There are probably plenty of Commonwealth Conference runners and coaches who wish that Greater Lawrence junior Yosvaldy Tejeda had stuck to basketball.
When he showed up for cross country practice last year, it was for one reason and one reason only.
“I just did it for basketball, to stay in better shape for the season,” said Tejeda. “I didn’t know if I’d be any good as a runner.”
Tejeda, it turns out, has been much better than good.
He edged out returning Reggie standout Hansel Santos for first place in the first meet last year and he has yet to lose a league cross country race, including at the Commonwealth Conference league meet. He quickly set the Greater Lawrence course record, a 16:23 for 3.06 miles.
When Tejeda showed up for basketball practice last year, he was in excellent shape. But his knees ached from years of pounding on the hardcourt, including the previous summer. He decided — with urging from cross country coach Jay Santomassino — to concentrate on running.
“Then it was disappointing, because I had worked on basketball so hard in the summer — it was like a wasted summer,” said Tejeda. “But now I see it as a good thing. I wasn’t going to do anything in basketball, but I can maybe do something with my running.”
Now a three-season runner, who was undefeated in CAC action in indoor track and lost only once outdoors, Tejeda has already done something positive by running.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t like sports that much, but I’m smart enough to pick sports I’m good at,” said Tejeda, who had a best 2-mile time of 10:10 as a sophomore. “I do sports to be committed, to stay out of trouble, to stay away from drugs.
“Most of my friends — or they were my friends — do drugs and they try to persuade me to do them. I don’t want anything to do with it.”
Yosvaldy also doesn’t have much time to get into trouble. In addition to running, he enjoys boxing and, following cross country each day, he heads to the gym for two hours of training.
“By the time I get home, it’s 8:30,” he said. “I take a shower and get something to eat and by that time I’m worn out.”
If anyone can handle it, however, it’s Tejeda.
“He’s a kid who just has a tremendous amount of energy,” said Santomassino. “He can’t sit still, he’s got to be moving.
“I don’t have a lot of kids who run a lot in the summer, but I could tell he did the work this year. He’s not someone I have to worry about.”
Tejeda actually had to rest his knees for a month early in the summer, Then he started his training with two goals in mind — to break 16 minutes on the Reggies’ course and to become the first Reggie in recent history to qualify for the All-State meet.
He missed qualifying by five seconds last year when he took 37th in the EMass. Division 4 Meet with a 17:22.8 on the 3.1-mile Wrentham Development Center course.
“That’s my main goal, to get to All-State,” said Tejeda. “Last year, everybody was cheering for me, but my knees were killing me and I couldn’t go as fast as I wanted. I felt like I failed them and I failed myself.”
After high school, Tejeda hopes to keep boxing and running.
“If my health is good, I hope to do both of them,” he said. “If I stop one, it’ll give me too much time and I could get into trouble.”
Slow start for locals
There have been some highlights for sure, notably the recent performances of Haverhill senior Riley Gilmore and Methuen sophomore Jeff Reddy but, in general, the season has not gotten off to a great start for local Mass. teams.
The Haverhill girls seem to have slipped back to the pack after more than a decade of dominance, Methuen’s boys haven’t shown quite as much depth as expected, the Greater Lawrence boys are winning but may struggle later on with the unexpected loss of several runners from last year and Pentucket is reeling a bit after both the boys and girls were swept by Masconomet and Manchester Essex last week.
At this point, a league title for anyone in the MVC, CAL or CAC seems unlikely and it’ll be a challenge for any team to qualify for Division 1 or Division 2 All-States.
On the other hand, there is still time for improvement and, at least, local teams in New Hampshire, in particular Pinkerton, are enjoying strong starts.
Prep 4th at Ocean State
St. John’s Prep probably has the best team in the region, and one of the better in the state, but it only finished fourth at Saturday’s Ocean State Invitational. The Eagles trailed Mass. schools Mansfield, St. John’s-Shewsbury and Lexington in the championship race.
Individually for the Eagles, Tim Loehner of Danvers came in eighth and Liam Dow of West Newbury was 14th.