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JASON EICHELBERGER, OCVARSITY.COM
Orange County Championships meet record holder Brandon Bethke served as a mentor for El Toro senior and current county champion Juan Gonzalez at Saturday's race.

Bethke gives back to county runners

OCVARSITY.COM

Former El Toro star Brandon Bethke certainly knows the thrill of experiencing success at the highest levels at the Orange County Championships.
    
Bethke was a two-time county Orange County champion in 2003 and 2004. His winning time of 14:30 in 2004 is the all-time modern course meet record at Irvine Regional Park.
    
Bethke was on hand at Saturday’s county championships as a guest awards presenter and enjoyed the opportunity to see the talent that was on display.
    
“It’s really cool to give back and encourage the next group of runners to do some of things that I did,” Bethke said. “I remember how special it was for me.”
    
Bethke, the 2004 California Division 1 state champion, went on to run collegiately at both the University of Wisconsin and Arizona State. This past summer, he competed and advanced to the finals of the 5000 at the United States Track and Field Trials in Eugene Oregon.  
    
El Toro senior Juan Gonzalez, the first county champion to come for El Toro since Bethke, admitted to having a little extra motivation knowing that Bethke would be on hand.
    
“I got a call from a buddy of mine who told me that he was going to be there and that got me really excited,” Gonzalez said.
    
Bethke had a simple piece of advice for Gonzalez before the race and was very impressed with what he saw on the course.
    
“I told him not to worry about times and to run the best that he could to win,” Bethke said. “He ran a smart race and ran very well. I was excited to see him do the little things that will help him at the next level.”
    
Bethke also admired the current overall state of running talent in the county.
    
“There are a group of kids here that love to compete and will push each other,” he said. “There is a great camaraderie here and some of the top runners in the nation have come from Orange County. The level of fitness and competition here always increases.”
    
When asked about the advice he would give to runners seeking to experience some of the same success, Bethke stated that prioritizing goals is a big key.   
    
“You have to figure out what you want to do, work on the little things, and work on the things that you are not good at,” Bethke said. “When I came to El Toro my freshman year, I wasn’t the fastest runner.  But there was a plan in place, and a process that over four years, I would run well. Talent goes a long way, but you have to find out what you want to do and understand there are steps to get there.”


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