Thursday, December 01, 2016

Catching up with Campolindo senior, Ray Diaz

Today we chat with Campolindo senior runner, Ray Diaz. This past Saturday, Diaz and his Campolindo teammates finished in 3rd place in the Division III race at the California state meet to win another state trophy for the Cougar boys' squad (four total for the boys in school history). Diaz was on the Campolindo varsity last year as the boys won their 3rd straight NCS title and had a near podium performance at the state meet with a 6th place finish. A motivated group returned this year to repeat as NCS champions and more importantly, make the podium again with their 3rd place finish. In the merge scoring, Campolindo was the top ranked NorCal boys team.

1) How did you get your start in running? What was your first experience? Any track PRs before HS? What other sports have you played aside from XC and TF?
Funny thing, I never did cross country before high school, I was a basketball player in middle school. The only running I ever did before high school was running the “mile time trial” in physical education class. I think the fastest I ever ran in PE was around a 6:45, which is pretty astonishing looking back at how much I have improved over the past four years.
Running was a struggle for me before high school, I was never really into running at all. In fact, my dad forced me into joining the cross country team. The only reasons I agreed with him were to get in shape for basketball and make some new friends.

2) Any highlights for you as a freshman/sophomore on the cross country and track and field teams? Proudest achievements during your first two high school years? Who were the runners that you looked up to whether that was on the Campo team or other schools?
One athlete I looked up to was Thomas Heutmaker! He once told me before a race, “You just gotta relax man.” He was also a fearless racer too. Freshman year was an adjustment period. It was hard to adapt to the rigorous training that Chuck has implemented. I was really “perplexed” during my freshman season, as Aidan Goltra would say. Anyway, I kept a steady improvement over the course of that freshman season. I started off running a fourteen minute two mile at the Martinez Shoreline Park, and ended up running an 11:18 at the Shadow Cliffs 1.95 mile course that freshman season.  There weren’t many highlights during my freshman / sophomore year of high school, but one thing that I guess is a highlight was winning the 1600m and 3200m at the Frosh-Soph level. Those races gave me a taste of what winning feels like, which feels great!

3) When do you feel like you made the jump during high school from runner to racer, junior varsity to varsity? What led you to making that jump?
When I was a Sophomore, I had the opportunity to be an alternate in the postseason for the 2014 boys’ varsity squad. It motivated me to be more consistent with my training. Although I never raced on varsity that year, it motivated me to get better.  

4) What do you feel was your best races last year as a junior in both XC and TF?
I’d have to say my best race during my junior year of XC was definitely Stanford. I delivered a 16th place finish in a time of 16:16 for the 5k distance.  I wasn’t racing well before that race, mainly because I was sick, but those early races didn’t hurt my confidence. It was the race that made me truly believe.  What was even more exciting was that we beat a southern section powerhouse, Paso Robles, 52-58!

My best track performance was DFAL Championships in the 3200m. I ran a personal record of 9:32 in the 3200m, but four of our top guys broke 9:35 that day, which was even more exciting. I eventually advanced to MOC that year, which was a big step for me before going into my senior year of cross country.

5) Your team won NCS last year and finished 6th place at the state meet? How many returning varsity athletes did you have from last season? 
I was very honored to contribute to  a third straight NCS title, but our main emphasis was on state that year. Our goal was to challenge Brea Olinda for the team title. We were confident going into that race, mainly because we beat a potential podium team earlier in the year (Paso Robles). As you said, we ended up finishing 6th, which stung hard that day. I was devastated that all the hard work we put in over the year didn’t pay off that one day. Paso Robles ended up finishing third, while Brea Olinda won the team title by one point…...

I remember watching the Paso Robles team receive their team medals.  I sat next to my coach Andy, he said to me, “I hope you let this moment sink in and motivate you.”

We graduated four runners (Jon, Nathaniel, Matt, and Miguel), but returned three out our top five (JJ, Richard and myself). At the end of track season, after a lot of effort, we convinced Niki Moore to finally quit football and do cross country. He won MOC last track season in the 800m, so his participation in cross country gave us better depth this year.

6) Did you do anything differently this past summer as you prepared for this cross country season? 
I attended two summer camps. The first camp I attended was Runners Workshop up at Echo Lake. It was a challenge running at altitude for a week, but I learned a whole bunch there. The second camp I attended was Humboldt State Running camp, for the first time! I wasn’t able to go to Humboldt my sophomore and junior year because of family vacations. Our team goes up to Humboldt at the end of July to learn more about the fundamentals of running. That week was a blast, I learned so much from the amazing lectures given by coaches. I also made some friends from other schools too! Other than that, I just kept running consistently and logged all my miles on Xcstats and Strava (Both amazing tools for logging runs, would absolutely recommend to those athletes with GPS watches wanting to upload their miles).
7) What do you feel are the key reasons for the success of the Campolindo teams?
There are a lot of key reasons for the success of recent Campolindo teams, but to me, there are two main reasons behind that success. One of them is Coaching, which I’ll talk about in the next question in more detail. The second is the culture at Campolindo. Everyone on this team, whether they are on varsity, frosh-soph, or junior varsity, all work hard. Everyone is dedicated, they train in the offseason, log their miles, and have a positive attitude when coming to practice.

