Paso Robles cross country looks to set another high mark

The long road to CIF State is a well-beaten path, and the 2017 squad of Paso Robles High School varsity boys cross country runners is making its way in the footsteps of legendary runners in recent history — and has a chance to become the first PRHS team to make State in Division 2.

Following behind last year’s Trad Berti and Luis Armendariz, Gannon Chamberlain before that, and Zach Chamberlain before that, to name a few of the leaders that led PRHS to CIF State, now led by senior Ian Young and junior Pablo Cortes, the Bearcats have their eyes set on State again.

With PAC 8 League finals looming on Thursday, Nov. 3, the Bearcats are out pounding the pavement, getting ready for the run to CIF.

You might see them around town, and a quick “Go Bearcats” out the window will let them know the community is cheering them on as they run the 3-mile races they have ahead of them. When they cross the finish line, at times collapsing from exhaustion, the visions in their mind might just include your voice or smile from the window of your car back in their hometown of Paso Robles — and the “PR” they wear in the front of their jerseys is backed by more than just a beating heart, but a PRoud community.

If their success this season is any omen, the Bearcats are on their way. They finished second out of 35 teams in the Large School Division at the Asics Clovis Invitational — otherwise known as the “Pre-State Meet.” Taking the starting line among the best programs from San Diego to Sacramento, the boys held their own.

Cortes finished fourth, with a blazing time of 16-minutes-01-seconds. Damian Gavilan took 11th, in 16:15.

Coming in behind highly-ranked Rocklin High School, scoring between Paso Robles and Bella Vista HS, Sacramento, was a deadlock.

Scoring for cross country is based on a team finish, and each runner to cross the finish adds points to the team total. When it comes to a team finish, the team has to be fast of course, but when it comes to winning, the slowest runner on the team — who could beat most of us on a given Sunday — often holds to key to the win.

Alex Ruiz was the man for Paso at Asics. He surged at the finish to take the Bearcats’ sixth spot and break the tie between Paso and Bella Vista.

“Throughout the race I was trying to keep a good pace,” Ruiz said. “I had that determination to get a good place, and I tried my best. I didn’t know what place I would get … when I was coming through, I was tired and in the zone, but at the end I gave it all I had left.”

If you never see the end of a competitive cross country race, then you need to know these runners often collapse to the grass after crossing the finish. They are exhausted, delirious, and sometimes losing their lunch.

“Something you always have to remember at the end is that you have to go back for your team,” Cortes said. “You can’t just go off, you gotta go back for everybody.”

Being a part of the team means having a real part to play in all the success, and it doesn’t just happen at the finish line. Those boys and girls running all over town are the representatives for Paso Robles, and are preparing all year for that final finish when they tote the “PR” across the line as members of our community.

They are actually famous, and people from around California know the names Chamberlain, or Berti. Just ask Trad’s younger brother, Cade.

“It is pretty cool,” PRHS junior Cade Berti said. “People come up to me and ask if I’m Trad Berti’s brother. Just seeing how he progressed in this sport through school, it just makes me want to catch that next guy every race, and score those points for our team.”

The Bearcats’ finish at Asics put them into the top 10 rankings for CIF Southern Section Division 2, at No. 8 as of Oct. 16 rankings.

For many, the road to state began as a freshman, looking up at the Chamberlain’s, Berti’s, and Armendariz’s.

“Looking back at freshman year, it seemed like such a long time ago, and now we are at that level of running,” PRHS junior Pablo Cortez said. “

Each year brings a new memory, and possibly another league championship.

“I remember last year, for the league finals, it was one of our hardest races,” PRHS senior Ian Young said. “We each had to beat one of Arroyo Grande’s guys. All season, there was one guy that was always beating me in every race. I finally got him in that one race where it mattered the most. It is a good payoff in the end.”

In the end, the final footsteps in the final meet, this year’s Bearcats will have the chance to make their mark in history. If all goes well, the boys will be taking the starting line at Woodward Park in Fresno on Saturday, Nov. 25. You can bet they won’t be running off any turkey or pumpkin pie.

Stay updated on the Bearcats progress at PASOmagazine.com, and on Facebook @PASOmagazine.