While coaching elite high school cross country and track and field programs at Buchanan in addition to directing labor-intensive Central Section and CIF State track meets at Veterans Memorial Stadium, Brian Weaver is locked into an exhausting, year-round commitment.
Two years ago, he surely could have been excused from overlooking Evert Silva, particularly in the distance runner’s developmental stage at a Fresno High Division III program that had operated in virtual anonymity since Michael Kasahun won the CIF State Division I cross country title in 1996.
Yet Silva, all 5-feet-9 and 120 pounds of him, caught Weaver’s eye.
It wasn’t long after Silva placed but 119th in the 2015 state D-III cross country final at Woodward Park that Weaver forecast: “That kid’s going to be good.”
No matter that Silva, at 16 minutes and 59.1 seconds for 3.1 miles, finished more than 2 minutes behind national-acclaimed Austin Tamagno of Brea Olinda that Nov. 28 day.
“You could see a lot of desire, how light he was on his feet, his turnover and his amazing attitude; he was grateful for everything,” Weaver reflected this week. “He wanted to be good, and he raced like it. Everything about him, I’m thinking: ‘This kid could be special.’ ”
He would be.
To what degree? Where to begin for The Fresno Bee 2016 boys Runner of the Year?
15:09.6 Evert Silva’s time in the state championships, good for fourth in D-III and the top time by a Central Section runner this season
A year after placing fifth in the section D-III at 16:10, Silva coasted to the division gold by 52 seconds at 15:30.4.
Nine days later, against profoundly better competition that reflected his more urgent pace, he finished fourth in the state D-III championship at 15:09.6 – a school record and the section’s best time of the season for all divisions.
Silva then closed his cross country prep career by placing 31st among 195 runners – and fourth among Californians – in the single-division Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Ore., soundly defeating Rubidioux-Riverside’s Erik Gonzalez and Cathedral Catholic-San Diego’s Joaquin Martinez after they finished ahead of him in the state meet.
And now this.
Silva learned this week he has been accepted, academically, into Northern Arizona University, the NCAA 2016 champion in men’s cross country.
There’s no guarantee he’ll attend the college in Flagstaff, Ariz., in seven months. He hasn’t received a scholarship offer from the Lumberjacks – yet.
But the fact that dialogue has even begun between him and their coaches speaks volumes for the runner far out of Tamagno’s time zone not much more than a year ago. Tamagno now runs for yet another NCAA titan, Oregon.
A year ago, I never thought I’d be in the shoes I am today.
It appears Silva will run for somebody on scholarship, and that’s all that matters. He’s visiting Georgetown this weekend and has also heard from Portland coaches, among others.
“I have options,” he says. “Running is the reason I’m getting into college. Getting the call from Northern Arizona telling me I got accepted threw a lot of stress from my shoulders. A year ago, I never thought I’d be in the shoes I am today; I never would have believed it.”
Two developments are primarily responsible.
▪ First, the “downfall” from the 2015 state cross country meet “fired” him up for the subsequent track and field season last spring. And it was there he established identity by placing second in the section and ninth in the state in 3,200 meters. And the California showcase has but one division, meaning he opposed the best of all in a meet generally resembling a Junior Olympics.
▪ Second, the arrival of Jesus Campos as Fresno High’s cross country coach just before the season began in August.
“I knew how good he was and what he had accomplished,” Silva says of the longtime Fresno-area marathon star. “I had someone to guide me very well.”
Campos had to execute every gimmick in the book to help train Silva because Silva had no teammate remotely close to his caliber.
That included giving teammates 30-second leads over Silva in practice runs. It also had Campos pacing Silva on a bicycle in faster-tempo runs and the coach running with him on longer workouts because, simply, the coach could.
“His strength is consistency in training,” Campos says. “He never misses a practice, he always works hard, he doesn’t complain and he’s willing to hit specific times he’s supposed to be running. He’s also a very smart runner.
“I realize college is way different than high school, but I can see him doing big things.”
The Fresno Bee Boys Cross Country All-Stars
- Stewart Fernandez, sr., Buchanan
- Hayden Hansen, jr., Buchanan
- Chandler Maciel, sr., Central Valley Christian
- Nathan Nickeson, sr., Clovis
- Jared Falcone, jr., Clovis East
- Isaiah Galindo, frosh., Clovis North
- Ivan Ayala, sr., Coalinga
- Jose Mosqueda, jr., Kerman
- Miguel Villar, sr., Madera South
- Victor Ochoa, soph., Madera South
- Nicholas Hernandez, sr., Madera South
- Christian Nevarez, sr., Madera South
- Seth Garcia, soph., Madera South
- Michael Ochoa, sr., Madera South
- Jaden Uphoff, jr., Monache
- Ivan Mendez, soph., Monache
- De’Vyd Lawson, sr., Redwood
- Laykyn Branco, sr., Redwood
Boys Cross Country Coach of the Year
ELOY QUINTANA, MADERA SOUTH
He’s qualified because: He has sustained a dynasty, often a frightening challenge for a new coach. Inheriting a Madera South boys program in 2014 that had won five consecutive Central Section titles under coach Rich Parris, Quintana has not only gone 3 for 3 since, but with dominance. A year after the Stallions missed a perfect score by five with a 20 and a 41-point Division I runaway over runner-up Buchanan, they scored 26 points while leaving distant in their rearview mirror Clovis Unified heavyweights Clovis (90), Buchanan (101) and Clovis North (128). Madera South, despite the loss of two-year Fresno Bee Runner of the Year Eduardo Herrera, also placed fifth in the state D-I for a third-straight top five finish in that meet – the nation’s finest – under Quintana.