On Thursday, Nov. 9, the Paso Robles Bearcats boys cross country team won its fourth consecutive PAC 8 league title.
Over the past four years, this victory was the closest. The Bearcats won by only a single point, but their confidence has only continued to grow after bringing home the league title.
On Saturday of last weekend both the girls and boys cross country teams made their way to Riverside for the CIF prelims. The Lady Bearcats finished in 14th place just barely missing the cut of the top 12 teams and will not advance further. The boys team came into the prelims extremely confident and cruised to first in their heat and first in Division 2.
“Getting first definitely wasn't the plan but we were all just feeling good, we were feeling it, and feeling like we were getting the vibe,” Ian Young said of how the boys felt on Saturday.
“It was a bit of a surprise,” Paso’s number one runner Pablo Cortes said. “Because we were supposed to take it just a little easier and qualify. When we heard that we got first for our heat I think we were a little surprised and a bit happy, ya know, because that is the first time we have ever done that for Division 2. There was a lot of excitement especially for what might happen in the future at finals and state.”
The boys placed each of their top five runners inside of the top 26 on Saturday. Cortes led the Bearcats as he has all year and finished seventh overall with a time of 15:24.
“I remember my sophomore year on that course my fastest time was 15:30 and I definitely hope to get another personal record,” Cortes said.
Damian Gavilan finished third for the Bearcats and 15th overall with a time of 14:59 and another personal record.
“My strategy was pretty much to stay behind Steven [Scruggs] because he is faster than me on flatter courses,” Gavilan said.
Paso Robles fourth runner Michael Hernandez also recorded a personal record on the course in Riverside on Saturday when he finished 20th overall with a time of 15:56. Ian Young sat out part of the regular season due to an illness, but has made a full recovery and finished fifth for the Bearcats and 26th overall.
According to the racers, the course on Saturday was relatively flat and also very dusty. The boys will be racing on the very same course this weekend and now have even more confidence as they are now familiar with the track.
“It just gives me confidence because I know the course and all the imperfections in it. Where the little dips and little hills are,” Hernandez said.
“Since I already know the course I am going to try to get more on the inside,” varsity runner Alex Ruiz added. “Because I was on the outside of the course a lot last weekend and I really didn't know where to go, but now I know and I will be in the inside and hopefully I can cut off a couple seconds.”
As for strategy, the Bearcats will stick with what is working.
“Focus on our guys,” Cortes said, “and definitely go out faster than we did last week.”
This group of boys has worked as hard as any to get to this point and have grown closer together each day that passes.
“This summer we did a 500-mile challenge and it was really fun doing the challenge with the guys,” Young said. ”Because you are out there doing hour-long runs each day and you just spend that hour talking with the person because you don't have a phone or anything, it's just you and the person and the ground so you get a really close connection with them. I don't see them as runners or teammates, I see them as a family.”
The Bearcats will run this Saturday as they try to advance to State. The top seven teams this weekend will qualify.