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All-County Cross Country Coach of the Year

12:00 AM, Dec. 18, 2012 EST

Exeter's Yesenia Silva and El Diamante's Jacob Bilvado were named All-Tulare County Cross Country Runners of the Year. Both overcame challenging pasts on their way to the top. / Ron Holman

Isaac Gonzales

School: Exeter

Season: It's no accident that the Visalia Times-Delta/Tulare Advance-Register all-county first team features three Exeter girls and two Exeter boys. No, there's not something in the water. The Monarch's success comes from a junior high feeder program coach Isaac Gonzales started in 1995 as a volunteer.

Nearly two decades later, the Monarch are now the pride of Tulare County cross country.

* Exeter's girls finished 10th as a team at the CIF Division IV state meet, while the boys finished 15th.

* Yesenia Silva, Annette Acosta and Sarah Reid took the top three positions at both the Central Section D-II and Central Sequoia League championships to help secure a pair of team championships.

* Robert Reid won an individual Central Section D-II title as Sam Aleman finished third to help the Exeter boys secure a team championship of their own.

* Reid, Andrew Sutton and Aleman finished second, third and fourth respectively at the Central Sequoia League championships, giving Exeter a pair of title in both the CSL and Valley.

Gonzales, 50, works through lunch on his post office routes so he can finish early and head straight to practice. There he runs with his athletes on the final fumes from breakfast -- if he was lucky enough to squeeze that in before work. He uses vacation hours to take the team to meets. His sacrifice and dedication doesn't end at home where he fathers three adopted children.

Comments: "These kids know they are doing something special that a lot of kids won't do. Who wants to go out and run 8 or 9miles when it's 105? They do it. It's just crazy. It's a crazy sport. You've got to embrace it with all your heart. You've got to really pay attention. You've got to treat every kid as an individual.

"I've really found that out since adopting those three kids. You're all individuals. I can't treat you all the same. It's been tough but I'm glad I did it. It's the only thing keeping me sane I think. Work's tough, but to be doing what I'm doing, it keeps my mind off -- I don't have any bad habits besides wanting to exercise and help these kids out."

"... I thank God every day that he's given me this gift to continue. It's tough, but he gives me the strength. I'm doing it. It makes me happy."

"... When I had the chance to coach, I kind of got hung up on it. You kind of want to mold these kids into being superstars. I don't want to take credit for it because the kids do all the work."

"When I do the coaching thing, I can't give it up because if I give it up I think I'm letting someone down. Deep down, I really love the sport. It's going to be a sad day if I ever have to walk away. If the post office ever says, 'Hey Isaac, we need you to work later, we don't think we can work around your schedule,' it's really going to break my heart."




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