History was in the making as the varsity cross country team of Glen A. Wilson HS stepped on the line to race at CIF.
As the 2019 Valle Vista League Champions these wildcat runners saw a strong possibility of making it to CIF for the first time in six years.
Head Coach of the Wilson Cross Country Team, Mike Gomez, is extremely proud of the training and work ethic that the runners adopted prior to their races.
“As a coach, I always strive for excellence and I want the kids to strive for excellence [as well]. We got after it early on in the season. I pushed them harder and raised the expectations,” Gomez said. “We were constantly building on our success and developing confidence through weight training. I think that helped the kids a lot. Once somebody has confidence and they feel strong, that carries into their actions in many directions.”
The wildcat runners prepared for CIF by weight training and running about four to six miles a day at local parks such as Thomas Burton and Schabarum Park.
After qualifying for League Finals at Bonelli Regional Park both varsity teams made strides at the CIF Southern Section(SS) Prelims in Riverside on the morning of Nov. 16. The boys’ team placed first and the girls placed second overall out of the 24 teams competing in the second heat.
Meanwhile, both varsity teams geared up to compete in the first heat at CIF SS Finals in Riverside on Nov. 23.
According to senior boys varsity captain Johnathon Zavala, being the captain of the cross country team was key to his success in this race.
“My first year in cross country taught me to be a leader and to be more responsible in everything that I do,” Zavala said. “I felt like I did my best in every race that I did and I wanted to make a statement that anything is possible.”
Although girls’ varsity did not qualify for state, junior Nicole Tong recounts her memorable experience as a member of the team.
“We had a team dinner before almost every CIF race and carbo-loaded on pasta and garlic bread,” Tong said. “This was my first year in cross country and to make it to CIF finals on my first year is crazy. I never thought I would be able to make it this far with my team.”
Nevertheless, boys varsity continued to advance to compete in Division 4 of the California State Championships in Clovis on Nov. 30.
During the first of 3.12 miles in total, the Wildcats showed great promise as they edged into second place. However, it was during the first mile that Gwynne took an unfortunate fall when he received a flat tire near the start line.
Altogether, the Wildcats had an outstanding performance, in particular, Gwynne broke his personal 3-mile time at 16:05 followed by teammate Gio Gudiel at 15:54.
With a short :49 second gap between the average time of first and twelfth place, not only did the team earn a spot in Wilson history, but they also learned valuable life lessons from the outcome of the race.
Although, Gwynne believes that the results were a disappointing end to the season he feels there is always an opportunity to move forward.
“I remember initially panicking and every part of my body wanted to leave that course. I felt like I lost a battle,” Gwynne said. “This experience goes to show that everything does not go your way. I was at a disadvantage as if I could [have] done better if I was in the game mentally.”
Overall, the Wildcats had a spectacular season that is definitely one for the books.