Some cross-country coaches have railed against athletes from other sports using their own as a form of cross-training.
No one wants to play second fiddle, particularly given the investment of time that goes into coaching.
The Ocean View High cross-country program has attracted a number of athletes that play another sport. Prevalent among the Seahawks’ starting seven are soccer players.
Among the returners, senior Miguel Flores and juniors Parker Walpole and Michael Hernandez have played the beautiful game.
Seahawks boys’ cross-country coach Daniel Hurtado has every reason to welcome the influx of soccer players. Ocean View has qualified for the CIF State cross-country championships in back-to-back years, the first two appearances in program history, and those who may have thought running to be their second sport have been won over.
The soccer players have turned into recruiters, and their latest catch from the pitch may be their best yet.
In the spring, Hurtado was guiding his track and field team through stretching when he saw a freshman soccer player running on the infield.
“There was just something about his stride,” Hurtado said. “He just looked effortless. He was way ahead of everyone else. I remember, I told the guys, ‘I want that kid on the team.’”
Diego Gonzalez had caught the eye of Hurtado. Flores, who had once joined cross-country for the training aspect, appealed to Gonzalez through their mutual interest in soccer.
“I tried to mostly think about going for the idea of [cross-country] helping [to] benefit him for soccer because we both grew up playing together in the Oak View community,” Flores said of his sales pitch. “[I was telling him] how it has benefitted me for soccer and telling him that it can do the same for him.
“We have a great team, and we know he is very talented.”
Indeed, Hurtado saw great potential for Gonzalez. He joined the track and field team and competed exclusively on the frosh-soph level as a freshman. His fitness level without having his mileage built up already impressed his coach.
Then in a time trial before the cross-country season, Gonzalez pulled away from the Seahawks’ pack after two miles.
“Beating Miguel and Parker, we know what they can do and have been able to do,” Hurtado said. “At that moment, we knew that it was going to be good.”
The time trial did not prove to be an aberration. Gonzalez has asserted himself as the Seahawks’ front-runner, emerging victorious in both of the Golden West League cluster meets so far this season.
He has won three of his first four varsity starts, including a Division 3 grade-level victory in the Dana Hills Invitational on Sept. 28.
The outlier is a sixth-place finish in the White Division Varsity B race of the Woodbridge Invitational at SilverLakes Sports Park in Norco, where he ran a personal-best time of 15 minutes 22.7 seconds.
With limited training under his belt, Gonzalez has been reluctant to set goals for himself in cross-country. While he could be just scratching the surface of what he is capable of, a Golden West League individual title appears to be a possibility this season.
“I think being a league champion could possibly be one of my goals, seeing as how I [have done] in my other races,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t really look for times. I don’t really strategize, in general. When I run, I’m not thinking about anything else.
“When I run, I just run and try to have fun, too, and then just see how good I can do.”
Speaking from experience, Flores said that cross-country earned its own place in his heart apart from soccer. He wanted to ensure that the program would continue to thrive and thought Gonzalez could help with that.
“Going off that legacy [of making it to state], bringing in new runners [and] people that can fill our shoes once we leave,” Flores said of how promoting the program can be part of team leadership. “I think getting Diego to be on the team was one of the greatest things that happened.”
Gonzalez enjoys an active lifestyle that revolves around running, skateboarding and soccer. He said that the opportunity to continue playing sports is what motivates him in the classroom.
Much of Gonzalez’s story is unwritten, but as of now, he intends to keep playing both sports.
“Right now, I don’t know exactly what I want to do yet in the future with running or soccer,” Gonzalez said. “I’m just hoping that something good happens out of either running or soccer.”
Born: March 19, 2004
Hometown: Huntington Beach
Height: 5 feet 3
Weight: 113 pounds
Coach: Daniel Hurtado
Favorite food: Tacos
Favorite movie: “Central Intelligence”
Favorite athletic moment: Gonzalez scored on his first free kick as a freshman for the Ocean View frosh-soph team, netting the shot from 25 yards out. The Seahawks would go on to beat Fountain Valley.
Week in review: The sophomore standout won his Division 3 grade-level race in the Dana Hills Invitational with a time of 15:35.1 on Sept. 28. He also won the second Golden West League cluster meet on Wednesday at Central Park in Huntington Beach.
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