By John Philip Wyllie
With a scholarship to Northern Arizona University, a slew of school records and a CIF cross county crown already in his possession, Bonita Vista High’s extraordinary long distance runner, Eric Avila has little left to prove. But don’t tell him that. That is just not the way this highly competitive Baron senior thinks. He looks upon the current track season as another challenge and another opportunity.
“Last year the track season was a big disappointment for me. I trained really hard in the beginning and ran lots of races,” Avila explained. The strain of overtraining took its toll on his legs. Ill-fitting shoes compounded the problem. By season’s end he was nursing a calf injury and not able to compete as well as he might have.
“This year, we have taken what was learned in the past and done everything the other way,” Avila said. “This year I am running fewer races, I have better shoes and my calves are fine.”
So are his times.
“Three weeks ago I set a meet record up at Valley Center in the two-mile. Back in March I ran a 4:14 in a mile race and that was (less than) one second off of the school record. Then I ran a two-mile race in 9:14 and that is four seconds off of the school record. I plan on getting those records this weekend. I’ll be shooting for a 4:10 or 4:11 mile, so we will see how that works out.”
Avila has been invited to compete against the nation’s best in the prestigious Penn Relays in Philadelphia this weekend. The meet has been held annually for the past 120 years and Avila will be competing in the invitational mile field for elite high school athletes.
This season, Avila has also contributed to the Barons relay team. It has already broken virtually every school record for distance relays. Last weekend, the team broke two of its own school records and set two meet records.
“At the moment, I am leading in the county in both the mile and the two-mile. Those times rank me in the top five within the state. And I don’t think either of those times are my peak times. I think I can do better.”
It is that drive to always do better coupled with his naturally ability that makes Avila special.
“Eric is the most talented and hardest working runner that I have ever had the privilege to coach,” said Baron assistant coach, Julie Phair. “It is not just his talent. He has more drive than anybody. He thinks big and never sets limits on himself. I considered the two-mile his best event, but he has showed so much speed that it is fun to see how well he is racing the mile. He would have to be one of the favorites (to win the CIF title) in both races.”
One of the many things Avila is anticipating later this season is his league final match-up in the mile against former teammate and returning league mile champion, Austin Jett.
“He has done very well. I think he is getting a full ride to Berkley (University),” Avila said of his old teammate. “Off the track we are friends, but on the track it is real serious. This one will be for bragging rights. It is going to be a pretty good duel.”