Burroughs High cross-country and track and field Coach John Peebles has helped train his share of accomplished runners in his more than a decade with the Indians programs.
He coached Carolyn Brown to a CIF Southern Section title in the girls’ 800 meters in 2000, helped Tony Ahr qualify for state competition in the boys’ 1,600 in 2001, coached Sadee Martinez to two State Meet appearances in girls’ cross-country (2006, ’07) and a state bid in the girls’ 1,600 in 2007 and helped guide Western Nelson to the State Meet in boys’ cross-country in 2009 and the boys’ 3,200 in 2009.
Needless to say, Peebles has seen his share of quality athletes pass through the school.
Peebles is a person who chooses his words carefully, and is not one to throw out compliments for the sake of a nice-sounding quote. In fact, the coach usually thinks long and hard before answering a question.
That’s why when Peebles proclaims who is the best athlete he’s ever coached, it is a statement that means something. That athlete would be Burroughs junior Anthony Monroy.
“I would put him now as the best runner I’ve ever coached,” Peebles said. “Apologies to the other runners who I’ve coached. But, at this point, he’s the best.”
Monroy, who just finished a fine cross-country season with the Indians, said he owes a great deal to Peebles for helping him develop as a runner, and he was taken aback by Peebles’ assessment of his talents.
“I’m pretty overwhelmed by that. He has really helped me a lot,” Monroy said. “He talks to me before races and he lets me know what I should be doing. I wouldn’t be where I’m at without him.”
Monroy showed off his talents amid strong competition in the Pacific League. He also had solid showings in invitationals and in CIF Southern Section action. All of his efforts culminated with a 19th-place finish in the CIF-State Cross-Country Championships.
It is because of his accomplishments that Monroy has been named the 2010 All-Area Boys’ Cross-Country Runner of the Year by the writers and editors of the Burbank Leader, Glendale News-Press and La Cañada Valley Sun.
It is the second straight season Monroy has garnered the honor.
Coming off a sophomore track and field season in which Monroy qualified for the CIF Southern Section Masters Meet in the 3,200, he worked hard during the summer and was ready to attack his junior cross-country season.
Peebles said he and Monroy were working up to the State Meet, as the coach wanted his runner to peak at just the right time.
“We were cutting down on some of the stuff, but he’s also a strong kid and he can handle whatever is thrown at him,” Peebles said.
In the race Nov. 27 at Woodward Park in Fresno, Monroy had a fine showing in the competitive Division I race, placing 19th in 15:22.07 seconds over the 5-kilometer course.
Monroy’s effort was the 10th-best among all the Southern Section runners in Division I and 15th among Southern Section runners across all five divisions, In addition, his time was 27th overall out of 971 runners across all five divisions, including the No. 7 time for a junior (all of whom came from Division I).
Monroy’s time was also 10 seconds faster than former Burroughs standout Western Nelson’s 15th-place result of 15:32 in 2008. Nelson is now running for Cal State San Marcos.
Because of the rainy conditions, some parts of the course became muddy during the state meet race, especially going up the hill past the mile mark and coming back down just before the two-mile mark.
Monroy said it was cold before his race.
“It was already cold, but the rain just made it worse,” Monroy said. “But everybody had to run in it. You just had to go out and try and run your race.
“It was a good experience for me. It makes me want to work harder and come back next year, where I hopefully can do better.”
Monroy earned a spot in the State Meet by running well in the Southern Section Division I finals Nov. 20 at Mount San Antonio College. Because of rain, the course was changed to a flat terrain for the 5-kilometer race. In the Division I competition, the junior placed sixth in 15:46.
“If you finish sixth in Southern Section Division I, you did something right. Whether it be a hill course, or a flat course, hot day, cold day, that is accomplishing something,” Peebles said.
Monroy also took part in the CIF preliminaries Nov. 13 at Mt. SAC, placing second in 15:19. His effort helped the Indians boys’ team advance to the Southern Section finals for the first time in 30 years.
Doing well in CIF competition was some of the success that Monroy enjoyed during the season.
Running against a talented field in the Pacific League finals in November, Monroy took third in 15:32.05. He was the lone runner among the top-eight finishers not wearing an Arcadia uniform.
In the Mount SAC Invitational in October, Monroy placed sixth in the prestigious Individual Sweepstakes race, finishing the three-mile course in 14: 45. The mark was the eighth-fastest of the day, throughout all divisions, and was the fastest ever by a Burroughs runner on the course (Nelson ran 15:06 in 2008).
“That was definitely unexpected,” Monroy said about his time in the race. “I was finishing the race and I looked at the time and it even surprised me.”
He also captured a title in the Division I race at the Staub/Barnes Invitational at Crescenta Valley Park (15:33), placed second in the Mount Carmel Invitational in San Diego (his 14: 53 seconds being the third-fastest time in the meet’s history) as well as running to victory in the 20th Burbank All-City Cross-Country Meet at Griffith Park (15:00).
Looking back on his season, Monroy said he was happy that he was able to achieve his primary goal.
“My goal this year was just to make it to state,” he said. “I guess all of the hard work and training that I put in paid off.”
That hard work will now shift to the track and field season, as Monroy will attempt to make it to the State Meet in the 3,200.
“I just want to keep improving,” he said. “That’s what really matters to me.”