These are the traits that make Campolindo such a great program.
8) Tell us about your coaches and how they have helped you get to your current level as a runner.
Oh man, I don’t know where I would be without Chuck, Andy, Joey, and Jeff today! They’ve really been huge role models in my daily life. Chuck has really taught me the basic principle of working hard towards achieving your goals and how to be more organized. Andy, Jeff, and Joey are great assistant coaches. They’re easy to talk to, good role models, and great examples of dedicated people!

9) What was the race plan heading into the state meet for the team and you personally? How did the race go for you? What was the toughest part of the race? When did your team find out they made the podium? Reaction?
Going into the race, the plan was to go out fast first mile while trying to stay relaxed. Our coaches told us if we didn’t get out hard in the first mile and go sub five, it would be almost impossible to make up ground because you're eating the dust of 100+ runners. The coaches also emphasized not leading the first mile, but rather staying in contention. After the first mile mark, our team was in fourth position, which was perfect for us. We then had to make a big push during that middle mile, which was the main emphasis going into the race. Picking up a bunch of places during that middle mile was the toughest part for me, but it put me in position for a good day. After the second mile, we were supposed to hold on and channel that inner belief / inspiration.

Before the race, I was actually nervous. I don’t get nervous before races usually, but this race was an exception.  I knew it would be my last XC race in a Campolindo uniform, so that played a part. I ended up running a 15:55.3 to finish 31st. I don’t think it was that great of a race for me individually. I would’ve liked to finish in the top 25. Right when I crossed the finish line, I was pretty exhausted. About thirty seconds after finishing, I heard the announcer say, “Cathedral Catholic, West Torrance, and Campolindo with five runners across the finish line” but, I was convinced we got fourth. When our we were walking back to our team area, Andy started jumping up and down, saying “We did it!!” It brought me to tears. It was gratifying. It was our first podium finish in 8 years, after coming so close in 2013, and 2015. It was a dream come true for me.

10) Favorite XC course? Favorite XC invitational? Favorite XC workout? Favorite long run? Favorite TF invitational? Favorite TF event? Favorite TF workout? Favorite free time activity?
Favorite XC Course: Hidden Valley Park
Favorite XC invitational: Roughrider for sure, mostly because we miss school for the day and get to ride on a charter bus.
Favorite XC workout: 25 minute tempo run @ 20k pace
Favorite Long run: Old Moraga Ranch Trail behind the Saint Mary’s College campus, very hilly + lots of cow pastures. Also an amazing view of the entire East Bay from above!
Favorite TF Invitational: Dublin Distance Fiesta! Great atmosphere, Dublin does a really good job of running the meet there, even when there are 2000 + athletes running.
Favorite TF Event: 3200m
Favorite Track Workout: This is a tough one, I don’t really have an answer to that question, other than all track workouts are my favorite!
Favorite free time activity: Listening to music or watching the amazing Golden State Warriors play! Beauty to watch them play on national television. They are the perfect example of excellent teamwork.

11) As you turn your attention toward the track season, what are your goals and races you are most looking forward to in 2017?
Oh man, I’m really looking forward to this track season! This will be my last high school season before heading off to college to study and run. Time really does fly. One race I’m looking forward to is the Stanford Track invitational. For the past couple of years, Chuck has sent a Distance Medley Relay team down to Palo Alto. This season, we want to break our school record (10:28). We came close the last time we ran at Stanford (10:31). Another race I have my eyes on is Arcadia! Our coaches haven't sent a boys team down to Arcadia in quite some time, but that will hopefully change this year. We would like a shot to break the 4xMile school record (17:43). As of now, our top 1600m times are 4:26-JJ, 4:27-Niki, 4:30-Me, and 4:31-Richard. Some personal goals I’ve made are sub 9:20 in the 3200m and to enjoy my last season! I’d also love to get in the top 6 at NCS Meet of Champions in the 3200m.

12) Anything else you would like to add.
Shout out to my teammates for stepping up to the challenge at state this year! Thanks for the interview!

Thank you very much for your time Ray! AJC

1 comment:

Sib said...

lol Ray tellin' it like it is

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