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Esquivel regains focus as senior, chases state crown

Eldorado senior Eddie Esquivel’s hopes for this cross country season are pretty straightforward.

“My goal for this fall is to win state for Nevada,” Esquivel said. “I’ve been working hard like there’s no tomorrow, and no matter what happens, I’ll know that I didn’t hold anything back.”

Esquivel is the top returning Division I runner, and with last year’s state winner, Jordan Cardenas of Reno, having graduated, he hopes to mount the top step on the winner’s stand in November.

Esquivel cruised to victory in the Sunrise Region meet last October and finished second at state. Most observers expected him to continue his dominance in track. He was third at state in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs as a sophomore.

It didn’t happen. He didn’t qualify for state in either distance event.

“My struggle last year was not because of injury but simply because I did not work hard enough for the season,” Esquivel said. “I got distracted with everything else that was going on. I was not prepared for track that year. I have learned my lesson, and now I’m making sure that does not happen ever again.”

Esquivel has big challenges ahead this fall. Centennial’s Dajour Braxton, Jackson Carter and George Espino finished third, fourth and 10th at state last season, and McQueen’s Kai Benedict was fifth. Plus, instead of running in the friendly confines of Veterans’ Memorial Park in Boulder City, the meet returns to the altitude of San Rafael Park in Reno. The only large-school boy from the South who has won a state cross country meet in the North since 2000 is Centennial’s Nick Hartle in 2011.

“Eddie is a great kid with a passion for running,” Eldorado coach Josh Wertheimer said. “He loves to compete and shows a mature respect for his fellow competitors. I am anxious to see if he can close the gap created during track season this year.”

Esquivel is somewhat of a late bloomer. He didn’t run cross country as a freshman and didn’t qualify for state as a sophomore. He finished 14th at the Sunrise Regional in 2011 and missed qualifying for state as an individual by one spot. Esquivel’s breakthrough in 2012 came from, as he said, “training long and hard over that summer.”

“This summer I’ve been training mostly every day on the hills by my school,” Esquivel said. “I went to Colorado for two weeks and trained every day on the hills and there, running in the mountains.”

His training takes on elements of the “Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner,” a 1962 movie based on a 1959 short story by Alan Sillitoe.

“Mostly all of my training is on my own,” Esquivel said. “It makes me mentally strong, because when I train there’s nobody out there telling me to run or a team to run with. It’s just me out there.”

Esquivel doesn’t have a supporting cast of runners to train with. From Eldorado’s glory years when it won state three years in row, from 1979 to 1981, and when Frank Pierce won state as an individual in 1992, times have grown lean for the Sundevils. No Eldorado team has qualified for state since 1992.

“It is true that no team has qualified as a team from Eldorado in cross country for a long time,” Wertheimer said. “It is also a fact that no other team from the Northeast (League) has qualified, either (since Chaparral in 2003). The Northeast has had some pretty good runners over the years. It seems like we have a depth issue more so than anything else.

“While Eldorado has some kids that have been training very hard and closing the gap between Eddie and the rest of the team, the gap remains. The only place his teammates have been able to push him is in the ancillary work, like core work or pushups.”

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