As a freshman last year, Central’s Eric Casarez ran his best time of the season at the regional cross country meet and finished just three places back from qualifying for the state track and field meet.
What sticks in Casarez’s mind is that those three places away from qualifying amounted to about one second of time on the clock.
After qualifying for the regional meet as Central finished in the top four teams, Casarez ran his best time of the season in Lubbock.
“I did really well,” Casarez said of the Region I meet in West Texas. “It was really hot and had one big hill. But I liked the course and ran 15:30, my best time of the season. I think most of it was adrenaline.”
As a freshman, Casarez didn’t think he’d be able to stay up with the “big boys” and slowly converted his times into faster and faster results.
“I didn’t think I’d be on varsity,” he said. “I didn’t think I could keep up.”
The goal for Casarez is to run consistently in the 15-minute range. That’s the mark which he feels he’s capable of maintaining after hitting the range late in the season last year.
And he’s on his way toward that goal. In Central’s first time trial, Casarez hit 16:04, the fastest on the team.
After the Chargers’ first meet at Fossil Creek last Friday, Casarez captured the top spot, turning in a 16:16. The team also took home the second place trophy just behind Lucas Lovejoy.
“It’s not my best [time] but a great way to start off the year,” Casarez said after the run.
Next up for Casarez and his fellow Chargers is a trip to Denton to compete in the Gingerbread Jamboree, a meet which will likely not yield anyone’s best times.
The course at the Gingerbread Jamboree is more like a Warrior Dash event, complete with hay bales, mud pits and logs to maneuver around on the course.
“We’ve run it three times, so we at least know what to expect now,” Casarez said of the event, which Central won last year.
Continual improvement is what every runner is looking for at this stage in the season. And it starts with the work invested in the summer.
For Casarez, the summer was critical for making that attempt to get to the state meet later in the season.
“I had to work really hard if I want to go to state,” he said. “I have to keep running and didn’t stop running,” Casarez said of his training at the school year’s end. “I ran 518 miles over the course of the summer, and it’s paid off so far.”
The initial mileage goal for the varsity runners’ summer was 250 miles.
“We all were shooting for 700 but realized that was crazy,” Casarez joked, adding that the team targeted at least twice the original goal.
The Chargers graduated two seasoned runners from last year but have some promising freshmen to step up, said Casarez, who will be joined by some juniors who are showing their potential as well.
“We all want to go to state this year,” Casarez said. “We’re all getting better.”
Casarez said he also runs the mile and two-mile events during the spring track season and saw his times trimmed down over the course of the season.
“I saw my times drop down to 4:42 after I had been in the 5’s,” he said. “I started the 3200 at about 10:17 and got it down to 10:05.
“But I prefer cross country, but love track, too. I just love the guys getting together and scoring points as a team [in cross country],” he said.
Casarez said he’s been running since seventh grade after being on the “C” team in football as a wide receiver.
“I heard there were going to be cross country tryouts and asked my [older] sister about it and she said, ‘All you do is run.’ I ran a B-team race and over the course of a week I did well and moved up to the A team and at the end of the season, I went to the Meet of Champions. In eighth grade I started taking it seriously,” Casarez said.