An optimistic approach
“Positive mindset played role in GR senior Bryan Mendez’s area-best season”
The thing that stands out most about Gila Ridge senior Bryan Mendez, according to his coach, is his optimism.
“He’s got that perspective that sometimes in running things don’t go as well as you planned on,” Hawks cross-country coach Caleb VanderBaan said, later adding: “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him that upset after a race. He’s always pretty positive.”
It was that mindset, VanderBaan said, that allowed Mendez — the 2018 Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club Boys Cross-Country Runner of the Year — to have the kind of season that he had.
For example: On Sept. 8 at the West Wetlands Invitational, Mendez had a somewhat disappointing runner-up finish, coming in 13 seconds behind Lake Havasu’s Joshua Hansen.
Rather than let that affect him negatively, he learned from it and the following weekend ran a 3-mile time of 15:45.1 to win a race featuring nearly 300 runners at the Woodbridge High School Cross-Country Classic in California.
“Coming off a West Wetlands race where he didn’t run as well as I think he could have, he went out (at Woodbridge) and was in the front pack from the gun and the entire race he was pretty much in first,” VanderBaan said. “And I’ve never seen him run so fearless. I think his optimism and hard work definitely played into that.”
Aside from maybe the Division II state meet, Mendez never really had another disappointing showing.
At the Nike Desert Twilight in Casa Grande on Sept. 28, he finished seventh overall in the Large School Varsity race in a personal-best 5K time of 16:36.91 — 16 seconds faster than any other Yuma County runner, and a minute-plus improvement over his 2017 Twilight time.
At the Yuma Union High School District Championship on Oct. 17, he overcame a wrong turn early in the race to still win the individual title in 17:42 — seven seconds ahead of runner-up Jose Valtierra of Kofa.
At the Division II Section III meet at Cesar Chavez Park in Laveen Village on Nov. 1, he nearly PR’d with a 16:38.42 — good for fifth place overall — to help the Hawks qualify for state as a team. No other local runner broke 17 minutes at sectionals.
He capped his season with a 62nd-place showing in 17:42 at the Division II state meet on Nov. 10 — a 29-place, 21-second improvement over his 2017 performance.
GILA RIDGE SENIOR BRYAN MENDEZ is the 2018 Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club Boys Cross-Country Runner of the Year.