A Q&A Session with Jesus Batista and Danny Aguas

 This past Friday at Larry & Penny Thompson Park in Miami, two young faces that are making names for themselves in the South Florida running community came together for a little Question & Answer session. That day there were three consecutive District Championship going on at the park (3A-D8, 4A-D7 and 4A-D8) and these guys sought out some of the winning individuals and coaches for a quick interview. This article tags off of The 10-Day Recap of Miami XC article that has the results of those meets. So without further ado, here's what they came up with...








10 Q&A’s with Elliot Clemente, Belen Jesuit


Q1. How did you feel during the race, and did it go as planned?

A- The plan went well; it was to pace our #2 Joe Lindsay to run a PR on this tough course [at Larry & Penny]. In addition, our next five runners also improved their times on this course which was a goal as well. The weather helped a lot for the first time in a while as Miami is usually hot and dry.


Q2. How do you feel about your season to this point?

A- I am happy with my times and placing in races this year throughout all of the meets we have ran.


Q3. How does it feel to have such a strong team? In addition, is the team ready for the State Championship?

A- It is awesome to have such a great team. Everyone keeps on getting better every week and we’re now doing speed workouts to improve our kicks. We’re looking strong for states and can’t wait.


Q4. How do you feel your team will do against Charlotte?

A- I feel that if we do our best on that day it will be close; just as long as everyone stays motivated towards the goal.


Q5. Are you looking forward to racing Jimmy Clark and Tyler Cardillo at State?

A- Yes I am after this week. I know I will be more prepared. The gap has been closing between Jimmy and me this year and Tyler is having a great season too. The race will come down to the last 600 meters.


Q6. Are there any post season races that your team is attending?

A- Yes. The team and I will be heading to Footlocker South. It’s going to be awesome and hopefully I go sub-15.


Q7. How did you prepare differently this season as compared to past seasons?

A- Well as a team we started training early and running longer mileage. We also didn’t do speed work until mid- season. Overall the training has been stronger and has been working since we have dropped our times as a team.


Q8. Are there any rituals (or anything unusual) that you do to get you ready for a race?

A- Our ritual is that we are reminded that we are a family and need to support one another. If someone falters, another person needs to step up.


Q9. What is the goal time for the end of this season?

A- For state, the low 15’s; but hopefully in the 14’s. And at Footlocker South I am shooting for a sub-15 performance.


Q10. What are some of you pre-season track goals?

A- Well we’re not in track yet so all of my focus is on XC; but under 4:15 in the 1600 and sub 9:00 in the 3200. I am also hoping that our 4x8 can beat the school record of 7:54.


Editor Notes: Elliot, a junior, was the 3A District 8 individual boy’s champion and currently is listed as the #5 overall runner in the state by his season best performance of 15:09 at the flrunners.com 11 Invitational. His team, Belen Jesuit is currently ranked #2 in Class 3A behind Charlotte HS.






5 Q&A’s with Coach Carmen Jackson, Miami Northwestern


Q1. How do you think your team performed today?

A- Overall, we did okay. My three thru five didn’t run to their full potential, but my #1 and #2 ran well and kept the team afloat.


Q2. Do you have any goals coming into the region championship?

A- Oh yes. I want the girl’s team to place in the top six and advance to state championship for the first time in who knows how long. We are typically known for our state championships in track and we’re not known for cross country. But it’s the first time in a long time that I have a team that can advance if they all run their best.


Q3. How do you get track runners to come out and run XC?

A- Well I only ask my middle-distance and up to come out and run cross country. It is a tough sport mentally and it’s brutal for those runners. You can see them suffer.


Q4. What have you done differently this year compared to other XC season?

A- Well, a lot of motivating. A lot these girls don’t think they can run a mile yet alone a 5k. But also I tell them that cross country gets your body ready for track and I guarantee them that they will perform better in track because of cross country.


Q5. How do you think your team will fair come track season?

A- Well we’re always in the hunt and I have a lot of my team returning. Hopefully we bring home the gold. I am liking our chances this year.


Editor Notes: Northwestern was the winning girls team for 4A District 7. Coach Jackson also coaches the track & field team, for which she is better known, where she has captured numerous state championships and already worked her way into the Florida Hall-of-Fame.






5 Q&A’s with Jesus Rivas, Hialeah-Miami Lakes


Q1. How did you feel about your race today?

A- Confident, and a bit nervous. I just wanted to run. The weather was awesome except for the wind.


