By John Philip Wyllie
Up until last year, Bonita Vista High sophomore, Eric Avila considered himself primarily a soccer player, but after breaking his foot and then seeing his club team disintegrate, he thought maybe it was time for something new. The stamina that he developed from years of toiling in the midfield made his transition from the soccer pitch to the cross country course, a relatively smooth one. With five consecutive wins in league competition and a medal from the prestigious Mt. Sac competition in his possession, Avila may be wishing he had discovered cross country sooner.
“I would like to qualify for the state meet and finish at least in the top five of every race that I enter,” Avila said when asked about his personal goals. Achieving team goals this season will be much more difficult. Having lost four of their top seven runners, the Barons will be hard pressed to win a third consecutive Mesa League championship.
“We have only three seniors and all the rest of us are sophomores, so we have a very young team,” Avila said. “This will be a rebuilding year, but by next year we should be better and by my senior year we should be great. The Barons began the season at a tremendous disadvantage.
“We lost our coach from last year, so over the summer we really didn’t have team training like everyone else did,” Avila explained. “Most of the other teams ran together all summer, but we only started training a week before our first meet, so we got off to a really slow start. Right now, we are just starting to get to where we need to be. From here on I think we will continue building up.” Fortunately, for Avila, cross country is both a team and individual sport. If he eventually meets his cross country goals, it will probably be due to his kick.
“A lot of guys are strength runners and they push you up to about two miles. I’ll let them get 10 or 15 meters ahead and then when we get down to the last half mile, I’ll just see what I can do.” Using what he calls his “crazy kick” Avila often overtakes and then zips past them sprinting the last 100 yards when they are nearly exhausted.
Avila finds the challenge of cross country competition far less daunting then the one he faces in the classroom.
“It is hard to balance (athletics with academics),” Avila said. “I get home very late from practice and I am usually dead (tired). Sometimes I take a nap and usually I am up very late doing homework.” On the nights before a meet, Avila tries to make sure that he is well-rested. With his goals as a long distance runner a priority, he has to give himself whatever edge he can.