Belmont resident Joey Berriauta was a baseball player first. He began taking his running career seriously two years ago.
Call him "The Natural," as Berriauta has seemingly come out of nowhere to contend for a spot in the state cross country meet.
Berriauta, who won the West Catholic Athletic League title last week in a time of 15:19 at the Crystal Springs Course, will be running at the Central Coast Section Championships on Saturday at Toro Park in Salinas.
"The ultimate goal is to get to state," Berriauta said. "I want to finish in the top seven and make the all-CCS team, which would set me up for state."
Berriauta recorded times of around 17:30 or so during his sophomore season, fourth best on the team.
"That's when I decided to start taking it seriously," Berriauta said. "I trained hard over the summer before my junior year and worked hard for it."
His focus on training paid dividends whe he ran third at last year's WCAL meet, breaking the 16-minute mark, a huge deal at Serra. He also finished 18th at the CCS meet a year ago.
"That gave me a lot of confidence for this year," said Berriauta, who also turned to track and field as a junior, where he participates in the 800 and 1,600 events.
His mark last week at Crystal Springs was his personal best by 12 seconds. A similar improvement at the CCS meet would put him squarely in competition for the top spot.