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March 27, 2023

CCS Track & Field: Grizzlies enjoying ‘best ever’ season

WATSONVILLE — Andre Avila admits that he might have been a little caught up in the moment when he walked out of last week’s Monterey Bay League Master’s Meet with Rubi Genis and Jose Sedano by his side while belting out “the best season ever continues!”

“I know I have other kids that I’ve coached that would say, ‘wait coach, I thought we were your best team?’” the Pajaro Valley High track and field coach said during a Thursday evening practice at Watsonville High. “I think every team I’ve had has been really good but it’s just the timing this year.”

The times, the heights, the grades and the clutch performances in big moments, it’s been a little bit of everything for Avila’s Grizzlies in a season dubbed the “best ever” before it even started. And Genis and Sedano, both seniors, will try to keep the magical season going for at least one more week at Saturday’s Central Coast Section Track and Field Semifinals at Gilroy High.

The first field event is scheduled for 10 a.m. and the running events begin an hour later.

P.V.’s pair is just two of 28 local individual athletes — Aptos High leads the way with 12 — that will compete against the best from around the section.

It will be a tall task for either Genis or Sedano to advance to next week’s CCS Finals, which will be back at Gilroy High. But, with the way things have gone for the Grizzlies this season, nothing is impossible at this point.

“They both rise to the competition,” Avila said.

And they have over the past two weeks.

Sedano broke his own school record in the 100-meters (11.21) at last week’s MBL Master’s Meet to qualify for CCS and Genis also reset her school record, clearing 4 feet, 10 inches in the high jump the week before to place second in the MBL-Pacific division Championships.

It was a more than welcome surprise for Sedano after an injury-marred season. After showing promise last year by advancing to CCS and breaking the school record, the speedster missed a little less than half of this season with a lingering meniscus tear in his right knee, an injury he suffered during the first five minutes of his soccer season in December. He sat out the entire winter and said he re-aggravated it during the weeks leading up to the track season, leaving the hopes of him running track in the balance.

Avila admits that things looked bleak for Sedano, saying he was hopeful his star runner would return but adding that he didn’t expect him to return to form immediately. Yet in Sedano’s first race back, a league dual meet against Gilroy on March 30, he ran 11.58.

“I got a bunch of emails from other coaches asking me if he was back,” Avila said. “He wasn’t quite there but he was getting there.”

Sedano wasn’t fully “back” until last week, really. He shaved more than a quarter of a second off his season best and squeaked into the fifth and final CCS qualifying spot with his new school record. He gave a small and subtle fist pump after seeing his name, time and place on the results board in the seconds after the race. Avila, on the other hand, went nuts.

“I saw his name and just put both of my hands up and jumped in the air,” the coach said. “The people around me in the stands looked over and probably thought, ‘who is this guy?’ I didn’t care if people looked at me like I was crazy. My kid just made it to CCS.”

And when you’re in the middle of your best season ever, that’s acceptable behavior.

“That’s how a coach should be,” Sedano said. “You should be able to interact with them. Joke around with them. That’s the real relationship you’d want with a coach.”

But the program’s best season ever didn’t start at the Master’s Meet or the MBL Championships. It didn’t start during the first day of practice, either. No, it all began in a study hall before the start of the season. The entire team was crammed into a classroom sharing notes, coming up with outlines for essays and organizing binders to make sure they’d all make grades for the upcoming season.

“I jokingly said to the kids ‘you guys are trying to make this the best season ever. You guys are trying to be my best team ever,’” said Avila, who stresses academics. “They just said, ‘coach, we already are your best team ever.’”

They lived up to the moniker and then some. Along with Genis and Sedano’s success, sophomore Jayleen Solorzano broke the school record in the 100 (13.32), the girl’s junior varsity team won the MBL-Pacific division title and, Avila boasts, the program had close to a 3.0 team grade point average.

“You can tell that [Avila’s] really proud of us,” Genis said.

That’s apparent whenever 5-foot-2 Genis lines up for the high jump amongst the trees. Genis and Avila can remember only a couple of instances when the former was not the shortest athlete in the field but that hasn’t held her back from soaring over the bar.

“Don’t tell her she’s short. She doesn’t care,” Avila said. “She’s going to jump against you and give you everything whether you’re taller than her or shorter than her.”

Genis said she understands she’ll need to once again break her school record in order to advance to next week’s final. She has her sights set on clearing 5-2. She’s cleared 5-even plenty of times in practice but Saturday she’ll try to show the rest of the girls in the stacked flight, which includes state placer Cassie Ackemann of San Lorenzo Valley High.

But, she said, just making it this far has been an experience in itself. For her and Avila.

“There’s not a lot of kids that make it to CCS and for him to have two, that’s awesome,” Genis said. “He did everything that he could as a coach to make us better.”

And the kids have helped Avila, too.

His attention this season has been split between his kids and his, well, kid. On April 26 his wife, Sara, gave birth to their first child, Andre Avila III. Several of his athletes have already said they will come back and coach his son when he attends Pajaro Valley in the future.

“Being here with them through all that craziness has kept me grounded,” Avila said. “It’s been a good season on many accounts. A lot of excitement and it’s not over. It still continues.”


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