Oliver Abundez made headlines this year as the top male high school distance runner in the Metro Conference. He earned honors as the Mesa League’s Track Athlete of the Year at the Mesa League finals on May 19 by winning championships in three events: the 800- and 1600-meter runs and as a member of the team champion Eastlake Titans’ 4x400-meter relay.
The EHS standout set two personal records at the San Diego Section finals on May 31 with a 4:19.41 time in the 1600 and 3:27.27 in the 4x400 relay.
The 1600 time placed him fifth in the state qualifying A-heat and fourth in Division I.
The top three place-finishers in the A-heat qualified to compete in last weekend’s state championship meet in Clovis.
Abundez kept peaking each week, though he didn’t quite make it to this year’s state championship meet in Clovis, held June 6-7.
Still, there was a lot of greatness in his season — and himself — to celebrate.
Abundez earned distinction as Eastlake’s Runner of the Year during the Titan track team’s recent awards banquet while teammates Wes Braddock and Shane Martin, both state meet qualifiers in their respective specialty events, received recognition as the team’s co-athletes of the year.
Besides his athletic and academic endeavors at EHS, Abundez has also been active in community involvement. He serves as media and technical support (sound and worship ministry) at Horizon South Bay Church. He’s held that position for two years and has logged approximately 250 hours of community service. He will participate in a mission trip July 19-27 to Harmons, Jamaica, to help build houses and serve the impoverished people there.
He is the recipient of the inaugural Star-News Meritorious Student-Athlete/Service award for the 2013-14 school term.
“I am honored to be given the distinction,” Abundez wrote in replying to an email announcing his selection for the award.
He is as humble as he is talented.
Abundez collected a number of prestigious awards and honors to wrap up his senior year at Eastlake. Among them were individual league championships in the 800, 1600 and 4x400 relay, league championship in track and field as a team and Mesa League Track Athlete of the Year accolades.
Abundez now holds the No. 3 time in school history in the 1600 and the No. 2 time in the 800.
During the cross country season in the fall, Abundez earned all-league honors (third-place finish at the league finals) as well as the team’s MVP award.
School honors include membership on the principal’s honor roll (graduated in white) and scholar-athlete award.
Abundez said he feels “blessed to have run at EHS.”
“Meeting former EHS runners Kyle Lintz, who has given me guidance on my running, and Trent Warren, who I consider to be my mentor, have really helped spark the love for track and field in me,” Abundez explained. “Falling in love with running, seeking to push my body to its limits, and meeting some of my closest friends and building strong relationships through running are the main reasons I’m pursuing to run collegiately.
“Academically, my career was definitely a good one, I had all the help I needed and I was able to challenge myself through rigorous courses that I know prepared me well for what lies ahead at UC Davis.”
Abundez has already had contact with the track coaches at UC Davis and, so far, the feedback looks positive.
“(The coach) stated that I’m in a position in which he wants to see most of his athletes at — at the performance level he wants,” Abundez noted.
Abundez began running as a freshman in high school at the urging of his parents. He admits he is still “very inexperienced” as a runner.
“I started my freshman year because my mom urged me to come out to cross country because she said I was at home too often and she wanted me to be more social and involved,” Abundez recalled. “I ran, and surprised myself in what I was capable of doing. Trent Warren (now competing at the University of Oregon) saw this and took me under his wing, and that’s how I became a runner.
“I come from a family of four, including my older sister and parents. None have any running history, and I’m the first in my family to be attending a four-year university in the United States. My dad was a talented soccer player in Mexico during his teenage years and always urged me to pick up the sport from a very young age.
“I picked up running and he still continues to be my number one supporter.”
Abundez’s No. 1 mentor continues to be Warren, a walk-on at the nation’s premier running program after establishing himself as one of Eastlake’s top distance athletes.
“I was playing club soccer and played for Eastlake’s JV soccer team but Trent convinced me to put away the soccer ball and pick up running because he said that instead of being mediocre in both sports that I could be great in one,” the EHS grad noted.
Abundez also lists Joe Stubbs, his coach for three seasons — two in cross country and one in track — for being instrumental in the psychological motivation aspect of the sport.
“He has one quote he always repeats; I don’t know who said it, but it continues to motivate me to this day — it’s ‘Don’t settle for good, because you are giving up great.’”
Abundez continues to work at his craft, and gain meaningful results from his hard work and dedication.
