By John Philip Wyllie
First year Bonita Vista High cross country coach, Hector Hernandez, had no illusions about what was expected when he took over the coaching reins this summer from veteran coach Ian Cumming. Hernandez realized that filling the shoes of Cumming, a highly experienced, well-respected coach, would be no easy job. As a former two-time CIF champion long-distance runner and collegiate All-American, Hernandez landed the job with an impressive resume of competitive accomplishments. As the season began, the question remained as to whether his personal success as a long distance runner would translate into coaching success at the South Bay high school. That question was answered last Friday when the 5-0 Barons captured the Mesa League Championship with a superb team effort.
Ryan Becijos (16:22) led the way for the Barons finishing second overall behind Mar Vista’s Troy Swier. Close on their heels were Bonita’s Abraham Alvarez (16:38), Michael Valdez (17:07), Julian Zamora (17:09), Mike Morales (17:17), Ryan Groth (17:32.3), and Jared Purkey (17:32.7). The brief 55-second pack time between his first and fifth-place runners was what really made Hernandez smile. That unusual depth could be an important factor on Saturday when Bonita Vista attempts to capture its first CIF cross country title in 20 years.
Becijos, Bonita’s Top Gun, is being counted on to lead the way. He came into the season in top shape after an impressive track campaign capped by a 4:19 mile.
“Ryan has run the mile in under 4:20 and there are not too many high school runners that have ever done that. It sets him apart. The other kids are aware of it and respect him for that,” Hernandez said.
Becijos has already received about ten letters from various colleges looking to recruit him. With a G.P.A. well above 4.0, he stands an excellent chance of claiming one of the few available track or cross country scholarships. While he remains the Barons brightest star, it takes a lot more than one athlete to claim a CIF cross country title.
“It is hard enough to win an individual (CIF cross country) title, but to win as a team, you need seven studs kicking butt against San Diego County’s best,” Hernandez said.
“We have been working on reducing our pack time. Our best this season has been 33 seconds. I told the kids that if we can reduce it at Saturday’s CIF meet (9:00 a.m. at Morley Field) anything can happen. We have a realistic shot to win (the title) and a very, very good shot to advance to the state meet by placing within the top three. But even if that doesn’t happen, it won’t be the end of the world. They can take pride in all that they have accomplished this season and say that they gave it a really good shot,” Hernandez said.
To win on Saturday, Hernandez will need his athletes completely healthy and prepared to run their best times of the season. A little bit of luck will help too. Having been there himself, Hernandez frequently reminds his runners that “in CIF competition, anything can happen.”