An op­ti­mistic ap­proach

“Pos­i­tive mind­set played role in GR se­nior Bryan Men­dez’s area-best sea­son”

Yuma Sun - - SUN SPORTS - BY GRADY GAR­RETT @GRADYGARRETT

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.

Buy this photo at Yu­maSun.com PHOTO BY RANDY HOEFT/YUMA SUN

GILA RIDGE SE­NIOR BRYAN MEN­DEZ is the 2018 Yuma Sun/Yuma Ro­tary Club Boys Cross-Coun­try Run­ner of the Year.

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