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Golden Valley's Nolan Del Valle: Solitary refinement

Senior has had to change his strategy with so many key runners graduated

Posted: September 20, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: September 20, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Golden Valley senior Nolan Del Valle was voted as one of the top returning runners in the Foothill League this season by the league’s coaches. Golden Valley senior Nolan Del Valle was voted as one of the top returning runners in the Foothill League this season by the league’s coaches.
Golden Valley senior Nolan Del Valle was voted as one of the top returning runners in the Foothill League this season by the league’s coaches.

After spending the past three years soaking in every tiny detail of what it takes to be an elite runner, Nolan Del Valle is ready to fly solo.

The Golden Valley senior got to watch first hand as the school’s cross country program grew up from a relative contender to a Foothill, CIF-Southern Section and CIF State champion last year.

All three were firsts in program history, and Del Valle was heavily involved in all of it.

But this season presents a new, undeniable challenge for the Grizzlies as a whole and for Del Valle as an individual.

“I think I’m just striving to be better,” Del Valle says. “It doesn’t really matter for me whatever comes in the way, sickness or injuries. I think I just need to push through the pain and work on getting healthy and staying healthy and pushing through the pain during the races.”

And quite literally, he’s already proving that.

This past weekend, Del Valle took third in a 193-person varsity race at the Woodbridge XC Classic in Irvine with a time of 14 minutes, 43 seconds.

It was a personal best at the course for Del Valle, who was in the process of fighting a sinus infection during the race.

And the senior knows full well that’s the kind of resilience he’ll need this season as he takes control of the clear No. 1 position on the team.

“As Nolan runs (personal bests) here early in the season, I know he still has plenty left,” says Golden Valley cross country head coach Marc Minasian. “He’s not killing himself right now.”

Del Valle was Golden Valley’s No. 3 runner last year behind Kristian Martinez and Juan David Garcia, who both graduated and earned scholarships at the University of California, Berkeley.

The team also graduated three others who competed at the state meet last year, leaving only Del Valle and fellow senior Brendan Tinoco as the lone returners from the state title team.

Fortunately, a runner like Del Valle who has been on varsity since freshman year and competed in three state meets, knows how to self-motivate.

“Workouts are harder, of course, because I don’t have some of the guys (pushing me),” Del Valle says. “But just doing a little bit more of the little things, I got used to doing different training this year than last year.”

Under Minasian, a first-year head coach, the training has involved a few less miles run during the summer and more focus on flexibility and diet.

Outside of the technical changes though, Del Valle has taken more initiative to get out in front of the pack in races compared to what he’s done in the past.

“He seems just as driven as he did last year,” Tinoco says. “Though he does seem kind of, not in any bad way, he’s just kind of like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to go out and win it now.’”

That’s OK with Tinoco. He too knows what it takes to race at the statewide level.

“He’s growing up,” Tinoco jokes of his teammate.

In reality, he didn’t need much growing up. He ended up as the Grizzlies’ second finisher at the state meet, taking 10th place individually in  Division II.

“It perfectly suits his personality,” says former Golden Valley co-head coach Rob Evans, who coached Del Valle for three years. “Even when Kristian and Juan David were there, those guys kind of played a separate role in leading the team and Nolan was a huge part of the success of that team.”

And this year, the team will lean on him even more.

The pressure will be on Del Valle to increase his speed as the season goes on, hence his every-man-for-himself mentality coming in.

“He knows where he can be at the end of the year,” Minasian says. “He knows how much improvement he needs at the end of the year when you get to those big meets. He knows how to take it to the next level.”

Golden Valley cross country has already reached that level.

It’s athletes like Del Valle who have the chance to keep it going.



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