By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Cowbells rang across Bush Park Saturday afternoon. Few in numbers yes, but you would think one of the Salem schools was using the park for a race.
Christopher Walken once said on Saturday Night Live, ok demanded, more cowbell during a sketch on the show in 2000. The idea of ‘more cowbell’ wasn’t because for a major race, but to support a kid training.
South Salem’s Evan Gonzalez has been slowly coming back off a knee injury stemming possibly from a hip injury sustain from his freshman year two years ago, using the quarantine time as a way to let his body heal up during a time where he might have been running hard for the Saxons.
“I believe that my knee was hurting because of my hips weren’t strong enough to support the overuse I’ve been putting on it,” said Gonzalez. “So I’ve been using that time to strengthen my hips, making sure my shins and everything so I won’t get shin-splints. I’m feeling 100-percent now.
“As much as this sucks, I couldn’t ask for a better time to think about my next move and what to do to reach out to colleges and training as well.”
Gonzalez has been a work-horse of an athlete since moving to Oregon a few years ago from Arlington, Texas. Some notable accomplishments he’s earned include USATF Jr. Olympic All-American in the 1,500 and 3,000 meter races in 2017, USATF Jr. Olympic All-American in 2019 in the 800 meters. He won the USATF Oregon Track and Field Male Athlete of the Year award in 2018 and Portland Track Fest Youth Meet 15-16 record holder in the 800 meters and the 1,500 meters in the same age group.
At South, Gonzalez has been named Rookie of the Year in Cross Country, Track and Field and been named Cross Country MVP and Boys Captain. Nice little resume he’s built up to this point of his career.
He mapped out his own race, a 3K distance, or 1.89 miles. As he warmed up, Gonzalez will start at a park bench in the field next to the right field fence at John Lewis Field at Willamette University, loop around the court and baseball field while working in derby hill a bit before go on beyond that.
The plan was 9:30 for the impromptu 3K. See where he’s at, knowing there’s a few months out in between now and when the next competitive race may be again, so he has time to improve.
“I just have to hunker down, push with a whole bunch of training. Mileage is going to have to go up, do a bit more intensity and speed work to help me to get me that extra kick so I can finally catch up with everyone,” smiled Gonzalez.
Gonzalez finished 75th in the 6A State Cross Country Race in 2019 and finished 14th in the 1,500 meter race a few months earlier in Gresham in the 6A State Track and Field meet as he started his race shortly after 4pm.
The cowbells rang whenever he ran by, the humid rain threat overhead, people enjoying some time outside the house during the pandemic break. Track is his ‘baby’ with the 800 meter and 1,500 events; but as he looped through the course, Gonzalez ran his race he got lost in his thoughts about why he loved to run.
“It just reminds me of track that I miss and Cross Country coming up. I’m just so excited for when I’m ready to go back into it again,” said Gonzalez of the cowbells. “Cross Country has helped me build my endurance. I don’t focus too much on it in that Track time, but Cross Country has brought me back to…it’s not only an endurance builder, it brings back to where to what I love about running.
“Just the friendly competition. Being out there with all my friends and I really enjoy that little time to step back from all the intense pressure. I love Cross Country almost as much as track.”
The time wasn’t necessarily an 9:30, finishing the 3K race in 10:25, but Gonzalez knows he has time to improve. Improvements are made during these times of work for the moments of glory here in a few months.
“I’m not super pumped about it, I’m four months out from my first race so I have so much time and I’m not worried the slightest. I think this is the beginning to it,” said Gonzalez. “I think come June/July I’m going to be punching out 9:30’s pretty easily by then.”