Ernesto Gomez was a four-year track runner at Pioneer Valley and a varsity runner the last two - though his senior season, as everyone else’s was, was truncated by COVID-19.

He ran all the distance races - the 800, the 1,600, the 3,200. “My favorite was the 1,600,” Gomez said.

“It was a nice little balance,” between the two-lap 800 and the eight-lap 3,200.

“The 800 is short but it’s hard. It’s almost a full-out sprint for two laps.”

Gomez said, “I can (go at nearly full speed) for one lap. But that second one ... you do the first and you think it’s easy. Then you find out it’s not.”

Still, Gomez persevered through his racing grind. He also persevered through his academic grind, well enough that he was the Pioneer Valley nominee for the 2020 Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Round Table Male Scholar Athlete of the Year scholarship.

Gomez carries a 4.1 GPA at Pioneer Valley.

The NSBCART awards its scholarships during its annual dinner. The organization cancelled its 2020 dinner because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gomez plans to attend Cal Poly and major in computer science.

“What I eventually want to do as far as a career is still up in the air,” said Gomez.

“I’d probably like to work for a company like Apple. That would be the dream for me.”

Gomez said his favorite courses at Cal Poly are the math and science ones. He will carry that over to his collegiate academic career.

When it comes to online learning, “I’ve adapted to it,” said Gomez.

“I’d prefer to be in a classroom with my friends, and it’s more helpful to students to be able to ask teachers questions and get one-on-one attention.”

Gomez said, “Staying at home all day, it’s a challenge for me not to get lazy.”

Giving up competitive running will be an adjustment for Gomez. Besides his track career, Gomez also ran cross country for two-plus years at Pioneer Valley.

“It will be a challenge at first, not knowing anyone and running alone, but I still plan on running to stay in shape and keeping up with my classes at the same time,” he said.

Central Coast Classic Series: We look back at some the biggest games in the area's history

With a little extra time on our hands, we are taking a look into the past of prep sports on the Central Coast. Our sports staff has been going through our archives searching for photos and stories highlighting some of the most pivotal games area teams have played over the last two decades.

You can support the hard work of our local sports team by signing up for a News+ Membership

Senior Spotlight Series: Celebrating the area's top senior student-athletes

Our 'Senior Spotlight' series is aimed at highlighting senior student-athletes who have had their final year of high school disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. The athletes featured here were their school's nominee for Athlete of the Year or Student Athlete of the Year for the Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Round Table's end-of-year banquet that has been canceled due to the outbreak.

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Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.

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