By John Philip Wyllie
Last fall, Eric Avila captured the Mesa League individual cross country championship and led Bonita Vista High to a league banner. His sizzling time of 15:50 landed him a berth in the state finals. With the spring track & field season now upon us Avila is focusing his seemingly unlimited energy on running the mile.
“This year Eric is looking very strong in early competition,” said Baron coach Candace Osuna. “He took first place in the mile last weekend at the Mt. Carmel Invitational with a personal record (of 4:19:45). That places him at number one or two in the state among sophomore milers (and second in the county among prep athletes regardless of class). He also had a personal record time in the 2-mile event last weekend which he set after already competing in the mile.”
Avila’s performance earned him the opportunity to compete next weekend in the prestigious Arcadia Invitational.
“This is the biggest (high school) meet in the nation and I qualified for the seeded race,” Avila said excitedly. “I’ll be racing against guys from New York, Arizona and all over the country, so it should be interesting,” Far from intimidated, he sees this as just another challenge.
“Eric is one of the few athletes that I have ever worked with that actually thrives on competition,” Osuna said. “Some athletes get nervous or feel a little intimidated racing against somebody extraordinary, but not Eric. I could put him against anybody including the number one runner in the state and he would go right after them.”
Avila has an advantage over many runners. It stems from the atmosphere that exists within his team. Teammates Abraham Alvarez and Austin Jett share Avila’s burning desire to compete. The trio often trains together and when they do they push each other to the limit. Despite the competition, the three remain close friends and they support each other. Avila’s success this year can also be attributed to his new focus on running the mile.
“I only ran the mile once last year and I didn’t run it well. I barely got under five (minutes). This time it’s a year later and I am a lot more experienced,” Avila said. At the Mt. Carmel Invitational he used a new strategy called boxing and it paid off for him.
“I’d like to see him focus on the mile because I think he has a natural gift for speed, but he is one of those rare runners that could stick at any one of several distances and outperform most if not all of his competitors,” Osuna said.
She knows she can rely on Avila to win most of his individual match-ups whether he is running two miles or just one. The team points he gains by doing so however, are just one of his many contributions.
“Eric works just as hard in practice as he does when he competes. He goes all out. Sometimes in fact, I have to bring him back a little bit so that he doesn’t overextend himself.” His strong work ethic rubs off on his teammates as well.
This year, he is applying that same work ethic in the classroom. As his times in the mile diminish his G.P.A. keeps climbing. If that trend continues, he may soon start receiving lots of mail from various colleges.