He trained with San Diego Cheetahs track club during the summers of 2012 and 2013, and continues to follow a training plan developed by coach Marcus Sims. Abundez won 2012 and 2013 Pacific-Southwest AAU individual championships in the 800 and 1500 events while wearing a Cheetahs jersey. He also won three gold medals at the California State games in the 800, 1500 and 3000 events in 2012 while again in a Cheetahs jersey.
Abundez feels the distance program at EHS has changed course with newly established training methods. He said that was evidenced in this past year’s results.
Three distance runners helped comprise this year’s league championship 4x400 relay team. Joining Abundez on the unit were fellow distance runners Jake Barr and Andres Correa.
Furthermore, Abundez and Barr finished first and third, respectively, in the 800 run at the league finals while Abundez and Correa finished first and second, respectively, in the 1600 run at league finals, with Andre Lobato placing fifth.
In the 3200 distance, Eastlake’s Josh Williams finished second while Correa notched a PR of 10:02.
Barr, Correa, Williams and Abundez were all CIF participants and finalists.
“I feel like Eastlake’s distance program has definitely changed in mentality and physical standpoint, and is (on the way to) becoming a powerhouse for years to come,” Abundez explained.
Warren, who continues to hold the school’s all-time No. 2 time in the 1600, was No. 2 in the 800 before being passed by Abundez this season.
“Trent has given me hope because watching him walk on to Oregon’s Division I track team is a reflection of pure heart and love of the sport,” Abundez said. “I believe if he was able to accomplish the feat with a 4:18 (1600) and 1:57 (800) in high school that I can do it, too, because I’m at a 4:19 and 1:57.
“He always pushed me to break his records and be the best I can be, and to be ambitious because he says if you want it that much, you can accomplish it. When I train with him during the offseason, he pushes me physically and mentally to the limit.”
Warren, who posted a personal best of 4:04 in the mile this past season in Oregon, could be the next South County runner to dip under the magical 4:00 mark.
And Abundez could follow that lead someday.
Why not dare to dream?
Miles ahead: Going the distance
Oliver Abundez had some kind of graduation present: watching two former San Diego County prep standouts — Bonita Vista alum Eric Avila and El Camino legend A.J. Acosta — break the sub-four-minute mark in the mile in the same race at the Jim Ryun Festival of Miles held June 5 at historic Balboa Stadium.
“Watching Eric and A.J. break four minutes was really an inspiration,” the newly-minted Eastlake High School graduate explained. “It really opened my eyes to the difficulty and dedication the sport of track and field requires, and it’s not something you see every day. It’s made me proud of my section and it definitely brought me closer to other young runners I competed with at the event as we watched them accomplish what all high school milers dream of.”
Abundez, the Mesa League’s Track Athlete of the Year, rounded out a season of plenty by competing in the multi-race event, which was designed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Ryun’s history-making accomplishment as the first high school boy to run under four minutes in the mile.
The event remains a celebrated milestone half a century later, and the sub-4:00 time remains a mark of greatness among runners of all generations.
Abundez admitted he didn’t do as well as he wanted after finishing 10th in the 11-deep field in 4:31.56. “I started too fast and fell behind with two laps to go,” he noted.
Canyon Crest Academy’s Josh Bernd won the boys high school race in 4:20.21, followed by Palo Verdes’ Bennett Gagnon (second, 4:22.59), Prescott’s Simon Paige (third, 4:24.15), San Marcos’ Tyler Hansen (fourth, 4:24.75), Carlsbad’s Tristan Bunch (fifth, 4:25.09), University City’s Allen Siegler (sixth, 4:25.74), San Marcos’ Irvin Rojas (seventh, 4:25.76), Cathedral Catholic’s Raymond Boffman (eighth, 4:26.33) and Del Norte’s Grant Garrett (ninth, 4:27.27). Westview’s Evan Misuraca rounded out the high school boys field in 4:33.07.
Bernd, Siegler and Boffman finished second, third and fourth, respectively, in May’s Division Ii section 1600 finals while Grant was sixth in the same field.
Misuraca was sixth and Bunch was ninth in the Division I section 1600 finals while Hansen was seventh in the Division I section 3200 finals.
Clairemont’s Chandler Johnson won the girls high school mile in 5:02.91, followed by Canyon Crest Academy’s Ana Charles (second, 5:05.80), La Costa Canyon’s Rebekah Bosler (third, 5:12.95) and Valhalla’s Kristin Semancsin (fourth, 5:13.86). Monte Vista’s Celina Lepe, xxxx, finished eighth in the nine-deep field in 5:18.31.
Johnson and Lepe were second and third, respectively, in the Division II section 1600 finals while Bosler placed fourth in the Division I section 3200 finals and eighth in the Division I section 1600 finals.