Ashley Ochoa from Gonzales High School and Mario Avila from King City High School have earned scholarships from the Monterey Bay Wednesday Night Laundry Runners. (Michael Ramirez/Staff)

SALINAS VALLEY — King City High runner Mario Avila and Gonzales High runner Ashley Ochoa joined four other runners as recipients of scholarships from the Monterey Bay Wednesday Night Laundry Runners.

While King City, Greenfield and Soledad have had previous winners of the scholarship, Ochoa became the first runner from Gonzales to receive the scholarship.

The qualifications to be nominated for a scholarship include that the athlete must be a Monterey County distance runner, must have competed in both cross country and track and field, must be a team leader and role model, must have been competitive in competition and have a minimum of 3.0 GPA. All athletes must be nominated by their high school coaches.

The rest of the award winners were: Anna Watson of Robert Louis Stevenson, Andrea Villegas of North Monterey County, Jose Velasquez of Alisal and Sam Coutts of Pacific Grove.

In his sophomore year, Avila was an All-Mission Trail Athletic League runner, was All-Central Coast Section and was a member of the CCS championship team that placed fourth in the State.

In his junior year, Avila was an All-Gabilan League runner, placed second overall at CCS and was a member of the Mustangs team that placed fifth in State.

Avila was a member of the 2018 and 2019 championship track teams and was a player on the boys soccer team from King City that placed second in CCS. As a junior, Avila was a starter on the Cypress League championship soccer team.

King City High cross country coach Paul Cavanagh praised Avila for his contributions to the Mustangs cross country and track and field programs.

“Great kid, hard worker and a key part of the 2018 and 2019 championship cross country teams,” Cavanagh said. “Without Mario, we would not have won those championships.”

Ochoa has been an All-League runner in cross country since her freshman year. In her first season of cross country, she earned All-League honors in the MTAL, was All-League as a sophomore and, as a junior, was All-League in the Cypress Division of the Pacific Coach Athletic League.

Unfortunately, because of Covid-19, Ochoa and her Gonzales team only competed in one cross country meet this season.

In track and field, Ochoa established the school record in the 1600 at 5:35 as a sophomore and is third on the record board in the 3200. She also ran the 800 meters and was a member of the 4 x 400 relay team for the past two seasons.

Ochoa was a four-year starter for the Spartan girls soccer team and was chosen All-League in the MTAL her freshman and sophomore season and was All-League in the Cypress Division her junior year.

This season Ochoa was a member of the Spartans team that played in the CCS divisional playoffs against Monterey.

Gonzales head track and field and cross country coach Margie Daniels coached Ochoa for four seasons in each sport and feels that the senior runner was a special athlete that worked hard all the time.

“I was confident in nominating Ashley but knew that it would be very competitive as there are an abundance of talented athletes in our county,” Daniels said. “I can say with even more confidence that athletes like Ashley are rare. For four years she worked hard, never complained, never slacked off or made excuses in anything she did. Whether it was practice or her school work … she never let up. Ashley has grit, passion and heart combined with her work ethic that makes her special, and that is what makes her stand out. I’m pleased that the committee made her the choice in picking her … she deserves it and I’m beyond proud of her.”

Avila graduated last Saturday from King City and will be attending Hartnell College and running for the Panthers cross country and track and field teams. The 18-year-old is the son of Francisca Mendoza.

“I’m really active and like to keep busy by working in my yard, exercising and occasionally going out to play a soccer game with my friends,” Avila said. “Before graduation, I was focused on school and getting ready for our senior trip. Now that I have graduated, I will have a little more time for fun outdoors as I am open to playing any kind of sport.”

Ochoa, the 18-year-old daughter of Jose and Elizabeth Ochoa, spends her free time catching up with homework and when she wants to relax, she usually gardens. She was very happy when she received the news regarding the Wednesday Night Laundry Runners Scholarship.

“When I found out I won the scholarship I was mostly in shock and overwhelmed with happiness,” Ochoa said. “I’m extremely grateful for the scholarship and all the support I receive from running. Now that I’m off to college, I will be pursuing a degree in psychology from Hartnell and then I will be transferring to a four-year school.”

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