W hat began as a way to get in shape for another sport changed for Brazosport cross country runner David Gomez after his freshman season. Now in his junior year, Gomez will get to experience the UIL Class 4A Cross Country State Championships for the first time Saturday at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.
“His work ethic became a lot stronger along with his knowledge for the sport,” Brazosport cross country coach Robert Nichol said. “He even got into looking at how other runners were doing during the season and even was looking at college runners and how they would run. So he’s somewhat become a student of the game.”
Running a time of 17 minutes, 33.4 seconds at the 4A Region III Meet on Oct. 28 at Kate Barr Ross Park at Sam Houston State University, Gomez placed ninth, thus giving him at least one more race for the season.
“The one reason why I wanted to make it to state is to try to understand what it takes to get there, and also what that race is all about,” Gomez said. “I know I have one more year, and whatever happens this year I will hopefully grow from it for next year. But I just wanted to get there as a competitor and take it all in.”
He will get that opportunity when the 4A boys race starts at 12:30 p.m.
“I’ve put in a lot of mileage during the season and leading up to this point,” Gomez said. “Here last week we worked on some leg workouts and just changing my tempo a bit because the course has hills, something I am not used to. But I just want to make sure that I give it everything and I don’t want to leave anything out there.”
From his District 24-4A race to the regional, Gomez improved his best time almost 15 seconds, going form 17:48 to his regional time.
“We just mixed it up for him last week by not sticking to one thing,” Nichol said. “In the summertime when we trained we tried putting in a lot of miles and road work, but now we are mixing up his pacing, speed work and distance work and just rotating with all three.”
For incline work, Gomez used the levees by Brazosport High School. At Old Settlers Park, there are several hills to negotiate, something that cannot be seen in this neck of the woods because of the flatness to the area.
“The only race that we went to this season that had a lot of incline was the Bellaire meet,” Gomez said. “It was my toughest race that I ran this season. In that meet I just tried attaching myself to a fast runner, but it was tough running up them hills.”
All season Gomez has been heading in the right direction by improving his times during the season meets. Now comes his biggest test in facing off against the best from the state in 4A.
“I’d like to see him run a relaxed race,” Nichol said. “Whenever he is fatigued, he tightens up and his form suffers. I just want to see him run a relaxed race knowing that there isn’t much on the line for him, because he is going out there to see what it is all about and see if he can PR (run a personal record).
“If he can relax his shoulders and make sure he is not tensing up in arms to get that fatigue on shoulders and neck, then he should be fine. But all I want him to go out and do is to have fun, which is what he did at the regional meet. He ran so relaxed, it showed with his time, and after he was done he just seemed like a different kid.”
Through his first three seasons, Gomez has grown by leaps and bounds. But he understands he needs more work to be able to contend with the top runners.
“I’d like to run between 17:15 to 17:20 and hopefully finish in the middle of the pack,” Gomez said. “But I’ve really learned to be more mentally tough and just learn how to push through the hard struggles. I have hurt in some races and I’ve just gotten through them. This will be a race where I need everything to come together for me.”
After going hard for the first two days of the week, Nichol will ease up on Gomez’s work this week to prepare him for the state race.