Just over a year ago, Evert Silva, Jr. was searching for guidance and confused whether he would reach the next level of running athleticism that could elevate the Fresno High senior toward a phenomenal finish.
The 5-foot-9, 127-pound long-distance runner from Acapulco, México is eager to begin his collegiate athletic career on a full-ride scholarship to the University of Portland. Before moving to Oregon, Silva, age 18, has family in mind and a state track championship.
He finished the Central Section Masters Championship determined and ahead of a field of highly-qualified athletes competing in the 3,200-meter event two weeks ago in Clovis. The victory granted him automatic entry to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) State Track and Field Championships at Veterans Memorial Stadium on the campus of Buchanan High School (Clovis) June 2 and 3.
Silva, whose entire Mexican immigrant family has a deep passion for soccer, burst on the Central Section running scene a couple seasons ago. A back injury forced him away from soccer and he discovered his new talent in running.
“My whole family grew up around soccer. I used to be a soccer player. No one ever ran, but everyone does soccer,” said Silva, who was brought to the United States prior to his fifth birthday.
Prior to meeting current Fresno High track and field and cross country coach, Jesús Campos, Silva would train on his own. He would run miles next to the canal along McKinley Avenue.
He was rejuvenated by Campos, formerly the track and field coach at Cooper Academy. Campos is an experienced runner and four-time winner of the famed Two Cities Marathon, a Boston Marathon qualifying event.
Campos understood the Fresno High runners, some, he said, were financially strapped unable to buy real running shoes. He lifted their spirits through mentoring, organizing fundraisers and entering the squad in local and away running events.
In the 2015 CIF state cross country finals, Silva had finished 119th among the 196 competitors in Division III at 16:59.1. As a senior in last year’s D-3 state cross country finals, Silva was a fourth-place finisher on the 3.1-mile race at 15:09.6, a Fresno High record and the Central Section’s best time. It was 6.3 seconds from the top finisher.
“And we thought he could have done better,” said Campos. Silva agrees.
After his cross country run, he traveled to Portland for the Nike Cross Country Nationals Meet, where he finished fourth among California runners and 31st overall in the field of 195 competitors.
“A runner will automatically connect with the coach and with his running. Taking advice from him has definitely helped me. My previous coaches didn’t have that,” said Silva.
He qualified to the Masters meet, the final qualifier to the state finals, in the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter events, but was victorious only in the longest of the three.
He led through some of the 1,600-meter event, but was overtaken and finished seventh.
“We were going for the meet record, which is 4:07. I was aiming for a 4:06, but the conditions weren’t ideal. We should have adjusted that beforehand, but I mean it was going to be my last opportunity, so it was go hard or go home,” said Silva, who dropped out of the 800-meter event.
“I came back in the 2-mile (3,200-meter), my kind of race, and came out on top.”
Silva was clocked at 9:11.36.
He finished second in the 2-mile in last season’s section Masters track and field meet then 9th at the state finals. He was soon ranked No. 2 in the state by pepcaltrack.com.
He’s maturing and he’s learned that his athleticism has provided opportunities.
The scholarship is new ground for Silva - the oldest to six step-siblings - a salvation of sorts for both himself and his mother, Georgina López, a farmworker. He wants to make sure his mother no longer works in the fields. He lives apart from his father, Evert Silva, a gardener, but visits often and both parents are there for junior’s competitions.
Silva’s 3.22 grade point average combined with his running skill allows him to pursue higher education and is thinking over an engineering degree at Portland.
“For sure I’ve got a natural running talent, but to get where I want, that’s a whole other thing because it’s hard work. You can’t get so fast off natural talent, but you can better yourself,” said Silva.
“His endurance is really good, but we want to make sure that at state, he’s able to be up there with them and close fast,” said Campos.
Campos and six track team members including Silva were at Fresno High recently before 6 a.m., the same time the school’s maintenance crew mowed the infield of the track. Campos had four time pieces to keep track of several runners on the all-weather track, the same as the state finals at Buchanan.
While Silva works toward the state final, the others are working toward for an upcoming run in Lake Tahoe, a 72-mile course on the higher elevation that begins at 5 a.m. Silva and his team members ran anywhere from four to six miles prior to the 8:03 a.m. school bell. The Warriors get together just like this twice a week before school.
Evert, who keeps track of himself on his own time piece, sometimes runs along Van Ness Avenue and other streets near Fresno High then on the track. He still runs along the canal near McKinley Avenue.
“He has a talent, that’s for sure; he has a talent, but also you have to work hard,” said Campos, “And that’s what he does.”
Evert Silva’s personal record
2 mile: 9:02 (prior 9:16)
1 mile: 4:16 (prior 4:26)