The attention that comes with stardom can often take some getting used to.
Few have experienced that feeling more than Edwin Montes, who rose to the rank of ace for Ocean View High's boys' cross-country team just one year removed from helping the team capture its first league title since 1983.
Montes had always been in the spotlight, but it did not really hit him until those he had looked up to had left the school. There were five seniors on last year's team, including former captain Ryan St. Pierre, who was the one to recruit Montes to come to Ocean View.
While he had stood out as the No. 2 runner for the Seahawks as a sophomore, Montes generally let others do the talking. It was not until the team was left with two returners – David Brito and himself – that Montes began to embrace the role of being a leader.
"He was not only OK letting Ryan [St. Pierre] and Hector [Arteaga] lead in the captains' positions, but also in the workouts," Seahawks coach Daniel Hurtado said. "We knew that he could, especially in a workout like 400-meter repeats, that he could absolutely kill, but he was content to let others lead the workouts.
"His work ethic, compared to last year, he completely stepped it up."
Even though he was thriving in the 400-meter repeats and 4xMile drills, his performances on race day were not reflecting his abilities. Through Orange County Championships, he was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with his times.
"I sat down and had a conversation with him," Hurtado said, then hopeful to find the root cause of the struggles. "He just confessed to me, 'I'm scared. There are so many people that have these expectations of me, and I feel like they're going to judge my character based on how I do on the course.'
"We tried to do some exercises. I had him write a letter with everything that he was scared of. He confessed a lot, and then we talked about it."
Montes began running freely shortly thereafter. Once he set aside the expectations that were being projected upon him, Montes returned to form, and the rest took care of itself.
On Nov. 1, Montes threw down a monster time of 15 minutes, 35 seconds in winning the Golden West League Finals at Central Park in Huntington Beach. He blew away the competition by 20 seconds.
The dominant performance in securing his first individual league title signaled the return of the runner who earned his position in the spotlight. He had quelled the nerves, at least for that day.
"Ever since I joined [cross-country], I've kind of stayed away from the spotlight," Montes said. "I never really pushed myself, and this season, the team just kind of bonded.
"It just made me realize how much this team means to me and how much I want to improve."
Jason St. Pierre, one of three varsity alternates from last year's team to contribute to the repeat title this fall, said that the team had to base its belief in the potential of its two returning starters.
"We knew that he had a lot of potential," St. Pierre said of Montes. "With Edwin, it's hard to get that potential out.
"There was that much pressure for him to be a good captain because he was the guy that was going to have to fill the shoes of Ryan."
If it ever wavered internally, faith has been restored. Montes took fifth in the CIF Southern Section Division 3 preliminaries with a time of 15:28. Ocean View advanced to the CIF finals by placing fifth in its heat.
The younger St. Pierre looked on in middle school as Montes' star began to shine. As an eighth-grader at Vista View Middle School, Montes was a three-sport athlete, competing in basketball, volleyball, and as a runner. At that time, Montes had no equal in running.
"He just had something special, and you could tell in eighth grade, it was the Edwin show and who could get second place," St. Pierre added. "These races were 1½ miles. He would have a minute lead in that amount of time."
Montes is motivated by the opportunity to elevate Ocean View's recent run of success to another level. The Seahawks finished ninth in the CIF finals last year, two spots shy of advancing to the state championship meet.
Remarkably, the Seahawks finished the regular season ranked sixth in Division 3, despite losing five of their seven starters from a year ago. Ocean View is projected to make the state field.
"It's like a working miracle," Montes said of his team's continued success after last year's Cinderella run. "We're building this program, and we hope that it keeps on growing, getting stronger and bigger.
"We're kind of like their roots. Last year's seniors started it, and now we have to improve and build upon it."
Born: Feb. 23, 2000
Hometown: Huntington Beach
Height: 5 feet 9
Weight: 140 pounds
Sport: Cross-country/track and field
Coach: Daniel Hurtado
Favorite food: Fettuccine Alfredo
Favorite movie: "Zombieland"
Favorite athletic moment: Montes' favorite athletic moment was running the 4xMile relay in the Friday night meet of the prestigious Arcadia Invitational last year. He anchored a team that included David Brito, Hector Arteaga, and Ryan St. Pierre. Montes' split was 4:24.04, as the Seahawks ran 18:00.89 as a team. American Fork of Utah set the national record for the event in that race at 16:41.30.
Week in review: The junior won his first Golden West League individual crown, topping the competition by 20 seconds in 15:35 at Central Park in Huntington Beach. His victory helped Ocean View successfully repeat as league champions, the program's first two titles since 1983.