Monday, September 24, 2007

Cross Country Runner Rides to Victory

“Cody and I hammered to get away and went through the finishing area with one to go and a 10 second lead. Ian and AJ tried hard to attack and bridge up to Cody and I, but the opponent would have nothing of it and found new legs to stick to them. Cody and I pushed very hard for the rest of the lap and turned onto the finishing straight with no one behind us. I wanted to roll across the line together but Cody was more fond of a mano-a-mano sprint. So we sprinted and I pipped him at the line for the win.”

Since this is a running site, you would think that description came from a cross country or track race, but in fact it is part of Charlie Avis’s own account of his victory as a member of the US Junior Cycling team this summer. The race was a culmination of six races in Belgium for Avis, who received his invitation to join the team following his participation in the Junior Nationals in Pittsburgh.

Avis, a junior at Palo Alto High School, is also a member of the school’s cross country team that, while better known for their #1 runner, Philip MacQuitty, will be one of the three favorites to win Central Coast Section (CCS) Division II title. In his first race this season, at the Gunn Alumni meet, Avis finished a promising 4th (1st on his team), which is quite impressive for someone who only seriously started running in August, and in light of coach Jeff Billing’s pre-meet instructions to run at 80%.

According to his mom Anne, Charlie ran before he could walk. As far back as he can remember, Charlie, seen here running at the Lowell Invitational) has always been a good runner, dating back to winning all the mile runs in elementary school. He joined the middle school cross country team at Crystal Springs Uplands and quickly established himself as the best runner in league. During his past two high school seasons, Charlie recorded promising 16:58 (9th grade) and 16:24 (10th grade) times on the famed Crystal Springs Course. (Photo courtesy of Gillian Lui of the Paly Voice.)

Avis currently rides for the AMD-Discovery Junior Cycling Team with much of his racing taking place in the summer. While cycling is not an official NCAA sport, many schools have cycling teams that compete in the Collegiate Nationals (Stanford was the national champion last year). A school’s riding team, while important to Avis, will be part of the consideration when it comes time for him to make his college selection. Ultimately, his goal is to turn pro.

His start in cycling took place after his 6th grade school year when his dad Greg bought him a road bike so he could join his father’s Sunday morning rides. His passion for cycling was further fueled during the family trips to France over three consecutive summers (2002-2004). There, he was able to watch Lance Armstrong dominate the Tour de France as he won this 4th, 5th and 6th consecutive titles.

With a history of injuries at the tail end of the past three seasons, Coach Billing has taken special care to not rush Avis back into running. Upon his return from Belgium, Avis started with a few days a week of running and worked conservatively toward the current 6 days per week. To keep his riding legs, Avis continues to ride twice a week including an occasional morning ride on Thursdays. Avis feels that the cycling helps his running aerobically, and with his “frail” legs, he can, without chance of injury, really push himself on the bike to supplement his training.

Avis is very excited and looking forward to the CCS race this year since it will once again take place on his favorite cross country course, Crystal Springs. With his experience on the course during middle school and high school, Charlie feels as if he knows the course better than any other runner. Along with MacQuitty and Avis, Palo Alto boasts 8 solid runners (1 junior, the rest seniors), which gives them a great chance to qualify for state along with pre-season favorites, Los Gatos and Santa Clara.

During the spring season, Avis is also middle infielder for the Palo Alto baseball team. In his opinion, the sport is a nice break from the wear and tear of running and cycling. It’s nice to see an athlete enjoy multiple sports during his high school career as opposed to what Patrick Welsh in USA Today called “the growing phenomenon of coaches and parents pressuring kids to specialize in one sport.” With the current balancing act among the three sports, Avis is very much looking forward to future improvement once he can focus on cycling in his collegiate years and beyond.

So what is the tougher sport you might ask? While a 5K run is quite painful, according to Avis, “nothing can waste you quite like a bike race.”

Photos courtesy of AMD-Discovery Channel Cycling Blog and the Paly HS XC Website.


Unknown said...

Great writeup! Thanks for taking the time to learn & write about Charlie.

Anonymous said...

he already knew about charlie, he was his xc coach in middle school!

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