By John Philip Wyllie
It is not common for freshman athletes to step in and immediately contribute on their school’s varsity team, but then Bonita Vista High’s Freddie Rodriguez is no common athlete. The son of Mexican immigrants, Rodriguez, not surprisingly, grew up with a love for soccer. This fall however, he is taking on a new challenge and competing on one of the top cross country teams in the county. Several weeks ago he took first place in the freshman competition of the South Bay Invitational. Since then he has been running strongly each week in his match-ups against athletes that are in some cases three years his senior.
“Freddie has been a surprise asset to our boy’s varsity team,” said his coach, Julie Phair. “He jumped right in from the second meet on at the varsity level and that is a very rare thing for a freshman athlete to do. Sometimes I think it even surprises him a little to see the high level that he has already achieved. He is part of a top level varsity team and a big part of the success of our team. And he will be for the next several years. Freddie is extremely competitive and is a very tenacious runner. This weekend, he will be part of a group of our boys that will be competing in the (prestigious) Mt. SAC Invitational. We have qualified for the Sweepstakes Race, so he will be facing the best of the best.”
Up until this year, Rodri-guez’s focus was solely on soccer. He is the sweeper for a competitive local club team called the Crusaders and this winter he plans to tryout for the Baron team. Over the summer his mother suggested that he give cross country a shot and now he is glad that he did.
“When I joined the cross country team I did it to get in better shape for soccer,” Rodriguez explained. “Sometimes it is a little intimidating to be running with these guys, but I enjoy it.” (The Barons feature a trio of the county’s best in Eric Avila, Mathew Seat and Chris Close) “The best thing about long distance running is that after you have finished and you have given it your all, you feel really good.”
“At times, you are tired and really hurting, but you just have to push yourself to go faster. Running the hills is the hardest part. I am trying to work on running up the hills strong and (maintaining) a really good pace,” Rodriguez said. Despite his youth, he can see that that running cross country is a lot like life.
“Running cross country has taught me never to give up in whatever I do.”