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As good as Golden

Grizzlies reach first state competition in school history

Posted: November 26, 2008 10:21 p.m.
Updated: November 27, 2008 4:59 a.m.

The Golden Valley boys cross country team will compete in its first CIF state competition in school history. The Grizzlies qualified for Saturday's state Division III meet at Woodward Park in Fresno.

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For the Golden Valley boys cross country team becoming the first team in school history to reach any state competition did not begin Saturday in the CIF-Southern Section Division III Cross Country Finals, where they finished as the seventh and final qualifying team.

It did not start on Nov. 15 at Mt. San Antonio College at the CIF-SS Prelims in Walnut, where the Grizzlies finished second in order to qualify for the finals.

Nor did it commence on Nov. 6 at Castaic Lake in the Foothill League finals, where Golden Valley finished as the third and final qualifying team for CIF, after finishing fifth the previous season.

To truly know when and where the Grizzlies' quest to reach the ultimate goal began, you'd have to go back to the last week of July in Mammoth.

"They set three goals up there," said Golden Valley co-head coach Rob Evans, who along with his brother Chris is in his second season. "Their first goal was to finish among the top three teams in our league. The advanced goal was to make it to the CIF finals. Their dream goal was to get to state."

The Grizzlies made that dream a reality, scoring 178 points in the CIF-SS finals. That was far ahead of eighth-place Apple Valley's 242 points.

At 10:40 a.m. Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno, Golden Valley will compete in the CIF State Cross Country Championships.

"They had the most pressure in that meet," Evans said of the CIF Finals. "No one had any experience running in CIF. To come out and perform as well as we did, that's about as big as it gets."

Seth Totten finished sixth with a time of 15 minutes 20 seconds. The next two Golden Valley runners were Johnny Tapia (29th, 16:12) and Danny Carrillo (42nd, 16:22).

"We worked our butts off," Totten said. "We ran at 3 p.m. every day, even if it was record-breaking heat. The fact we ran in the heat was because, when did we race? In the heat."

There was another reason the Grizzlies went from finishing fifth or sixth in each of the previous three seasons of its existence to where they are now: doubling the practice miles from 30 per week to 60.

"That was a big difference," said Chris Evans. "Our kids were really dedicated this year. They were thirsty. I think it was their determination to being top three in league."

That dedication to their sport led Golden Valley to setting a team time record. On Oct. 18 in the Mt. SAC
Invitational, the Grizzlies ran six minutes faster than last season and finished at 81:20.

With the exception of four-year varsity runner Gabe Vasquez and Totten, every Golden Valley runner was new this season.

The lack of experience was not a deterrent.

Grizzly No. 2 runner Johnny Tapia is a senior who joined from the soccer team. Totten joined last season from the baseball team, hoping to use the sport to help him steal at least 25 bases this spring. Danny Carrillo was the fastest freshman in Division III this season and is the team's No. 3 runner. Luc Schultz and Elie Boutros have put together strong performances this season.

"When we went to Mammoth, we set higher goals," Vasquez said. "We grouped together. That was more important. We focused a lot this year. We tried to get five of the guys in one group. We didn't want to run apart from each other. The coaches didn't let that happen."

The drop-off from second in prelims to seventh in the finals was noticable and disappointing to some runners. But the reaction to making school history was upbeat.

The school has also been supportive, honoring the team before a varsity boys basketball scrimmage on Black and Gold Night.

"I was excited," Carrillo said. "Everyone was happy. We made it. Now this is the one that counts."

The Evans brothers, both of whom ran at Crescenta Valley and later at UC Irvine, have their runners' sights set on the state meet.

"There's no pressure on them," Rob Evans said. "We'd like to be in the top 10 or 12, but let's go see what
we can do."

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