, even pacing for two miles. To put this in perspective we must recall that for the two mile in high school the fastest I had ever run was a 9:25, and there was no more to run after that! I am finally able to settle in lane 1, but this hurt me more than anything else! There I was in lane 1, watching people go by, and all I could do was watch, until 2 laps to go. I moved out and was able to latch on to two other runner from Colorado (2004 NCAA Cross Country Champions), I let them pull me into my last lap.
With 400m to go I could not begin to put into words the feeling that I felt at this point. I had run 68 (4:32 mi pace) second laps for that first two miles, dropped to 70 (4:40) second laps for two of them then all of a sudden, I look around, and there are people I never would have seen myself running with, I dug deep and reached for something I knew I had. I pulled out and ran a 63 second last lap, blowing by people, putting three seconds on at least one person in the last 200m! That was one of the greatest races, maybe the best, I have ever had!
Prior to my race there were, two runners representing UCSB in the 5k, Art Avitia (red shirt sophomore), and Tim Aukshunas (red shirt freshman): 15:40 and 15:16 respectively, two runners in the 3k steeplechase, Scott Brandos (red shirt junior) and Alex Cardiasmenos (senior): 9:09 and 9:20 respectively, one runner in the 800m, Justin Coburn (red shirt sophomore): 1:53.82 and one runner in the 1500m, Mike Chavez (sophomore) 3:50.98. Though none of those times were PRs they all ran well. After my race Scott McConville ran the 1500m in 3:46.79, .02 seconds slower than his own school record, proving that McConville is very consistent.
This was a decent weekend for the team, and what turned out to be a great weekend for me. I’ll be back next week!

10 April 2005: Texas and twilight in Fullerton.
This weekend the Gaucho Track Men split our squad at two different meets. We sent two throwers and five distance runners to the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays at the University of Texas and a majority of the team attended the Titan Twilight meet at Cal State Fullerton.
The weather report from Texas said it would be windy, and with our great conditions out here on the coast it is tough to adjust. The two throwers at Texas, Eugene Bradley (junior) and Ryan Lockner (senior) threw well, but did not PR. The distance runners ran in the Distance Medley Relay. The four legs of the relay are the 1200m, 400m, 800m and 1600m. The fifth was an alternate. The athletes, Mike Chavez (sophomore) ran a 3:03 in the 1200m, followed by Ben Armel (red shirt senior and 2004 Big West Champion in the 800m) ran the 400m in 48.6 and finished his leg strong handing off to Tetlo Emmen (junior and 2004 West Region Champion in the 800m). Tetlo ran a good leg of 1:51 in the 800m, and lastly Scott McConville (red shirt junior and School Record holder in the 1500m with a time of 3:46.77) finished the relay with a 4:10. All together the time was a 9:57, just one second away from the school record in that event. [Editor’s note: That’s 9:57 for 4000 meters, or roughly 2.49 miles – just about 4 min mile pace.] At Fullerton it was windy as well. Justin Coburn (junior) who usually runs the 800m took a chance in the 400m and ran very well, running a 51.56 and finishing third, which is a great time for Justin in the open 400m. In the 1500m the Gauchos swept the top three spots with Art Avitia (red shirt sophomore) being out top finisher. In the 5000m Loren Bland (red shirt junior) attained his first collegiate win with a 7-second PR running 14:52.76.
A few runners, throwers and jumpers took the weekend off, myself included, to rest for our biggest competitive meet this year, the Mt. San Antonio College Relays, where three of us will be running the 5000m, again my self included, two will compete in the 3000m steeplechase, two will be competing in the 1500m, and three will be running the 800m.
“Red shirt” is when an athlete does not compete for a season. Every NCAA athlete has 5 years to complete 4 years of sport. For example, I missed my Cross Country season this year due to my heat stroke incident, because I would miss this season I red shirted to save one season. So when I run cross country next year I will be a red shirt sophomore. There are far more details involving red shirts that go on for pages, though the nack really is just this: Its like putting a season in the freezer, I didn’t want to use it this week (year), but I want to keep it around because I will use it at a later date. That is why people can run in college for 5 years, which I plan on doing.

06 April 2005: My life.
So this is my first time writing for a journal online where everyone around the world could read it, crazy to think. Start off by saying my name is Micah Tyhurst, and I am a Cross Country and Track & Field athlete at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I grew up in Southern California my whole life, to be more specific Los Angeles. Through my entire childhood I knew I would be an athlete. A baby born in Los Angeles in the summer of 1984 parallel to the Olympics, how could he not be an athlete? I played soccer for 12 years for AYSO, volleyball, basketball, football, baseball, all organized. My friends and I were so crazy that in 6th grade we would even put together roller hockey games in the middle of my friend’s street, and make up games to play that entailed running and agility.
