Should the Warren High boys cross-country team reach national prominence this fall, El Dorado County trails, hills, roads — and citizens — get an assist.
For 11 years and counting, the Los Angeles area squad, led by head coach Ramon Miranda, has made it a point to conduct its summer training here in the foothills, as opposed to options closer to home.
Those 22 young men seen running recently? That’s the Bears from Downey, last year’s Division I Southern Section champions — no small feat considering the Southern is considered the state’s toughest section.
Miranda draws a direct correlation between his team’s local training and its yearly success.
“We come from a city of concrete streets where there’s a light every 100 meters, so we love the endurance and field training we get on the trails here and I attribute that to our success since we’ve been coming,” said Miranda, in his 20th year as the Bears’ cross-country coach. “The team chemistry that’s built and bonding that occurs is immeasurable — every year we’re better so this year’s team is projected to be the best in school history.
“The friendships we’ve come to know — the Terry family, Station 49 — I’d like to thank everyone for their kindness and for putting up with us,” Miranda added.
Corrie Terry use to work with Miranda before moving to the foothills, where the idea between the two was hatched to bring the team north to train. After 10 years, the Terry’s sale of their home where Warren pitched its tents moved the team to the Sly Park Events Center.
“My high school coach took us to Montana, but I can’t do that. Corrie informed me that there were ‘plenty of trails up here’ and we spent our first year exploring and running into a lot of dead ends and driveways,” Miranda said. “Eventually we got to know the area and continue to come back because we love this place. We consider it our second home during the summer.”
Miranda normally brings 17, but upped it to 22 this trip. Inclusion is based on achieved success on the spring track and field team. The Bears’ boys cross country team has over 140 members.
“There’s a lot of effort and desire to come on this trip and they’re ranked on how they run in the spring,” Miranda said. “I had a bubble list and thought ‘how can we leave these great kids out, especially the seniors?’ so I extended the branch and bumped up the number.”
The grade point average is important to the program’s makeup as well. Last year’s average GPA was 3.43 — 53 harriers were over 3.5, and 28 pulled down 4.0s.
“It is something we like to brag about, at banquets and things,” Miranda said.
On their current visit — they’ll stay until Thursday — motivation comes from a disappointing fourth-place finish at last year’s state meet at Fresno’s Woodward Park, and thus missing the cutoff to compete at the national level.
Warren drew a No. 9 preseason state ranking to open last season, climbed to No. 3, and was briefly No. 1 after knocking off then No. 1 Arcadia. The Bears finished at No. 4. The new rankings were expected to be released late this month.
The Bears’ section final victory at Mt. Sac last fall was the all-time second-fastest team time of any school on the course (Arcadia has the fastest time).
This year’s team, led by seniors Benjamin Gonzalez, Andres Barragan and Jonathan Rodriquez, are gunning to be there at the end.
“We all have that goal in mind,” said Gonzalez, who, along with Barragan and Rodriquez is being heavily recruited by the college ranks. “Being up here is an experience like no other and good with respect to training. It’s high elevation, more trails, less concrete, cooler and we’re able to build strong team chemistry. Everyone just feels better when we return (home) and we’re ready to go.”
Miranda is assisted by Eddie Rodriguez, a former Warren distance runner who competed at Cal Poly.
“He’s our warrior and gets kids going,” Miranda said about Rodriguez. “Since he’s been with us we’ve been a section finalist each year. He adds a lot to our program.”
It’s not all work for the team on its stay in El Dorado County. On past, and this current visit, the team will travel to Lotus Park, Auburn, Lake Tahoe, Gold Bug Mine, Sacramento and Murphy’s Caverns to name a few.
Despite the loss of their long-standing place to stay, Miranda vows to return next summer, and the one after that. He also promises to share team results with the Mountain Democrat this fall.