By Dick Dornan
BurbankNBeyond Sports Editor
What a great start to a promising career. In just his second season of cross country, junior Ricky Mendez of John Burroughs High School has established himself as one of the premier long distance runners in the city.
Mendez, 16, claimed the title of “City Champion” after his impressive win in the 22nd annual Burbank All-City Cross Country Meet held at Griffith Park on Aug. 29.
“It was great to see,” Burroughs Coach John Peebles said. “He had a good summer of training. So it was really nice to see that the hard work paid off.”
Ricky Mendez took 1st place in the prestigious Burbank All-City Cross Country Meet (photo by Dick Dornan)
With a field of 47 runners hailing from Burroughs, Burbank, Bell-Jeff and Providence, Mendez was the king of the pack as he turned in a time of 16:34 on the 2.94 mile course. Burbank won the team event by placing five of the top six spots, the exception being Mendez.
“It felt amazing coming in first. I just gave it all I had the last mile,” Mendez said. “I was actually surprised because I thought I was going to be in the top 10 for a medal. But when I won I was like, ‘wow, I wasn’t expecting that.’”
Mendez began the race conservatively as he paced himself and got a feel for the city’s biggest meet. He was in the 10th position half way through the race when he took matters into his own hands….err feet. With a quarter of a mile left, Mendez took off.
“I was scared at first but then I just went for it,” Mendez said.
He not only won the race but did it in convincing fashion. Mendez won by 10 seconds before Burbank’s Arsen Mkrtchyan came in second at 16:44.
“He ran a smart race,” said Peebles, who begins his 17th year as head coach at JBHS. “He just charged through the field the second half of the race. He wounded up winning against some really good competition.”
Mendez defeated a strong Burbank team, ranked No. 5 in the most recent CIF Division I poll.
“I was nervous because I knew those guys were fast. They made me run faster,” Mendez said.
Abiding to a regimented schedule that includes drinking a lot of water, having no soda, not eating any junk food, getting lots of rest and training vigorously, Mendez has his sights set on breaking 16 minutes as the season goes on.
“He definitely has a lot of upside,” Peebles added. “This was the first summer of serious distance training. When he has mind set on it, he’s going to go get it.”
Mendez’ victory sets up an intriguing Pacific League meet on September 20 at Griffith Park with rival Burbank and powerhouse Arcadia, last year’s league champion and CIF Division I champion.
“I have a lot of confidence,” Mendez said. “I want to get out there and place first again.”
Burbank All-City Results
1. Ricky Mendez (JB) 16:34
2. Arsen Mkrtchyan (B) 16:44
3. Bernie Corea (B) 16:51
4. Eliot Choe (B) 16:56
5. Ethan Moskowitz (B) 17:01
6. Chris Huezo (B) 17:09
7. Luis Celaya (JB) 17:15
8. Mustafa Nguyen (B) 17:27
9. Isaiah Amos-Nshimba (B) 17:31
10. Everth Vargas (JB) 17:39
11. Alberto Carrisoza (B) 17:47
12. Derek Itagaki (B) 18:03
13. Francis Hilao (JB) 18:14
14. Carlos Ortega (JB) 18:32
15. Jarrett Duran (JB) 18:33
16. Nick Jalalizadeh (B) 18:35
17. Taylor Rodriguez (P) 19:32
18. Thomas Switzer (JB) 19:35
19. Jonathan Gonzalez (B) 19:40
20. Nick Garduno (JB) 19:44
21. Lalo Fisher (P) 19:57
22. Brandon Swofford (P) 19:57
23. Matt Nutty (JB) 20:03
24. Charles Salomon (BJ) 20:18
25. Celso Sandoval (B) 20:20
26. Michael Ellman (B) 20:21
27. Javier Molina (BJ) 20:25
28. Anthony Zapata (BJ) 20:36
29. Augusto Corea (JB) 20:48
30. Brent Caballero (JB) 20:54
31. Steven Rodriguez (JB) 20:59
32. Garrett Durbin (JB) 21:03
33. James Chung (B) 21:04
34. Carvin Ortega (JB) 21:16
35. Matt Manarchy (JB) 21:43
36. Aaron Ziegler (P) 22:15
37. Awais Ibrahim (B) 22:19
38. Eddie Lopez (P) 22:26
39. Yujin Skuda (P) 23:26
40. Luke Buenaventura (P) 23:30
41. Tustin Klinmalai (P) 25:22
42. Fernando De La Pena (BJ) 25:27
43. Christian Ramos (BJ) 25:41
44. Damien Sanz (BJ) 27:38
45. Ricky Ryan (BJ) 30:48
46. AJ Posis (BJ) 32:14
47. Sean Porter (BJ) 42:16