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The Vintage High boys soccer coaches may regret having had Manny Guzman do the Cooper test portion of conditioning when he was a freshman. In a drill that involves running as far as possible in 12 minutes, he not only blew away his teammates but found something he liked more than soccer.

Two years later, having qualified for this Saturday’s CIF State Cross Country Championships, the junior is also setting his sights on the track and field state meet in the spring, so he feels it’s impossible to squeeze a winter soccer season in between anymore.

“I miss playing soccer, but to be honest, I like running a little bit more because I get better feeling of accomplishment from it,” he said between workouts Wednesday at the school track.

Also representing the Crushers for the first time at Woodward Park in Fresno will be freshman Mary Deeik. The daughter of Napa Soccer Academy president Ramzi Deeik, she has no plans to give up soccer.

“Soccer has been my first love in sports since I was really young,” she said, adding that she’ll be joining the varsity girls soccer team next week.

They will be joined by Justin-Siena senior Hannah Chau, whose year-round dedication to running has her in her third straight state meet – but, sadly, her first without her teammates.

“I must admit I was devastated that the team and I would not be competing at state together this year,” the Green Valley resident said. “For the past two years, state had been a team-bonding event and a highlight of the season. After all of our hard work and our amazing effort at the North Coast Section meet, it was upsetting not to have the chance to go to state together again. They ran their best races of the season and it was inspiring to watch them push themselves past their limits.

“It feels weird to not train with the other girls. We supported each other every work out and race. They are my family and it’s hard to do it without them. But (fellow senior) Juliette Nast will be coming with me to Fresno. I’m very lucky and grateful to have her come and support me at the meet. Unfortunately, the other girls will not be able to make the trip, but they have all told me that they will be cheering from home.”

Deeik is scheduled to run in the Division II girls race at 10:35 a.m. Saturday, Chau in the Division IV girls race at 11:35 a.m., and Guzman in the Division II boys race at 12:05 p.m. The top 10 finishers in each division will receive medals.

Guzman in it for the

long run

Despite being a cross country rookie last year, Guzman – who ran track in middle school – exchanged the role of being the Vintage boys’ No. 1 runner with then-senior Vadim Pelavin. He finished that sophomore season with the school’s second-best time ever at Alston Park, earned All-Monticello Empire League honors, and placed 26th at the Sac-Joaquin Section Championships in 17:09.

“This summer, Manny got his summer training off to a late start, not being able to run until mid-July due to being at a leadership camp in Montana for the first four or five weeks of the summer,” Crushers head coach Brian Pruyn said. “From that time on, though, he has put in consistent and strong training, running between 40 and 50 miles a week for the rest of the summer and much of the fall, rarely missing a day.

“What sets Manny apart, in addition to his talent, is his commitment to at least one long run of at least 10 miles at least once a week.”

Said Guzman, “I was trying to put in more miles this summer and focus on this year because your junior year is really important for college exposure. I like running at Alston Park and looking at the whole city and the vineyards – especially this time of year, the fall, because we get all types of weather. I’ve done everything to stay healthy – recovering, rolling, stretching – and I stay aware of upcoming races. If you have easy days, go easy, if you have hard days, go hard.”

There was one long run overlooking the San Francisco Bay near San Rafael that Pruyn seemed to wish Guzman hadn’t taken, though.

“Manny got us lost,” the coach joked. “We went to China Camp and our 10-mile run ended up being almost three hours long and 17 miles.”

The son of Salvador and Elizabeth Guzman is a 4.2 student who said that, of all his classes, he most enjoys pre-Calculus.

“I have a great teacher,” he said of Jim Sittler. “He’s very strict about us having good study habits and time management, and I feel that’s going to carry on in the future.”

At the Nov. 11 section meet at Willow Hill in Folsom, Guzman barely made the state cut despite being in third place for most of the Division II varsity boys race.

“In the last 100 meters, I got passed by like six guys,” he recalled. “I felt like I was running a good race, but at the end the hills got to me. My legs were super tired, but I just pushed it to the end.”

Only the fastest five of the top 14 runners not on qualifying teams would go to state. Guzman ended up being the last individual to advance, placing eighth overall out of 80 runners in 16:36.6.

“It feels pretty good to get to state because it was my goal at the beginning of the season. It’s the best of the best,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I’m humble about it. I’ve worked hard for it, so I want to put everything I have into it and see what happens. But I don’t want to be satisfied. I want to keep improving next year.

“Coach Pruyn has helped me a lot, putting a lot of time and effort in for me and especially the team aspect. We had both varsity teams at sections for the first time ever. Everybody came together close and put in the work. That made a big impact on me.”

Guzman has never been to the state course, but is already plotting his strategy.

“I’m looking forward to the first mile because I’ve heard it’s pretty fast,” he said. “I want to see if I can hang on with the top guys and finish strong, and not have guys pass me like at the section meet.”

Deeik makes the big jump

Deeik also ran track in middle school, but didn’t want to skip her freshman season of cross country after setting the St. Apollinaris sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade school records in the 800 and 1600 meters. She didn’t lead the Crushers from the start, however, and finished behind teammate Michaela Kreps in Vintage’s league-opening dual meet against Wood.