My parents always tell a story of me at the age of 3 running up along side the soccer game my brother was playing yelling, “kick, kick.” Though that is too long ago for me to remember my first memory of actually running was in grammar school, I was never the fastest in my class, for a long time far from it! One day I just decided to see how many times I could run around the playground before the bell rang…this was not a small playground by any means. Throughout grammar school if my parents were unable to take me somewhere I would either roller blade or run to my destination. Though my first organized run did not come until the summer of my freshman year of high school, as I was about to attend Loyola High School.
It was a warm summer afternoon in downtown L.A.; I went to the football field to try out, looking around I noticed that my presence was far from outstanding. Picture a 14 year old boy, about 5 feet tall, barely 100lbs, standing around next to people who were already 6 feet tall trying out for quarter back. Needless to say my career in football was cut short. After a conversation with a friend of mine about high school soccer and getting in shape he told me he ran Cross Country and that I should think about it. I will never forget him for that.
He was like an evangelist preaching a word that I was ready to fully absorb myself in. I remember watching the 1996 Olympics with my family 3 years prior to my freshman year, and sprinting was the only thing I remember watching. This was my first introduction to the amazing world of long distance running. I had no idea what to expect, so like any clueless freshman I went hard on the first day. I was running with the leaders, one of the coaches ran with us that day, he looks over at me and says, “Oh, hi what’s your name? You must be a freshman.” I look back on that day and laugh, pretentious little kid that I was, but that began it all.
That was the greatest decision I have ever made in my life. I started that season with a 23:18 for 3 miles and falling off the back. I can do nothing but laugh when I hear that time anymore. I ended the season as the freshman MVP, and 4th for JV and scored in the League Championships. That finish earned me my first Varsity letter (top 14 being varsity, 7 in the Varsity race 7 in the JV race). After that season I had already missed Soccer try-outs and was looking forward to volleyball, not track against my coaches wishes. I got cut and he loved it! I guess it was just destiny that lead to that.
One morning I got to school a little earlier than usual and saw my coach running around the track, “I can’t believe he is running and didn’t tell us,” I thought to myself. So I ask to join him, and the next day I was out there at 6:30am wrapped up in button up pants a sweatshirt and a beanie. People from the team started asking me what I was doing. At that time doing more than the minimum requirement was an outrageous action, and undermining the authority of the seniors. Needless to say what I received was far from praise. My coach hearing this made an announcement that morning practice was optional, which meant that it was really mandatory, so more and more people showed up.
The effect that this had, even I can’t believe to this day. The next three years flew by, school, sports, girls…the usual high school career…far from it! I had races almost every weekend, running twice a day every day except for two weeks of the year, the week after Cross Country and the week after Track. Partying had no place in my life, and a social life was hard enough at an all-boys school, so imagine with running the hindrance that had. Not to say that I did not have my fair share of relationships…
All this sacrifice, hard work and determination, junior year comes and goes and nothing to show for it except two failed attempts at making the state meet as a team. Team was always the most important thing for me. All I wanted was to be successful as a team, that is a big reason of why I ran, the other people that were sweating and straining next to me. The summer of senior year things changed, we did what needed to be done. We went into my last Cross Country season ranked 10th in the State. The season flew by one win after another as a team. One second place finish, throughout the season, though not when it mattered.
Section Finals comes around, we were ranked 3rd going in. This is a true underdog story. I cross the line in 15th place in the hardest section in California and as I cross seeing my two teammates already finished I knew we had done it, we had won, something that hadn’t been done for 16 years at Loyola! We had won a Southern Section Championship and the 3rd fastest time ever on the course. My time for 3 miles was then 15:25, an improvement to say the least!! We carried that momentum through to our first trip to the California State Championships, went in again the underdogs, people doubted us, calling it a fluke, and we showed them! The First State Championship in school history, 5th fastest team time on the course ever, what an accomplishment! To top it off, the greatest part of the day, was before the awards ceremony they asked me to come to the awards tent…What could they want with me, I was only 15th in the state, and third on my team for that matter!
The joy that filled me that day has yet to this day been matched, and how could it? I had been selected to receive the California State Sportsmanship award, something that I never knew existed, and something that should be the goal of all athletes. I kept it from my mom that day, and after we were awarded our medals and plaque for winning the announcer came on and invited me back on stage. My mom was perplexed, and the look on her face is something that I will never forget as I was announced, along with two other young men, as the best sportsmen in the state.
After that day, that season, everything lacks in comparison. That year we also won the Southern Section Championship for Track and Field. That year I ran the two-mile in 9:25, and was part of the 4x1600m relay that ended with the 2nd fastest time in the nation. Two championships that I was part of in one year, my senior year, that year goes down in the history of the school as the greatest athletic year ever, and even sets the record in the state for the most section championships won in one year, 5 (Volleyball, Basketball, and Golf were the others.)
I graduated and trained harder than ever to get ready for college. What I was doing was something only two other runners before me had done, based on the fact that fewer than 3% of high school athletes actually participate in NCAA Division sports. Then my new life began. UCSB was on the horizon and I needed to be ready to prove myself, especially because I was coming in with four other runners, all of whom were better than I was in high school. We were the investment for the future, and so far we have proven worthy.
