By John Philip Wyllie
While Sweetwater High School’s Edgar Llanez captured 2002 Mesa League Runner of the Year honors, a strong Bonita Vista Baron team featuring Ryan Becijos, Abraham Alvarez, Julian Zamora, Michael Valdez, Ryan Groth and Michael Morales claimed team honors for coach Ian Cumming’s cross country squad. For Becijos, the Barons team captain, the season was extended an additional weekend. His fourth place finish in the CIF San Diego Section Division I finals on Nov. 23 earned him a trip to Saturday’s state competition in Fresno. In order to get there, Becijos had to overcome a slow start and battle back through the last three quarters of a mile to move from the seventeenth position to the fourth.
“I wasn’t as motivated as I should have been early in the race, but I started focusing on how cool it would be to compete in the state finals in Fresno,” Becijos said.
The race ended in a photo finish which saw Becijos, Llanez and San Diego High’s Oswaldo Alvarez record identical 16.11 times for the 3.1 mile Morley Field course.
The trio gained invitations to Fresno along with Division I champion Nicholas Salomone of Vista and runner-up Alex Casarez (Fallbrook). Casarez was the only one of the five to be among the state’s Top 30 finishers. There, he was joined by Rancho Buena Vista’s Augustin Mateo.
While Becijos finished farther down in the pack, he came away with the experience of having run against the state’s elite long distance runners. Chances are, next season as a senior, he will be back to try again. Becijos was praised by his coach prior to his departure for Fresno.
“Ryan is very intelligent and hardworking, but his most amazing feature is his willingness to endure pain when somebody challenges him in the middle of a race. He has an incredible ability to endure pain,” Cumming said. “Ryan finished fourth in Division I which in itself is very good and he will obviously be one of the top guys in the county next season,” Cumming added. With a weighted G.P.A. slightly over 4.0 going for him, Becijos ultimately hopes to gain one of the few available collegiate cross country scholarships.