By John Philip Wyllie
Castle Park High School sophomore Veronica Gonzales has just one year of track experience under her belt, but she is already closing in on the school’s 12:12 two-mile record. That mark, established by Mandy Johnson several years ago, could fall as early as this weekend when Gon-zales and her Trojan teammates compete in the El Centro Invitational. Johnson remains the first and only Castle Park Trojan runner to compete in the state’s women’s cross country finals. Off to a promising start, Gonzales may one day duplicate Johnson’s feat.
“This weekend she will be going head to head with Bonita Vista High’s Tiffany Caddell, one of the finest long distance runners in the county,” said running coach, Hector Hernandez. Tiffany will dictate a fast pace from the beginning, so Veronica will have a good shot at it.”
Gonzales stumbled upon track last year almost by accident.
“I was going to my mariachi class (where she was learning to play guitar and violin) and one of the track coaches asked me what sport I was playing,” Gonzales recalled. Gonzales, a three letter winner (cross country, soccer and track) grew up playing soccer and played a major role this winter on the Trojans’ soccer team. When she enrolled at the South Bay school she realized that the tremendous stamina she had gained chasing a soccer ball made her a natural long distance runner. She accepted the coach’s invitation to became part of the team. Gonzales quickly demonstrated the discipline necessary to become a fine long distance runner.
“Veronica is one of the most dedicated athletes I have known,” said Castle Park’s head coach Claudia Hernandez. “She is very disciplined and organized and she makes time for everything.” A 3.8 G.P.A. attests to the fact that Gonzales is as strong intellectually as she is athletically. “If your mind is really strong then your body just follows along. She has a winner’s mentality,” Hernandez added.
Gonzales was named to the all-Metro League cross country team last fall after finishing in third place. In the off-season, she turned in a sizzling 11:26 time in a 3,000 meter event in Mexico. Gonzales has also broken the 12:12 two-mile mark in practice several times, but in order to own the record, she will have to do it in an officially sanctioned meet. Her coaches believe it is not a question of if she can do it, just a matter of when it will happen. Not satisfied with simply breaking the record, Gonzalez hopes to improve upon it significantly before she graduates. With most of three track seasons still ahead of her, it appears that she very well could.