Q2.  What are your goals for the region meet and state championship?

A- My goal is to break 16:27, which is my season best, at the region meet. At the state championship, I’m looking forward to the competition. I’m ready to see how I stack up against everyone else. My goal is to be top 10 at state.


Q3. Do you plan to keep running after high school?

A- Most definitely. I think that my best years are to come in college. I have a 5.2 GPA so for sure I want to not only go for academics, but to balance it with my running as well.


Q4. How have you grown as a runner these past four years?

A- I have grown to be independent. I had a beautiful team with great talent as a freshman. Little by little, everyone has graduated so I have to focus on my talent and my training to put me on top. As an athlete, I have come to appreciate who ever and whatever I have for that moment and be thankful.


Q5. What was different this season as compared to others in terms of training?

A- Heavy mileage, up to 15 miles a day. Sometimes I’ll leave my house at 5pm and won’t get home until 8pm. I have a good base and just need the competition to pull me along.


Editor Notes: Jesus, a senior, was the 4A District 7 boy’s individual champion. This is his second individual district championship, and since his freshman year he has not finished worse than third place in this meet.






5 Q&A’s with Coach Rebecca Rodriguez-Michalik, Lourdes Academy


Q1. How did you prepare the team for the district meet knowing that you are favored to win the state championship?

A- Well for each race we have a set goal. Today was to close the gap between #7 and #1, and to hammer the last mile. And our girl’s team did just that.


Q2. How do you feel about racing at a new and challenging course for the region meet?

A- We are excited for it this season. We have traveled to a lot of tough courses, one being at the Mount Dora Invite which also had many hills; it was fun and challenging.


Q3. What has motivated your girl’s team this year?

A- Well our senior leadership helps a lot. In addition, the fact that it been a long time since we won the state championship back in 2004. Also, our girls know they have a good shot this year and that’s all the motivation they need.


Q4.  What type of summer did you and your girls have this year?

A- We had a great summer. Once I let them know we had a chance at winning this year they came out and trained hard. I just lit the fire and they keep burning the wood.


Q5. How do you get so many girls to come out and run XC?

A- Cross country is a tradition in our school; we have a no cut policy. All of our runners have goals and we help them meet those goals. And also are girls our told to bring a friend out; that always helps.


Editor Notes: Lourdes Academy was the 4A District 8 winning team and has won this meet sixth consecutive times since moving up to the 4A classification in 2005. Lourdes is currently ranked #1 in Class 4A.






5 Q&A’s with Alessandra Valdes, Lourdes Academy


Q1. How did you feel during the race, and did it go as planned?

A- Well I felt great and happy that we hung on as a pack for two miles. We hammered the last mile.


Q2. How do you feel about how your season has gone so far?

A- Well my season started of slow due to my injury and I had no summer mileage, so I had to make up a lot of mileage. However, I am glad it is paying off now at the end of the season.


Q3. How does it feel to have such a strong team?

A- We are one big family, and deep. We cannot wait for state.


Q4. What are your season goals that you still have left to accomplish?

A- Well to do the best I can and to hopefully help my team out in reaching our ultimate goal which is a team state championship.


Q5. Do you have any pre-race rituals?

A- Well I get pumped up and in my zone with my iPod, but right before we run we pray as a team.


Editor Notes: Alessandra, a senior, was the individual girl’s champion for 4A District 8. This was her third consecutive district championship; her only hiccup in achieving perfection was from her freshman year where she was the district runner-up. Outstanding job Ale!






10 Q&A’s with Armando Del-Valle, Christopher Columbus


Q1. How did you feel during the race, and did it go as planned?

A- I felt smooth; the race went as planned. I have not raced in a couple of weeks so it was good to get out here and run with my teammates.


Q2. How do you feel about how your season has gone so far?

A- Its gone well, I’ve had a great season. Now I’m looking forward to state and NXN.


Q3. How does it feel to have such a strong team?

A- It feels great to be on such a strong team. We are definitely ready for state.


Q4. Are you looking forward to the re-match against Ryan Pickering?

A- Yeah, I am really looking forward to it. It should be fun.


Q5. Will you be competing in any post-season races?

A- Oh yes, Nike Team Nationals. We’re hoping for top 15 finish as a team.


Q6. How did you prepare differently this year as compared to others?

A- I took a nice break after track and put a nice base in. I have been running mid 60’s per week.


Q7. Do you have any pre-race rituals?

