Warriors running away with individual titles after two local races
David Cardenas, a member of the Central High School boys soccer team, turned the corner and accelerated.
The junior wasn’t chasing a soccer ball, he was chasing victory in a cross-country race.
Cardenas flashed a smile as he motored toward the finish line, the second-place runner nowhere in sight at last Friday’s Tiger Invitational at Canyon View Park.
It’s been a busy fall for Cardenas. The Tiger Invitational was his first race of the season but he’s been doing plenty of running with the Central soccer team.
Cardenas said he loves the variety and camaraderie of playing two sports.
“It can be a challenge physically sometimes but it’s just amazing to be part of two different teams,” he said. “I would say they are equally fun because I like hanging out with both teammates.
“There are different personalities on both teams but I have to say for a sport, soccer is more fun,” he said with a smile.
Central cross country coach Ted Leblow said Cardenas practices with the team a couple of days a week during the workout days.
“If he was a full-time runner, he would probably be even faster but he gets a lot of miles in soccer,” Leblow said. “He’s running the whole game.”
Because of his soccer schedule, Leblow said Cardenas will run in four meets this season, plus state if the Warriors make it like they did last year.
“I’m very tempted to put more time into cross country, but soccer is my love,” Cardenas said, smiling. He is also a team captain on the soccer team.
It’s been an impressive early season for the Central cross-country team, with individual winners in the first two local races. Senior Ivory Espinoza has won both of the girls races and junior Tyman Smart won the Warrior Invitational.
Smart finished third at the Tiger Invitational after a blazing second half of the race.
“He’s usually conservative at the start and he gave up a little too much time in this race in the first mile. But he ran the second lap faster than anyone,” Leblow said.
Espinoza has dominated the first two races thanks to a grueling summer, when she put in close to 900 miles of training over a 13-week period.
“All summer, I was like ‘Man, I hope this is going to pay off,’ ” she said with a smile after the Tiger Invitational. “It feels really good because I can see that all my hard work is finally paying off.”
Now that she’s winning races, Espinoza admits that her cross-country journey has been a long process that started with her running near the back of the pack a couple of years ago.
“It’s definitely interesting starting out at the bottom of the food chain, to now being closer to the top,” she said with a laugh. “I started running my sophomore year of track, so I didn’t take running that seriously back then, but now I’m really set on running.”
Leblow has a season-long plan for his runners that started with an intense early training schedule.
“They are coming into shape, we’re working really hard early in the season, so they might come into these meets with tired legs, a little bit, but that’s OK,” he said. “When it matters toward the end of the season, that’s when we want to be running our best.”