As he was running in the Central Coast Section Championship Division II race at Crystal Springs in Belmont on Nov. 13, Gilroy High senior Nicholas Guzman’s plan was simple yet exceedingly difficult: stay with the leaders the entire way of the 2.95-mile course.
Guzman did just that, finishing in third place in 15 minutes, 46.5 seconds (5:20-minute mile pace)—just eight seconds behind the winner—to clinch a berth to the CIF State Meet on Nov. 27 at Woodward Park in Fresno. One of the school’s best runners in the past 20 years, Guzman will be going to state for the first time.
He didn’t have an opportunity in his junior season because there was no state meet due to Covid, and as a sophomore he finished a disappointing 40th place in CCS. For Guzman, delivering the time that he did—a personal-record (PR) by four seconds at Crystal Springs—was a long time coming.
“Sophomore year I had a mental roadblock in the CCS race,” he said. “I kind of mentally broke and fell apart throughout the race. This was my redemption coming back to Crystal and performing how I wanted to perform.”
And perform Guzman did, as he bettered his previous best at Crystal Springs, which happened at an Oct. 2 meet at the Belmont course in which he went 15:50.8. Even though Guzman entered the CCS Championships confident, having performed well all season, he took a humble and methodical approach into the race.
“I was trying to go into the race with no expectations at all because things can always change,” he said. “Some kids have a really good day, and some kids have bad days. Even during the race I wasn’t thinking about winning the race, but sticking with the leaders for as long as I could.”
Guzman stayed with the five-man lead pack, on the hip of the top two finishers.
“I was focused and dialed in,” he said. “I was thinking about how to get to the end of the race as fast I could without burning out.”
Guzman is nearing the end of his best season ever, having finished no lower than third in eight races. He credits his coaches and parents for all their support to get to this point, which has prepared him for grueling races. Even though Guzman is in peak physical condition, it’s his increased mental game that has proven to be a difference-maker.
“Mentally, I’m able to stay in every race whereas in the past it wasn’t like that all the time,” he said.
After a nice taper the week leading into the CCS Championships, Guzman will have another buildup in training before the State Meet. He’s in the midst of another hard training week and perhaps will “add a couple of more miles in training,” but nothing drastic. His “easy” recovery runs typically cover eight miles at 7-minute mile pace, and his longer runs are usually done around 6-minute mile pace for 1 hour, 15 minutes.
Nicholas’ brother, Joshua, finished 21st in 16:39.7. The Gilroy freshman had a tremendous season and could be a contender to win an individual CCS title in the coming years.
For the Gilroy girls team, senior standout Karina Rodriguez wrapped up her prep cross country career with a 14th place finish in the D2 girls race, clocking 19:53.5. Jessica Guardino of Valley Christian was the final individual qualifier not part of a state-qualifying team that earned a berth to state, taking 12th overall in 19:12.9. Rodriguez’s teammate, Vianey Garcia, capped her solid season by taking 34th in 20:51.4.