A- Nope, no rituals. Just to make sure that I am relaxed and also to have fun.


Q8.  What colleges would you like to run for next year?

A- I am looking at Florida State, Colorado, Penn State and Georgetown. Let’s see what happens.


Q9. What is your goal time for end of the season?

A- I’m not really interested in times, just more focused on placing well at states and nationals to help my team.


Q10. In addition, what are you goals as a team?

A- To try to go for the three-peat at states, and a top 15 finish at NXN.



Editor Notes: Armando Del-Valle, a senior, was the boy’s individual champion for 4A District 8 and has won this meet all four years of his career. He is currently ranked #2 in Class 4A as an individual and his team is currently ranked #1 in the state.







10 Q&A’s with Coach Ryan Raposo, John A. Ferguson


Q1. So how does it feel to finally see the south do some damage at the state level?

A- Well I’m one of those people that always talks about how difficult it can be to train in Miami most of the time, so I think it’s tremendous when the south teams get up there and can truly compete with all of teams in north Florida.


Q2. Why did you shave the mustache?

A- Hah! I usually shave it a couple of times during the year. I shaved this year right at mid-season. It was sort of a fresh start for the second half of cross country.


Q3. How have you gotten the girl’s team ready? They have really turned heads this year.

A- This is only the third season I’ve directly coached the girl’s team and it’s been a long process in trying to build a strong core of girls. Right now they’re finally crossing that bridge of understanding what is needed to become a top tier team. Thank you.


Q4. What is the reason you put so much time into the running community?

A- Initially just for a love of the sport and to help out Jason with some inconsistencies on flrunners. But over the years I have learned that the administrative aspect of the sport is just as important and crucial as the coaching aspect. You could be the greatest coach in the world, but if there is no one hosting any meets, the sport will eventually disappear. To be a great coach and true asset to the sports of cross country and track & field requires more than just coaching.


Q5. Do you love Jason?

A- Hahaha! Yes. Whether people like to acknowledge it or not, what Jason has done for the running community in recent years is basically unmatched. I can’t imagine where our sports would be without his contributions (predominately this website). Jason Rules!!


Q6. What are your team goals for both the guys and girls?

A- It’s been a very trying year for both of my teams. This season by far has required the most amount of coaching that I’ve ever had to do. For the boy’s team we’re trying to qualify to our 7th consecutive state meet (our school only opened eight years ago). And for the girl’s team, it’s to crack the top 10 at the state championship for the first time in school history.


Q7. What was your high school PR in 5k?

A- Truth be told, I never ran a 5k in high school; we still ran three miles for cross country. But if my memory serves me correctly I believe it was a 23:28 or so. I’m way faster now, but back then I wouldn’t have even made the varsity for my current girl’s team!


Q8. What made you want to become a coach?

A- Honestly, my love for the sport and the motivation I received from a few truly great coaches that mentored me when I was just a kid that volunteered to help out at track & field practices. The three main individuals would be Coach Julio Valdes: formerly of Ferguson HS, his daughter was interviewed earlier in this article; Coach Bill Wilson: currently coaching at Coral Reef HS; and Andrea Adderly: now retired, my former track coach at Braddock HS.


Q9. How do you motivate your runners?

A- Traditionally the runner’s I’ve coached have been very self-motivated, determined and driven. They set pretty realistic goals and always aimed at achieving them. Lately I’ve had to deal with many kids that are new to the sport, so I’ve had to teach them about the sport and try to build a bond between many of the kids. They’re all finally coming together which truly makes me happy and makes me enjoy the sport more than I had in a long time. Building a program has as many rewards as does winning a championship. Not every coach knows that feeling.


Q10. What make you keep going?

A- As a kid I was very self-motivated and at the same time naïve to the world around me. As an adult what has kept me going is the understanding that the world throws obstacles at you and regardless of what kind of person you are, how hard you work and the accomplishments you achieve, there is always going to be something or someone trying to drag you down.


Therefore one must separate yourself from drama and those that will hate, and stand tall and proud at everything that you know you have done to get to where you are. Because even though you might sometimes feel like the world is against you (because it might be), true success in life will be measured in the long run. Like .38 Special said: “Just hold on loosely. But don’t let go!”


And of course, the joy and laughter that my team brings me; when they’re not making my eye twitch! Keep up the great work falcons! =)





Interviews conducted by: Jesus Batista and Danny Aguas

Edited by: Ryan Raposo, Flrunners / Milesplit site administrator