Hilda Gonzalez entered the 2018 season having already demonstrated that she was an elite high school cross country runner.
The McFarland sophomore was coming off a freshman year in which she won five races and dominated all local competition before placing fifth (in Division I) at the Central Section Championships.
For the quiet but ultra-competitive runner it was a good season, but she felt she could do even better.
In no way content with resting on her laurels, Gonzalez worked hard during the off-season on becoming an even better long-distance runner.
The result was an outstanding sophomore campaign for the 2018 BVarsity All-Area Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.
Gonzalez racked up a long, impressive list of accomplishments this season.
For starters, she won eight races, set two new personal records (two miles and 5,000 meters), and finished third at the Central Section Championships.
“I felt like I had more speed (this season),” Gonzalez said. “I did more speed workouts (during the off-season).”
Gonzalez credits her mom, dad, and three brothers with providing the motivation and support that spurred her growth as a competitor.
“My family, they pushed me a lot,” Gonzalez said. “…They’re there at every single race.”
The highlight of the year, according to Gonzalez, was winning the Kern County Cross Country Championships for a second straight year. Gonzalez finished the 3-mile race at Hart Park nearly five seconds faster than she did her freshman year. Her time of 17:46.7 was her fastest of the year at that distance.
“The Wasco girls were really good,” Gonzalez said. “They pushed me through the whole way.”
Earlier in the year, Gonzalez set new PR’s in the two-mile (10.56.7) and 5,000 meters (17:47.4) distances.
Though she didn’t PR, Gonzalez turned in an impressive performance at the section meet, where she was the only Kern County runner in the D-I race to place in the top 16.
Nine days later, running in Fresno on the same Woodward Park course, Gonzalez was considerably slower and placed 66th.
That was a rare blip on an otherwise near-flawless season.
“She’s extremely talented,” McFarland coach Thomas Valles said. “A lot of the work she really has to do by herself, as far as her workouts. She doesn’t hold back from putting in the work that we ask her to do.”
Natural ability and a strong work ethic aren’t the only reasons for Gonzalez’s success as a cross country runner. Despite her diminutive size and quiet demeanor, she’s a fierce competitor.
“When she’s on a cross country course wearing that McFarland jersey representing herself, her family, her school, and her community, she goes out there to make some noise,” Valles said. "She’s a warrior out there.”
A prime example of Gonzalez’s strong will to win came early in the season during the Morrow Bay Invitational. Gonzalez and a few other McFarland runners accidentally took a wrong turn and strayed off course, costing them 20-30 seconds.
Despite winning the race in impressive fashion Gonzalez was disappointed in herself for making the mistake.
“It was an amazing race,” Valles said. “…Right there it shows you that she’s a competitor…Some of the girls that made the wrong turn pretty much threw in the towel. Hilda didn’t. She accepted the challenge and went for it.”
Valles believes that if Gonzalez remains focused on her running, she can continue to accomplish great things.
“She’s always chasing the top girls from Clovis-Buchanan, but she’s not afraid to compete,” Valles said.