Gilroy High boys' cross country team competed in the Blossom Valley Athletic League in 2023. (Jonathan Natividad/special to the Dispatch)
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Gilroy High cross country coach Matthew Castillo has the program running well ahead of the pack in 2023. 

Leading the boys team is junior Josh Guzman, who qualified for the CIF State meet last year and has turned in several sensational performances this season.  

He had second-place finishes in both the Jackie Henderson Memorial and the Monterey Bay Invitational, along with a seventh-place finish at the Crystal Springs Invitational.

Guzman is currently the team’s best runner and one of the best in Gilroy history.

“Josh is very dedicated. He does not seem to get injured and he seems invincible. He has no ceiling. He just gets better and better,” Castillo said.

On Monday, Guzman finished in 15 minutes, 43 seconds to take third overall at the Blossom Valley Athletic League’s season-ending league meet. The race included 26 teams covering all four BVAL divisions. 

Guzman along with fellow teammates Richard Chavarria and Valeria Flores of the girls’ team finished above the cut mark for the Central Coast Section Cross Country Championships at the Crystal Springs course in Belmont on Nov. 11.

Chavarria crossed the finish line in 17:39 to take 38th, while Flores (23:22) qualified after taking 63rd place. 

The Mustangs boys’ team just missed out on qualifying for team competition, finishing 15th.

Gilroy—which won a league crown in 2022—finished with a 4-1 record and runner-up to Silver Creek in the BVAL Santa Teresa East Division. Victories came against Oak Grove, Christopher, James Lick and Andrew Hill.

Other members of the boys team are Kevin Avendano, Alfredo Ortiz, Jesus Rodriguez, Emiliano Vera, Harshaan Mangat and Gabriel von Metzger-Chavez.

Guzman is literally following in the footsteps of his older brother, Nicholas, who ran for Gilroy and is three years ahead of Josh in school. 

Nicholas Guzman also qualified for the state meet, a superb accomplishment given how many strong runners there are in the CCS.

“It was really exciting to be there,” said Josh Guzman regarding last year’s CIF State meet at Woodward Park in Fresno. “It really got my heart pumping. I ran 16:01 for 20th place. I was really proud of that.”

Amazingly, Nicholas Guzman ran a nearly similar time. He raced home in 15:58 at the state meet, good for 25th place that year.

Chavarria had been on the fence regarding choosing between cross country and baseball. He selected running and has moved up to the second slot on the team, as his times are now faster than everyone except Josh Guzman. Castillo cited Chavarria for superb training and dedication.

Flores, who finished in a third-place tie in league with a 2-3 mark, continues to help the girls side improve. Other members include Alexis Mydell, Kasandra Perez, Lola Hendrickson, Lydia Diaz, Maleah Lopez, Zinette Diaz, Kadence Lewis and Mariana Lopez.

Flores has stepped into the lead for a team that has grown in size. Places of the top five runners count for the team score in a dual meet, and it is valuable to have more than five runners in order to get the five fastest times for your school. 

The Gilroy girls’ squad now have a solid and complete roster. Castillo referenced Flores’ improvements over the past year and admired her deep dedication. Reaching the CCS Championships is quite an accomplishment.

Cross country is obviously a very individual sport. But the athletes have a strong team feeling and bond.

“You do sort of run individually,” Josh Guzman said. “But we warm up together and sometimes we train together. And for the girls, it’s great that they have a full team now.”

For many cross country runners, the joy comes from running courses in nice locations. As Guzman stated, it is a lot better than running in circles (on a synthetic track).

“I like cross country,” Guzman said. “The traveling. Going to different places and different courses. I like the feeling right before a race. Confidence in yourself. To leave everything out there.”

The Gilroy boys and girls are doing that with success both as a team and with individual accomplishments.

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