Tri-County Running Club growing with each summer

Runners work their way up the Gavilan hills to begin their

Local high school, college kids get intense training, improve on
times and have fun
GILROY – The Tri-County Running Club has blossomed from a small pack of scholastic runners to a herd of cross country enthusiasts in only one short year.

Coaches Jess Morales (who will be the new head coach at San Benito High after four years of helping out with the cross country and track programs over there) and Gustavo Ibarra (the head track/cross country coach at North Monterey County) started the club last summer.

The Tri-County Running Club meets three days a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the morning at 9 a.m. and in the afternoon at 4 p.m. There are currently 35 runners in the early two-hour session and 16 in the later session.

“The running club is mostly for kids who want to excel to the next level. Sometimes they don’t get that special coaching on an individual basis. That’s where we come in,” Morales said. “It’s mostly an early start for the season to come. A lot of kids don’t get that.”

On Mondays, the club meets at Gilroy High School and Gavilan College for both sessions. On Wednesdays, the runners head to Toro Park in Salinas for the morning session and Gilroy High for the afternoon session. On Fridays, the group trains at Nicene Park in Aptos for the morning session and Gilroy High for the afternoon session.

“We cover the different types of running (at each site). We have kids from all over, from San Jose and Monterey to Hollister and North County,” Ibarra said. “We want to build up the program. I’ve always been a believer in running year round, especially long distance running.”

Any high school or college-bound runners can join the Tri-County Running Club by simply coming down to the Gilroy High track on one of the three allotted days. The Club is sponsored by Baragan Insurance in Hollister and California Silk Screen.

“We’re becoming bigger and bigger. We’re trying to take it to a different level,” Morales said. “We teach them what they need to do to become better runners.”

Both Morales and Ibarra not only coach, but also train with their young members – running side-by-side with them and giving words of encouragement.

“The kids all come from different schools. They have fun. It’s a low-key way to get them together and run,” said Ibarra, whose North County team is ranked No. 2 in the state. “It raises up the level of competition. That’s why we’re out here to benefit the kids so they can achieve their goals.”

Keli Parker, 16, runs on Ibarra’s team at North Monterey County High. He was one of the original members of the Tri-County Running Club last year and is back for more intensified training.

“It was fun to come out with a bunch of guys and run together,” Parker said. “It’s real good to have training partners for the summer. The bigger the group the better.”

Jonathan Rivera, 16, of Hollister, also joined the club last year and returned for a second summer.

“It helps out a lot. I train with Coach Morales all year round. It’s just fun to get out here with all the guys,” Rivera said. “It hasn’t been too hot this year, not as hot as last year.”

Steven Munoz, 18, of North County, is training for his freshman season at Hartnell College – where he will run both cross country and track. After running with the club last summer, Munoz watched his times get faster and faster during the school year.

“It helped me out a lot. I brought down my (personal best time) by almost a minute. Just the extensive training we go through on hot days helps prepare you and we have great coaches,” Munoz said. “I know most of them from running and socializing. It’s a lot of fun.”

Brianna Colorado, 17, of Hollister, joined the Tri-County Running Club this summer after learning about it from Coach Morales.

“It’s pretty cool that everyone is hard core about running,” said Colorado before starting the group run. “I do it during the summer to get better (for the high school season).”