All-Empire Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year: Ukiah’s Holden stands out

Photo by SCOTT MANCHESTER / The Press Democrat Ukiah senior Paul Holden, boys cross country.

Photo by SCOTT MANCHESTER / The Press Democrat
Ukiah senior Paul Holden, boys cross country.

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Soaking wet running through a Costa Rican rainforest, Paul Holden still glided effortlessly much as the Ukiah record-holder coasted along prep cross country courses.

Following his Central American spring break sojourn, Holden reflected on a season where he didn’t realize all his goals yet one worthy of Holden earning The Press Democrat Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year honors.

A handful of invitational titles, the North Bay League championship, second at prestigious Stanford, fifth at North Coast Section, a third consecutive state finals appearance — tough to top that racing resume.

“There were a lot of highlights. It was awesome,” he said.

Still, after three superb seasons while running in the shadow of some of the Empire’s all-time greats Holden wanted more out of his final prep cross country campaign. Such are the standards set by Holden, who next season will run for the University of Connecticut.

“I had such a great race at NBL’s,” said Holden, who ran the third fastest time ever over the tough Spring Lake course. “But after that I was just tired. It just wasn’t clicking. That’s definitely motivation for the future.”

Expect Holden to set out on a path of improvement much as he did ahead of this past season.

Coming off progressively standout campaigns Holden sought a faster gear. So he added some mileage and cross training for a triathlon made Holden even stronger as a runner.

“He’s a very dedicated athlete. He always puts in the time,” said Ukiah coach Chad Raugewitz.

The hard work paid off. Consider a remarkable three-week stretch — a Viking Opener win, a Yolo County Championships course record, and the strong Stanford result.

“Last summer is when I really got my act together. I just became more serious,” Holden said. “I thought I could go pretty far.”

In a season of many highlights the best result in Holden’s eyes was winning the NBL title.

With a pair of top-three finishes at the league finals the past two seasons, Holden wanted to do more than win. Familiar with every troublesome run of rocks, leg burning climbs, and narrow stretches on the hilly Spring Lake course, Holden aimed to break the 15 minute mark. Missing it by one second, Holden still ran the third fastest time ever on the course.

“He was red hot. He was pretty untouchable,” Raugewitz said.

At sections Holden was a favorite to win after finishing second in Division 2 the previous two years. Holden slogged through the mud at Hayward for fifth place.

Holden finished strong with a solid state showing.

Running for Holden is a journey far from over.

Playing youth football, soccer, baseball and basketball, Holden was an athlete who found the most success running.

Beginning as a middle school miler, Holden developed an affinity for ever longer runs.

“Then it actually clicked. Running wasn’t hard for me,” Holden said.

Success in Ukiah town runs drew the notice of Raugewitz. Always on the lookout for runners to bolster his roster, the coach didn’t need to look far for Holden, who lives in the same neighborhood.

 

“He’s a very easy going kid, but has a real competitive heart,” Raugewitz said. “He’s made steady improvement each year. That’s what you want as a runner.”

Gaining speed in his final prep track season is Holden’s next goal. A strong two miler, Holden could run the 5,000 meters or even 10,000 meters in college.

“I really like running longer distances. I can get in a zone. I feel a lot less distracted,” Holden said. “I really want to run in college. It’s really exciting.”

 

 

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