UC Irvine Notebook : Quinonez Prefers to Go All Out All by Himself

Gus Quinonez used to play soccer in high school. But he gave it up because he was tired of relying on other people. He wanted to be the only one who determined whether he succeeded or failed.

Going solo, Quinonez is succeeding.

A distance runner at UC Irvine, Quinonez is, to date, the only member of the UC Irvine men’s track and field team to qualify for the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. championships in Eugene, Ore., June 1-4.

This weekend, at the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. championships in Logan, Utah, he will try to duplicate his success of a year ago.


Quinonez was named the PCAA athlete of the year in track last year after he won the 10,000 meters in 29 minutes 51.60 seconds on a Friday evening and came back to win the 5,000 meters in 14:25.94 on Saturday afternoon.

Quinonez started running when he was in grade school, and he began seriously training when he was 13. He set three national age-group records and still holds the national record for 14-year-olds in the 10-kilometer (32:34).

He ran track and cross-country all four years at Huntington Beach High School and one year at Orange Coast College. Quinonez, 22, has competed for UC Irvine the past three seasons.

“I plan on running competitively until I’m 35,” Quinonez said. “I want to run a marathon next year. And I hope to compete in the Olympics in a marathon or the 10,000 meters. Those are my long-term goals, and so far, I’ve been achieving my goals.”

If Quinonez keeps running at a competitive pace for 13 more years, he’ll be beating the odds. But he’s doing that right now.

“He’s rare in his sport,” Vince O’Boyle, the Anteater track coach, said. “You don’t see many who start at such an early age last this long. Usually they’ll say they’ve had enough.”

But Quinonez can’t seem to get enough.

O’Boyle has been concerned that Quinonez may be training too hard on his own.

According to O’Boyle, Quinonez will run 100-120 miles a week much of the year. During the cross-country season, Quinonez would run 3-5 miles on his own in the morning, run 8-10 miles training with the team in the afternoon, race on Saturdays, and then run about 15 miles on Sundays.

“There’s this Zen thing about runners,” O’Boyle said. “They think the more they do, the better they’ll do. Gus works very, very hard, and he may have tired himself out during cross-country.”

Quinonez, who had hoped to make All-American in cross-country, did not have the outstanding season he had hoped for. He finished eighth in the PCAA championships, sixth in the NCAA District 8 championships and 65th in the NCAA championships.

“He may have been running tired,” O’Boyle said. “There’s a point where you have to back down.”

But Quinonez thinks his hard work is now paying off. Last season, he didn’t qualify for the NCAA championships, and he blamed it on the fact that he wasn’t in good enough shape midway through the season, when the premier 10,000-meter races such as the Stanford Invitational and the Mt. SAC Relays take place.

This year, he was in shape. At the Mt. SAC Relays, he ran a lifetime best of 29:12.4, running in a world-class field that included U.S. Olympian Pat Porter and Mexico’s Mauricio Gonzalez. The NCAA qualifying mark is 29:17.

In the PCAA championships, the Irvine men’s team is hoping to upset five-time defending champion Fresno State.

When the two teams met earlier in the season in a dual meet at UC Irvine, the Anteaters posted their most serious threat to Fresno in recent years. The Bulldogs clinched the victory only after a come-from-behind win in the 1,600-meter relay.

“It should be a dogfight,” O’Boyle said.

Fresno is heavily favored to repeat as the PCAA women’s champion, with Irvine’s strongest events in distance running.

Fresno poses a tough challenge, because of the depth and strength of its program. Fresno will have 32 athletes in Logan on each team, whereas Irvine will have 20 women and 24 men.

But Fresno’s real advantage is off the field. The Bulldogs have 28 scholarships to offer, according to O’Boyle, 14 for each team. The Irvine men’s team splits five scholarships and the women’s team three.

“That’s the biggest difference,” O’Boyle said. “Nobody here is near a full ride.”

The PCAA championships will begin Friday morning and run through Saturday afternoon at the Ralph Maughan Stadium at Utah State.

Irvine’s baseball team ended its season last weekend with a three-game sweep of the University of the Pacific. The Anteaters (30-28-1 overall, 9-12 in the PCAA) ended their season with a 9-6 victory.

Craig Brink pitched the finale Sunday for his ninth victory and ninth complete game of the season and his 30th career win. He was the third Irvine pitcher to win 30 games or more.

At the end of the game, Brink knelt and kissed the pitcher’s mound.

“I thought, what the hell, it’s treated me well,” he said afterward. “That was my last time I’d ever be on that mound.”

Brink, who was named to the All-PCAA second team, has a 14-3 record at home in the past two years.

Jeff Oberdank became the first Anteater to have more than 90 hits in a season. He went 2 for 5 and finished with 94 hits.

The men’s tennis team finished the regular season ranked fifth in the nation with a 21-7 dual meet record, but the Anteaters ended the season on a down note, losing to UCLA, 5-3, last Wednesday.

Coach Greg Patton expressed concern that the loss will affect the team’s seeding in the NCAA championships in Athens, Ga., May 20-28.

“We probably would have been seeded fifth, but now we will be around eight or nine,” Patton said.

NCAA pairings will be announced Monday.

Anteater Notes

At last Saturday’s Oregon Twilight Festival in Eugene, Ore., Anteaters Judy McLaughlin finished third (9:23.25), Buffy Rabbitt fourth (9:26.21) and Jill Harrington ninth (9:45.17) in the 3,000 meters. . . . At Saturday’s S&W; California Relays in Modesto, Rod Brower finished fifth in the 800 meters at 1:49.11. . . . Anteater John Seeburger, who was named to the All-PCAA second team at third base, finished the season batting .351 to claim the team batting title. His 61 RBIs puts him in second place on the Irvine single-season RBI list. Jeff Malinoff had 65 RBIs in 1972. . . Utility player Doug Kline was named to the All-PCAA second team.