By John Philip Wyllie
Castle Park Cross Country coach, Hector Hernandez has been seeing double a lot lately, but that is understandable since a pair of identical twins is leading his fleet-footed league co-champion Trojan team.
Senior captains Eli and Samuel Ledesma were born minutes apart, but when they are battling over the hills and ravines of the county’s cross country courses, they are often separated by mere seconds. Hernandez considers his gifted twins an integral part of his team. In his mind, they are a primary reason that the team is enjoying success.
“They are both very positive and they tend to bring the team together. I don’t know if that is because they are twin brothers or just because of their personalities, but when I am busy doing things like paperwork, those are the guys that take charge of the team,” Hernandez said. “They have great attitudes. You will never hear any whining from them and they always show up to practice with a smile on their faces and a solid work ethic.”
“We really get along well, but when it comes to running we compete a lot,” said Eli, the eldest of the pair. “Long distances have always been my priority and I am a little stronger there, but Samuel is better than me at running shorter distances. He is right behind me running long distances and I am right behind him in running sprints.”
The built-in competition has benefited both of them and through it all they have managed to remain brothers that are also close friends. While athleticism runs in the family, the Ledesma twins are the first in their family to become elite high school runners. Focused at the moment on succeeding in the post-season CIF competition, they hope to show well enough on Saturday to qualify for this year’s state competition.
According to Hernandez, both of them have the potential to be solid collegiate runners. Eli is headed to Southwestern College, a school with an established program and a tradition of excellence. At the moment, Samuel is leaning toward San Diego State, a school which does not currently compete in men’s cross country. Hernandez would naturally like to see them both continue on and prosper as collegiate runners.
Eli first became involved in running as a middle school student.
“I started with the mile in middle school and I liked it. When I arrived at Castle Park High as a freshman, coach A.T. got me more focused on cross country. The next year, I got my brother involved. We have been enjoying it ever since,” Eli said.
“Since Eli is a year ahead of me with cross country I look up to him, but I still always try to beat him. When we aren’t competing we hang out a lot together and have a lot of the same friends. It’s only when we are with our girlfriends that we are separate,” Samuel explained.
“Our parents are behind us 100%,” he continued. “They encourage us to work together and to have fun when we are competing. They don’t like us to have hard feelings after we race.”
While Eli is more experienced and dominant in cross country, Samuel has the upper hand in the classroom.
“My G.P.A. is a little better than his and we are really competitive there too. I think always having somebody to compete against has brought out the best in both of us.”