Jaime Galindo has ill feelings about last season's state community college cross-country meet.
Something that Galindo ate the night before did not settle well and it seemed he covered more distance running to the restroom the night before than during the race.
"We went to some pasta place," Galindo said. "I think something in the spaghetti sauce got to me. I just felt sick all night and during the race."
As a result, the Ventura College freshman finished 34th, covering the four-mile course at Fresno's Woodward Park in 20 minutes, 26 seconds.
"I was kind of disappointed," Galindo said. "I felt that I could have finished higher, possibly among the top 20."
A year later, Galindo, 19, has a chance to redeem that disappointment as he returns to Woodward Park on Saturday with hopes of a top-10 finish. If his performances earlier in the season are a valid indicator, he stands a great chance.
Galindo won the Moorpark invitational, Ventura's opening meet of the season, and three Western State Conference meets, including the conference championships Nov. 3, as the Pirates won their first conference title in seven years.
But his most impressive performance came at last month's Stanford Invitational, where he finished fifth in the open division against runners from four-year schools.
His showing at Stanford has brought inquiries from several National Collegiate Athletic Assn. Division I schools, including Arizona, which has been among the favorites for the national title in recent years.
"He's a year older and a year smarter," Ventura Coach Tuck Mason said. "He has improved tremendously and is coming off a big track season. The main difference is that he has a lot more confidence and is gaining more each race."
In May, Galindo finished sixth in the state track meet at 5,000 meters, running a personal-best 14:51.
Yet Galindo remains unchanged.
"He's probably the most mild-mannered guy around," Mason said. "He's has a positive outlook on everything. He sets high standards and wants to the best he possibly can be. But he doesn't sacrifice his family or schoolwork to achieve it--he places them above his running."
Said Tim Revell, a teammate at Ventura and Oxnard High: "Jaime's not selfish or conceited. He puts everything in perspective. Whenever he does well, he doesn't like to talk about it all, though deep down everybody knows that he's excited."
The second of three sons, Galindo began running cross-country and track as a freshman at Oxnard High. He had limited success until his senior year, when he won the Channel League 3,200-meter championship in 9:20--almost 50 seconds faster than his best the previous year.
His parents support his running but, because of work, have only seen him race twice. In high school, Galindo worked at weekend bingo games to earn money for running shoes and to earn his way to summer running camps.
"There's no question about it. He's the best athlete I've ever coached," said Art Garduna, Galindo's coach at Oxnard. "He's accomplished everything on his own through hard work and dedication. He's done a lot of reading to improve his running and is always looking for training tips from other runners."
Three days before last Saturday's Southern California championships, which serve as the qualifier for the state meet, Galindo and his teammates are training at Arroyo Verde Park, the team's daily meeting site located less than a mile from the Ventura campus.
The talk ranges from women to running shoes, but the soft-spoken Galindo simply smiles, acknowledging the comments, and remains focused on the workout, which consists of a run through the rolling, dirt trails.
The chattering subsides into labored breathing as the runners hit a steep incline and struggle to reach the summit.
"C'mon guys, stay together," encourages a barely-winded Galindo as he bounds effortlessly up the hill, leaving a trail of runners in his wake. As the path flattens, he slows his pace, allowing the stragglers to catch up.
Galindo knows these trails well. It is here where the lithe 5-foot-9 1/2, 135-pound runner has trained and competed since high school, developing his endurance and powerful stride.
"Hills are his strength," Garduna said. "It's his forte. He has the perfect physique for it. He's got good leg speed and is very good on the downhills."
After practice, Galindo and Mason discuss the upcoming race, which will be held on the hilly Mt. San Antonio College course. Galindo must finish among the top 15 to advance.
Galindo pulls out crumpled newspaper clippings to compare times run on the Mt. SAC course last year to those run at last month's invitational. He is worried about the number of runners who have run faster than 20 minutes this year.
"Jaime wonders about everything," Revell said. "He's always familiar with his competition. It's amazing. He not only knows every world track record, but where it was set."
Garduna has the same impression.
"He's not only physically prepared for a race, but also mentally," Garduna said "He meditates before each race and always has a strategy."
Galindo apparently chose the right strategy last Saturday at Mt. SAC as he placed fourth in 20:18. He was the first U. S. finisher in a race where foreigners took four out of the first five places.
"This course was right up his alley," an elated Mason said afterward. "He ran a hell of a race."
Mason voices uncertainty on how much the race will take out of Galindo for the state meet. But Galindo is sure of one thing--he won't be eating out before this race.
"I'm not going to take any chances this time," he said. "I'm going to stick with mom's good ol' cooking."