After running a little more than six miles up and down the undulating terrain of Christmas Hill Park, members of the Gilroy High boys and girls cross country teams were still bubbly as they gobbled Goldfish and other snacks after Wednesday’s practice.
Perhaps their excitement had something to do with the fact that two weeks of high-intensity practices were nearing an end and they could finally hit the course and show what they are made of at Crystal Springs in the Central Coast Section Championship meet Saturday.
“They are ready,” longtime GHS coach Art Silva said Wednesday. “They are going to impress a lot of people.”
The workouts may be strenuous, but the response has been exactly what Silva wants to see as the season hits its most crucial point.
“I haven’t worked a team as hard as I have these kids – I know they can handle it. Our times have been horrible this year, but they have the talent. They haven’t yet lived up to their potential,” Silva said. “Our girls weren’t running like they are now. They were just going through the motions. Their mindset has changed. Nothing really matters until November. Our boys, I think, are going to surprise a lot of people.”
And the workouts, well, they just come with the territory.
“It’s been tough in a good way, senior Ryan Swenor said. “We are realizing that this could possibly be our last race and we are working hard.”
For the first time, the Mustangs will not be competing in the Division I race. Instead, the girls will participate in Division II and the boys Division III. Division placement is sorted by student-body population. The top-four team finishers move onto the CIF State meet in the girls’ race, while the top-three advance from the boys. That alone is a huge difference from the Division I where only the top two teams earn state bids.
“I went over all of it,” Silva said. If we run out of our minds, I think we can get into the top-three – girls and boys.”
Senior Savannah Silacci, who along with fellow senior teammates Athena Alarcon and Maritza Ruelas have each been to the state meet and want another taste in their final season.
“We’ve been doing really well (at practice),” Silacci said, who said they have been pushed to their maximum by assistant coach Nick Rodriguez.
“He sets our pace and keeps us going. We are all realizing now that this is our last chance to make state. We want it.”
Division II is stacked with a handful of perennially strong teams, including Mountain View, Los Gatos, St. Francis and Mitty.
Even though a berth into the state competition is plenty of motivation in and of itself, Silva decided to up the ante with the boys’ team, offering to shave his head if the Mustangs meet their goal. Soon after, the boys were figuring out who would shave whose head.
“We have a ton of team spirit,” Humberto Gaeta said. “We don’t have any complainers here.”
Meanwhile, the Christopher High girls team, which consists of three freshmen, one sophomore one junior and one senior, earned a spot in the Division II race.
“They are excited, they have been working hard,” CHS head coach Mike Bonomi said. “The competition is very tough, there are some real powerhouses. Hopefully they can get out there and compete.”
Bonomi said that his team has changed up its training a bit, running three to five miles per day instead of six to eight.
“We probably done more sprinting,” he said.
CHS’s Gilbert Haro individually qualified for the Division II race.
The girls’ race is scheduled to begin at 2:05 p.m. and the boys is expected to be underway at 2:40 p.m. Crystal Springs is located in Belmont.