Damian Gavilan finishes first overall

The Paso Robles Bearcats cross country team loaded up the busses and headed for Santa Maria on Wednesday, Oct. 2, with the rest of the county for the CCAA Mid-Season Invitational and came back with a pair of top-five finishes.

The defending CIF Central Section champion boys team from a year ago finished in fifth place as they are running without some of their key guys that fill out the bottom of their top five and the young, up-and-coming girls team finished third overall behind Arroyo Grande and San Luis Obispo. 

“This was a little different because we took the two leagues, you know the Mountain and the Ocean, and we all met together at one place. So all 13 schools from the Central Coast were there and we ran it as an invitational-style meet,” Paso Robles head coach Ivan Huff said. “It was more to get together to see where we are and how we compare to other people in our leagues and the area here. It went pretty well. I think it went really well for our girls who finished third overall. Arroyo Grande girls were first, San Luis Obispo girls were second we were third and we improved and moved closer to Arroyo Grande and San Luis Obispo so I was happy with that, our pack is running well.”

The girls team scored 66 points with their top-two runners, Madeline Loff and Charlotte Castelli finished one after another in fifth and sixth place with times of 18 minutes and 56.64 seconds and 18:57.53. The Lady Bearcats placed four girls in the top 20 and six in the top 30 as Grace Chamberlain finished 13th overall with a time of 19:47.35 and Clara Lundy finishing 19th with a time 20:03.42 and Jaiden Anguiano finished 23rd with a time of 20:14.82. What is most impressive about the girls teams is that all five of those girls, the top five count toward scoring, will be returning next year as three of them are juniors and two of them are sophomores. 


“I think we are doing really well,” Loff said at practice on Thursday. The season has gone by pretty fast. I feel like we have had fewer meets in the first half of this season that we normally get but everyone is doing a really great job and I am proud of how far we have come from the beginning of the summer and I’m sure that we will
continue improving.”

While the boys team may not be the powerhouse it was a year ago when they won the CIF championship they still have their top dog from a year ago in Damian Gavilan and he let the county know on Wednesday that he is still the benchmark with an outstanding performance and a first-place finish overall. Wednesday’s race started while the senior was still jumping up and down warming up and in the chaos of the pack fell scraping up his leg. When he looked up he was in last place
and went to work. 

“We were on the line and Huff was saying, ‘runners set’ and then the gun fired instantly,” Gavilan recalls. “I was doing my usual jumps and it caught me off guard. Usually, there is a little second before the gun fires. So I tripped in the race and got hurt and I was in last place, so I was really angry and that made me run a lot faster. I was like, ‘I can’t lose because I fell on the start I have to pick it up.’”

Santa Maria’s Yair Torres thought he had the mid-season race and pushed out to a big lead but when it came down to the final few hundred feet Gavilan was right there and took the victory on his strong kick that he has become known for in running circles. 

“It came down to the big kick at the end and Damien is always really fast the last couple hundred meters,” Huff said. “And then after that we were pretty spread out and our boys ended up finishing fifth as a team.”

Gavilan finished with a time of 15:32.43, Torres finished at 15:36.09, and the next-closest Bearcat was junior Jason Scruggs who finished 11th overall with a time of 16:02.23. Michael Hernandez came across third for the crimson cats in 25th place with a time of 16:55.56, Ethan Short was next in 35th place with a time of 17:26.85 and Gabriel Contreras rounded out the top five finishing 38th with a time of 17:28.03.

The boys scored 110 points, the SLO Tigers boys won the meet with 45 points. 

“The team performance for the boys wasn’t the best but we ran OK,” Huff said. “The guys who are actually fifth, sixth, seventh men, the boys I’m trying to improve and get better, they are having good races and
keep improving.”