There is a new distance star on the scene but where did he come from?
Actually, senior Juan Ambriz has been around for a while. Hailing from John W. North High School, the 4:21 miler has been running for the Huskies for the past three years but it wasn’t until March 26 that he really made a name for himself.
On that day, Ambriz competed against top distance runners from all around Southern California. In the 1600m, he ran 4:21, just two seconds away from breaking the school’s five-year-old record of 4:20, set by alumnus and current Cal Poly San Luis Obispo athlete Tyler Huntley.
During the first few laps, Ambriz’s competitors boxed him in and he was forced to slow himself down. As the race progressed, he was able to get out in the front of the pack and push the pace. Ambriz secured his victory in the last lap by out kicking Rancho Bernardo High School’s senior Burak Tufekci by .82 seconds.
“I’m very confident in my running and my training and it will help me break that record. The only thing I need is just the perfect race where I can run everything I have,” said Ambriz.
His 4:21 time was two seconds faster than his previous personal record. Even though it is still early in the season, this time places Ambriz as 40th in California. The distance phenom also ran 9:28 in the 3200m later that day against a stacked field, including Cathedral Catholic’s Joaquin Martínez de Pinillos.
Both of these times, set so early in the season, are powerful signals toward California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) success later this spring.
As usual, after such an impressive performance, one wonders how Ambriz came to be.
In 2013, Ambriz joined his school’s track team due to the normal high school pressures to join a sports team and his own thought that he may do well in the sport.
Boy was he right. Just a month into season and Ambriz had already lowered his 1600 personal record (PR) from around 5:25 down to 4:49. By league finals, the aspiring athlete had lowered his PR down to 4:32, in his first year ever running track.
The first year distance athlete had impressed his coach and teammates so much that by the fall he had become the captain of his cross country team. Although his more seasoned and experienced teammates weren’t entirely open to this idea, Ambriz ultimately pulled through and became a leader.
Cross Country was a completely new experience for Ambriz but he tackled it head-on. He invested much of his summer towards building his endurance and stamina for the arduous fall season.
By the end of the season, Ambriz had run a 15:51 three-mile and had placed third in the Inland Valley League, outran by teammate and current senior Darvale Jackson.
As the years progressed, Ambriz only got better. In his junior year, pushed by two of his teammates, current senior Ricky Cardenas and Jackson, Ambriz lowered his mile time down to 4:23 and won the league title in both the 1600m and the 3200m.
Once cross country came along senior year, Ambriz was more than ready to give the season his all.
Kicking season off at the Woodbridge Invitational, Ambriz ran a 15:31 three-mile, shaving 20 seconds off of his previous PR. He only got better, shaving another 10 seconds off his time, running 15:21 at the Billy York Invitational held in Riverside, Calif. Ambriz ended the season at CIF prelims and headed into track season with a second place league standing.
Now, Ambriz hopes to redeem his loss against Riverside Poly High School’s Deion Molina at league finals by winning the league title in both the mile and the two-mile later this spring.
If Ambriz continues with the pace he is going, however, winning league will be a breeze to him.
Ambriz’s newly appointed track coach, Milton Browne, is confident that Ambriz will continue to lower his times as the season progresses.
“I wasn’t surprised by his breakthrough 1600m run, I kind of expected it actually. We focus on tactical running and specialized training, so it was just expected,” said Browne.
Ambriz will race at the prestigious Arcadia Invitational on April 9 in the Distance Medley Relay.
Stay tuned for future Southern California Track and Field/Cross Country news.