“This season she juggled a Marin club soccer practice and game schedule with running cross country,” Pruyn said. “She also missed significant summer training due to traveling through Europe with her club soccer team for much of July. She actually needed several team members and coaches to convince her that she was good enough to even run varsity at the start of the season. After a subpar race at the league championships, she again almost backed out of running varsity for the postseason. Now she is a state qualifier and one of the fastest freshmen in the section.”

Deeik finished third among the five individual state qualifiers at the section meet, placing sixth overall out of 80 runners in 19:22.9. Pruyn said that as far as he knows, she is the first Vintage athlete to qualify for state in the sport as a freshman or sophomore.

“Mary’s running ability is still very much underdeveloped and her true potential is not yet known,” he said.

Deeik said she thought she could run cross country because she “had good stamina” running the mile in middle school.

“Doing (three miles) was a bit of a challenge at first, but Coach Pruyn coached me up a lot and influenced me to do better and better, so I got better as I got more experience,” she said. “In the beginning to middle of the season, I realized I wasn’t going to my full potential and once I saw that I could do more and push it more, I felt I could do better, and my teammates kept striving for me to do well. Getting to state was a goal of mine and I felt I could get there if I believed I could and just kept pushing for more PRs (personal records).”

Though she potentially has three more chances to make the state meet, the daughter of Ramzi and Isabel Deeik isn’t looking at just showing up to this one.

“I’ve looked online a lot and seen the course and what to do, different strategies people use and videos about how to do it, so I’ll be ready when I get there,” she said. “I’m excited because this is my first time and it will be a really good experience, but I’m a little nervous because it’s better competition. But I know I can do really well, just like in the sections and subsections.

“I was surprised with the result (at sections) but I had worked hard and I feel like it all paid off, so hopefully that’s what is going to happen at the state meet. I like taking on the challenge. Hopefully I can get faster as the years go on.”

Chau has been a winner

The daughter of Pete and Shawna Chau has run a lot of great races this season, recording the fastest leg of the day as an anchor at the Stinson Beach Relays, and winning the Ed Sias Invitational and Artichoke Invitational. She didn’t let those successes go to her head at Saturday’s North Coast Section meet at Hayward High, placing third out of 136 runners in the Division IV race.

“It took a lot of mental training to get prepared for the NCS meet,” she said. “I listened to podcasts and meditated to get in the right mindset. I knew it was going to be painful and I spent the week preparing myself for it. Although there was pressure to do well, my coaches, team, and family supported me to do my best. With their encouragement, I was able to keep up my training and stay motivated. Luckily, my coaches and I are able to honestly communicate and I was able to tell them if I needed to be pushed or if I needed a break.”

One of the biggest obstacles to getting this far in a cross country season can be injuries. But Chau, with the help of coaches Michael Anderson and Emily Dutton, goes to great length to avoid such setbacks.

“My coaches really emphasized the importance of taking care of ourselves throughout the season. Listening to their advice, I focused on hydrating, fueling my body with nutritious foods, and stretching to avoid injury. These habits have helped me to stay strong and healthy through the season,” she said. “Every practice, the team and I spend 15 to 20 minutes warming up and stretching before workouts and about 10 minutes in an ice bath after workouts. In addition, I also do yoga to stretch out any sore muscles. I’ve found that drinking a lot of water and eating healthy food has helped keep me in peak condition the entire season.”

Chau said she learn plenty about the state meet while finishing 38th in 19:17 as a sophomore and 66th in 19:53 as a junior.

“Fortunately, these first two tries have helped me know what to expect. I know where it’s going to hurt the most and where I will need to push myself the hardest,” she said. “I’ve also found out that eating boxes of Cheerios and at In-N-Out Burger on the van ride down to Fresno is probably not the best idea.”

Her coaches are more likely to let fast food be the reward for a fast race.

“Coach Anderson and Coach Dutton have dedicated countless hours into preparing us for races, coordinating meets and transportation, and making sure we were staying healthy,” Chau said. “Without their encouragement, support, and love, I wouldn’t be where I am. They are my role models on and off the race course. I don’t know how they do it, but they have given so much of their time to ensure we are completely ready to face the challenges that come with running. They hold us to a higher standard and motivate us to be all-heart. I am incredibly grateful to have them cheering me on every practice and race.”

Chau said she would love to run cross country in college.

“I’m still not sure where I am going, but I can’t wait to try,” she said.

As she gets ready to close one of the best cross country careers ever at Justin-Siena, Chau looks back on it fondly.

“I think my favorite part of it has been the friendships I have made,” she said. “My team has constantly inspired me to push myself. Watching them reach their goals has helped me to stay motivated. Every day I’ve looked forward to going to practice because they were all there. We are a family and I couldn’t imagine running without them.

“I also want to say thank you to the coaches, team, parent volunteers, and my family for being there for me every season. I am blessed to have a strong system of support that I can always turn to when I need help.”

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Sports Reporter

Andy Wilcox is a sportswriter-photographer for the Napa Valley Register. He's had similar roles in Walnut Creek, Grass Valley, Auburn, Tracy and Patterson. He grew up in Ohio. His wife, Laura, is a pastry chef. He also enjoys playing guitar and piano.