My first season started off pretty poorly, I over trained (yes it is possible!) and hit a slump, did not finish where I wanted to, though to cliche, “you live and you learn.” My first track season started with a bang and a drop when I passed out while doing a run up Old San Marcos Road. This was a hint of my over training again, and I slowed down, my tendency to run in the front had to be curtailed for now. It was a rude awakening my Freshman year, the change from the three mile course to the 8,000m course (4.97 miles) was a big one, and the change from being the best to, well NOT!
My times were as follows: 25:56 for the Stanford 8k which placed me somewhere in the 60s in the race and 8th for the team. For track my times did slightly improve due to my catching the over training early, and I ran 15:02 for the 5000m, 8:55 for the 3000m, 9:37 for the 3000m Steeplechase, and 4:03 for the 1500m. I qualified for the Conference Championships in the 5k and the Steeple and placed 12th and 16th respectively. To end my season on a better note I ran a time trial with my teammate, for two miles he ran an 8:58 and I ran a Personal Best of 9:17.
This past Cross Country season for me was nonexistent. It started off pretty badly, with a summer full of distraction, and in ability to do what I was supposed to. I came in to the time trial, questioning my shape, regardless I made the team, and went to camp with the team. All was well until our Sunday run. Now in this program our Sunday runs are our longest, usually 1.5 to 2 hours long. On this particular day I had not hydrated properly, and let his be a lesson for all, and felt the full effects from it. Well the good part was I finished the run…the bad part is I don’t remember running the last half mile…
…I came-to in a hospital bed writhing around strapped down, spitting on people, with nurses, doctors and my coach all around me. I could do nothing but writhe and think to myself that this was a nightmare and want to wake up, I could not remember where I was or what had happened. I had heat stroke, and severe dehydration. My pulse was at 170 per min for an hour or more and my temperature was upwards of 107.6. I am lucky to be alive and owe my life to my teammates who were there to help me when I needed it.
I was out for 5 weeks of absolutely no physical activity whatsoever. That is a fate worse than death for an athlete, especially one who had never been injured before. So I kissed my Cross Country season goodbye and gave it up to a red shirt, which means I don’t compete that year but I still have 3 more years of competition. I watched as my classmates excelled and could do nothing but live vicariously through their accomplishments, which were tremendous!
I came back in the end of their season, my coach had me run a time trial to see if I indeed could come back from something that would scare others into an early retirement. After I came through 2 miles at 9:50 and ran two more laps at the same pace, I knew, as did my coach, that I was far along on the path back from this.
I had a new outlook on life, on running and I knew what I had to do, and got on doing it. My winter training went better than I could have ever hoped for, I had run 7 weeks in a row at 80 miles or more before I ran my first meet. I ran the 1500 and the 3000 and ran 4:05, two seconds away from my PR, and 8:44 an 11 second PR. Off to a good start I had another week of 80 then I would drop to 70 miles for my first 5k.
This was probably the worst state emotionally that I had ever been in before any race. Three hours before my race I had, over the phone, broken up with my girlfriend. Determined not to let that shake me I had to press on. I warmed up, got ready to race, and went after it. The race went out slow for the first lap, though I sat, then on the second lap I moved to the outside, blew by the others and left them in my wake. A few went with me and hung on, in the end I Pred by 18 seconds running a 14:44 for 5000m and finishing 21 seconds ahead of the next person. Off that success my next races was the 3000m steeplechase in a meet where my placing would score. I took third, scoring 8 points, and ran a Personal Best of 9:32. Again using the momentum from the week prior I was entered in the Stanford 5k. Though I was in the slowest heat, it still promised to be fast. After 5 laps of sitting on the leaders I jumped out again, pushed the pace because they were falling off. More people went with me this time, and with one lap to go I got passed by two people. This was not the end though, and I stayed back, assessed how I thought they felt, then with 300m to go I went after them, with 150 to go I passed the both of them and won that race as well in a time of 14:36, and 8 second PR! Top put that in perspective, and to give me a slice of humility, the fastest heat was won in 13:33!
The next week we traveled as a team to Cal State Long Beach for another Scoring meet, the second most important meet of the season. The Big West Challenge Cup is always a great meet, and promises fierce competition. I was running the 3000m and was predicted to take 6th. The race played perfectly, to everything that I had expected, and with the help from my teammates I was able to go after the top four and run a fast time, then with one lap to go as I trailed by 50m I made my move, crept up and grabbed 2nd place. The winner and I broke the meet record from last year, though he gets it because he won. The time, 8:21.22, is now the 3rd fastest ever by a Gaucho and something just another time that has to be beaten by myself.
This race was last week, and I plan on taking this weekend off and just training through to Mt.SAC, the most important 5000m of my life. My teammates will be running at Cal State Fullerton and at the Texas Relays, so we wish them luck and I will let you all know how they do!

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