From freshmen sensations to senior stalwarts, Nicholas Guzman and Karina Rodriguez have anchored the Gilroy High cross country program for the past four years.
Now in the twilight of their prep careers, Guzman and Rodriguez are in solid shape to have their best seasons yet. The Mustangs’ duo won their respective races in the first Pacific Coast League Gabilan/Mission Division Meet on Sept. 16 at Christmas Hill Park.
Guzman ran the 2.93-mile course in 16 minutes, 6 seconds to win the boys race, while Rodriguez established a personal-record (PR) of 19:43 to win the girls race.
“This was our only home meet, so it was a pretty special race and I’m thrilled I won,” Guzman said.
Said Rodriguez: “My pacing probably could’ve been a little better, but overall I’m very happy with how I ran the race.”
Gilroy’s boys team also had the second-place finisher in freshman sensation Joshua Guzman, the younger brother of Nicholas. Joshua clocked in an impressive time of 16:43, and Miguel Flores was the Mustangs’ next highest placer, taking 16th in 18:26.
David Perez was 22nd in 18:59, while Richie Chavarria and Kevin Avendano Sernas placed 49th and 50th, respectively.
On the girls side, Gilroy had its five scoring runners all place in the top 20. Vianey Garcia finished third in 20:55, Katherine Turk was 12th in 23:01, Natalia Sandoval was 13th in 23:10, Valeria Flores took 18th in 23:52, and Kadence Lewis finished 28th in 25:55.
Nicholas Guzman and Rodriguez both have goals to win individual league titles and contend for a top-10 finish in the Central Coast Section Championships. Guzman was the runner-up in the PCAL finals in 2019 and was 19th in the CCS Finals in his freshman year.
Rodriguez took eighth in the league finals in 2019 and has a best CCS finish of 33rd in 2018. Both runners are confident they can improve on those marks this season, and with good reason.
“I’m getting better and trying to peak around CCS and state hopefully,” Guzman said. “Mentally, I’m able to stay in the game more and my strategy and pacing have improved. I’m loads smarter as a racer. I’m hoping to go sub 15 minutes, so I have a lot of work to do.”
Rodriguez tried a new race strategy in the league meet, leading the event from start to finish. Since Rodriguez had pretty much dropped everyone by the first mile, she was essentially on a hard solo training run.
“It was definitely new territory for me,” she said. “I had never gone out so aggressive in a cross country race, but I had the confidence to do it. My first mile was 6:02 and from the beginning I was planning to have a solo race—me against the clock.”
Gilroy’s dynamic duo are coming off strong track seasons in the spring, which catapulted them into a great summer of training runs.
“The track season really got me pumped going into the summer and helped me prepare to really hammer out this cross country season,” Guzman said. “I want to make the best out of it since it’s my senior year.”
Knowing she had one final season left was enough motivation for Rodriguez to make the summer training season her best yet.
“I decided to make it count and put more effort than I ever had,” she said. “I did more things on my own in the summer, and it’s good to finally put all that effort in and all the challenges we’ve gone through and turn it into something.”
Guzman’s season has extra meaning because this is the first time he’s been able to compete on the same team with Joshua. They’ve been on the same club team but are separated by age group for races.
“He’s hitting some pretty fast times, faster than when I was a freshman,” Nicholas said. “He’s doing pretty well and it’s great to see.”
Rodriguez rebounded from what she described as a rough sophomore season that lasted into the pandemic. But once she started gaining her rhythm in the middle of the track season, she hasn’t looked back. She’s appreciating each practice and race with her teammates, knowing this is the last time she’ll ever run in a Gilroy High uniform again.
In the middle of their first year at Gilroy High, Rodriguez and Guzman were labeled freshmen sensations by the Dispatch after putting together a string of impressive performances.
“I remember the first time we were interviewed—which was also at Christmas Hill—things went by so fast but it also seems like so long ago,” Rodriguez said. “You gave us that name (freshman sensations) and at the end of the season the team now has an award to a girl and a guy to keep passing it down. It’s become a prominent thing on the team and just stuck. I get to leave and the name keeps living. I got to know that the name (of that award came) from me and Nicholas’ performance, and I’m thankful for that.”