MILPITAS -- It all started for Yohaness Estifanos in his native Ethiopia, homeland of some of the world's greatest distance runners.

"I was 10 or 11 years old and watching the Olympics on television," Estifanos said. "It excited me a lot, I wanted to be one of those guys, I started running or jogging to school in the morning."

That early training -- which brings to mind the movie "Endurance," about Ethiopian running legend Haile Gebrselassie -- helped Estifanos develop into a dominant high school distance runner.

This season he won the Central Coast Section Division I title for the second consecutive year, set three course records throughout the season and placed sixth in the Division I race at the state finals. For these accomplishments, he is the Mercury News boys cross country runner of the year.

Estifanos was 12 years old, in seventh grade, when he moved with his family to the United States and enrolled at Rancho Milpitas Middle School. He ran the 1,600 meters in 5:06 as an eighth grader. He placed second at CCS as a sophomore. He set course records at Baylands as a junior and then at Lynbrook, Toro Park and Central Park in Santa Clara as a senior.

He ran 14:38 at Crystal Springs in the Serra Invitational, No. 5 all-time on that course, then started experiencing foot pain.

"After that he followed a minimal training schedule,'' Milpitas coach Bridget Hall said. "But he still wanted to race. It's amazing he stayed at that level. He's a really passionate runner. It's his love.''

As a junior Estifanos placed sixth at the state track meet in the 3,200 meters with a time of 9:09.12 and had a best of 9:08.06. The goal as a senior is to break 9 minutes.

Then it's on to college. Estifanos has been contacted by a number of four-year colleges and said he's leaning towards UCLA.

After that, it's a pursuit of his ultimate goal of taking part in the Olympic Games, the inspiration that got him started on his path as a competitive runner.

"I want to represent the U.S.,'' he said. "That's how I would thank this country for the opportunity I have received.''

ALL-MERCURY NEWS
boys cross country

First team
Yohaness Estifanos, Milpitas, Sr.
Richard Ho, Leland, Sr.
Ryan Corvese, Sobrato, Sr.
Daniel Bereket, Carlmont, Sr.
Miguel Vasquez, Andrew Hill, Sr.
Terence Rabuzzi, Los Altos, Jr.
Raymond Meijer, Bellarmine, Sr.
Steven Sum, Saratoga, Soph.
Second team
Eduardo Garibay, Yerba Buena, Sr.
Ciaran Murphy, St. Ignatius, Sr.
Tim Layten, Carlmont, Sr.
George Baier, Menlo-Atherton, Sr.
Miles Meijer, Bellarmine, Soph.
Rory Beyer, Aragon, Sr.
Lucas Matison, Carlmont, Soph.
Joey Berriatua, Serra, Sr.
Honorable mention
Jacob Calvillo, Leland; Justin Robison, Lynbrook; Ben Zaeske, Los Altos; Charles DeAnda, Bellarmine; Arthur Schulte, Carlmont; Josh Cohen, Los Altos; Justin Barry, Bellarmine; Grant Murphy, Mills; Alex Carr, Los Altos; Chris Swanson, Fremont; Chris Foster, Los Gatos; Logan Marshall, Half Moon Bay; Wyatt Cooper, Aragon; Jose Pina, Lincoln; Ricardo Romero, Overfelt; Alex Sasser, Bellarmine; Patrick Cummins, St. Ignatius; Tanner Sartwell, St. Francis; Ryan Dimick, Carlmont; Daniel Chiriaev, Prospect.