Fri, Nov 15 2013 10:38 AM Posted By: Phillip Brents
Jesse Matias was a freshman runner on Otay Ranch’s inaugural cross country team that finished second at the San Diego Section Division IV finals to earn a coveted trip to the state championship meet.
Fast forward a decade and Matias is leading a new team — his team — into Friday’s Metro Conference championship finals at Rohr Park.
“I was new to the sport but I was so glad I was introduced to it,” said Matias, a 2007 ORHS grad who subsequently attended UC Irvine. “The team’s success was great, obviously, and I found out something about myself as well.”
Matias was an all-league finisher his junior year (second on the team) at the 2005 South Bay League finals as the Mustangs captured the boys varsity team championship.
This is Matias’ third year as coach at Olympian High School and the Eagles’ program has begun to turn around. Participation on the team peaked at more than 100 student-athletes this season.
That’s more than double what it was three years ago.
“It was difficult to get kids to buy into the idea, especially the training during the offseason, but as soon as one did, another did, and then five more kids did. It snowballed from there.”
The Eagles finished 2-3 in Mesa League dual meets this season, matching last year’s mark.
Goals remain modest but are expanding. “We want to place as many all-league runners as we can,” Matias said. “The dual meets didn’t go as we would have wanted but we want to make up some ground at the league finals.”
Matias admits he owes much of what he’s learned from veteran Otay Ranch coach Ian Cumming and has put that into practice with his own team now.
“The kids need to understand the commitment level,” Matias explained. “Distance running is year-round. In the summer, you prepare for cross country in the fall and, in the winter, you prepare for the spring track season. In the offseason, miles are the difference.
“The other thing I tell the kids at Olympian is that everyone is here for everyone.”
Cumming has seen several of his former student-athletes at ORHS join the coaching ranks. Brandon Velasquez is now an assistant with the Mustangs while Ashley Abshier and Jacob Roach are both helping Matias out at Olympian.
“It’s always exciting to see my former runners go on to the next level, and Jesse has taken that program to the next level (with the help of his assistant coaches),” Cumming said. “It’s rewarding to see someone you’ve coached give something back to the kids.”
2 p.m. girls varsity, 2:30 p.m. boys varsity, 3 p.m. girls JV, 3:30 p.m. boys JV
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