Joshua Guzman never had the mindset he had big shoes to fill, and that’s one of the key reasons why he’s already achieving some remarkable times in his burgeoning running career.
A year after his older brother Nicholas graduated, Joshua has led the Gilroy High boys cross country team to a solid season in their inaugural year in the Blossom Valley Athletic League’s Santa Teresa East Division.
The Mustangs are undefeated in the dual-meet season heading into the league-finale against their toughest competition, Silver Creek, on Oct. 26 at Montgomery Hill Park in San Jose.
“We’re hopeful of winning that race,” Gilroy coach Matt Castillo said. “Silver Creek is a very good team, but I think we’re probably No. 1 and we edge them out by a couple of points.”
How evenly matched are the two squads? In their latest race, they were separated by a single point in the Terry Ward Bellarmine Invitational at Baylands Park on Oct. 15. That’s where Guzman continued his ascent into becoming one of the elite runners in the Central Coast Section.
In a quality field, Guzman finished in fifth place in 16 minutes, 15.3 seconds over 3.1 miles. Previous to that result, Guzman won the first two league races in dominating fashion and finished seventh in the Crystal Springs Invitational on Oct. 8, a terrific result considering his time and the tough competition involved.
The sophomore set a personal-record (PR) at the 2.95-mile Belmont course, clocking 15:47.4 to smash his previous best by 36 seconds. It also was just a second off of Nicholas’ best time at Crystal Springs.
Castillo said Guzman’s reaction after the race gives some insight into Joshua’s desire to achieve his vast potential.
“After he passed the finish line, he and his dad were already taking notes about the championship meet on the 31st,” Castillo said, referring to the league finals that will be contested on the same Crystal Springs Course.
The Mustangs took the sixth spot in the team standings in the Terry Ward Invite. Juniors Gabriel von Metzger (17:46.3) and Harshaan Mangat (17:48.9) placed 25th and 26th, respectively, while sophomore Richie Chavarria (20:08.1) finished 64th and senior Jacob Salinas (20:33.5) wound up 67th to complete the team’s scoring.
Castillo said if everyone is healthy, the team’s top lineup is Guzman, senior Miguel Flores, Gabriel von Metzger, and Mangat. The No. 5-scoring runner depends on who is doing best that day. It could be Chavarria, Salinas, Kevin Avendano, Shay Matthews, or Augstin Alfaro, who has been injured but looks to return to competition within the next week or two.
Von Metzger was first in his age bracket (19 and under) in the super tough Mt. Madonna Challenge 5K on Oct. 1. The junior is one of several underclassmen who should make the team even stronger next season. Castillo credited Guzman for “pulling the team” along and motivating them to continually grind and strive for their goals.
“Joshua doesn’t complain and takes each workout with the mindset of, this is what we have to do,” Castillo said. “He runs with a chip on his shoulder, is really competitive and positive.”
It’s that last attribute that continues to spur Guzman’s upward trajectory. Each time he goes out for a workout or race, Guzman’s focus is in the process that ultimately leads to fast times.
“I put in my greatest effort and I’m thinking there’s always room for improvement,” he said. “So every race I’m looking to set that bar higher.”
Guzman’s determination has no doubt rubbed off on his teammates, whom he appreciates in a variety of ways.
“The team dynamic is really good,” he said. “We like to stay together most of the time (in workouts), though we have to spring out in some longer distance workouts. We all like to joke and laugh and we do well together. The running atmosphere is awesome here.”
Even though Guzman recently smashed his PR at Crystal Springs—site of this year’s BVAL and CCS Championships—he is confident he can chop off another 5-10 seconds off his current PR of 15:47.
“I think I have some more legs in me,” he said. “There’s always somewhere I could improve, whether it’s during the race or better race strategy. I’m just looking for overall improvement in everything I do in practice and in races.”
Guzman has seen his times get dramatically faster even after a solid 2021 freshman season. In the off-season, Guzman trained with some of the area’s top runners who are now in their freshman year of college.
“It was some next level training that got me to improve in every aspect of my running,” he said. “Most of the workouts were at Fort Ord or Toro Park and we did some long runs at Nisene around Santa Cruz.”
Guzman also had a milestone moment in his running career as he did the popular Wharf to Wharf Race in Capitola last July.
Guzman ran the 10K course (6.2 miles) in just over 31 minutes, or 5:13 mile pace.
“That showed me where I was at in my training and gave me a boost as I was coming into cross country season,” he said. “It gave me a lot of confidence to push past what I’ve done before and reach for new goals.”
Though most younger siblings have a burning desire and make it a goal to surpass their older sibling’s achievements, Joshua said he doesn’t think of beating his brother’s times in a competitive way. That’s because Joshua appreciates the path Nicholas has set for him and for being a good role model to follow.
“He has a big influence in my running career, and if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have done the things I’ve been doing,” Joshua said. “He was the first one to do everything and I just explored and started following his path. I don’t look at what he’s done and what I’m doing as competition. I think he would be proud of me and be looking to see what I can do in the future as well.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]