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Ivan Alvarado, shown here coaching Atholton's cross country team, is now the head track and field and cross country coach at Howard Community College.
Ivan Alvarado, shown here coaching Atholton's cross country team, is now the head track and field and cross country coach at Howard Community College. (Baltimore Sun staff)

Atholton track and field coach Ivan Alvarado is moving up to the college level, but he’s not going far.

Alvarado, who has coached all three running sports at Atholton since 2012, will take over the cross country and track and field programs at Howard Community College in 2019-20.

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“I’m very excited to test my abilities,” Alvarado said. “I know this will be a big opportunity. … It really meant a lot to me when Erin Foley, the (athletic director), gave me the opportunity to interview. At the same time, I’m very excited to meet this opportunity full on.”

Alvarado, who was named the Dragons’ head coach in January but finished the season at Atholton, said he is thankful for his time coaching the Raiders. He started as an assistant in 2012 before becoming head coach in 2013. He also coached the cross country team from 2013-17. Under Alvarado, the Raiders had nine state champions, roughly 30 county champions and a county team championship in 2018.

He will continue as a paraeducator at Atholton High School.

“It’s bittersweet,” Alvarado said. “I fell in love with Atholton from day one. It’s been a beautiful school to work at. I love the community. Everyone is so invested in the Atholton community, and I’ve been very fortunate to land there and start my coaching career there.”

Alvarado grew up in Glendale, California. After high school, he ran track at Glendale Community College — where he was a California Junior College All-American — and the University of Utah.

He then joined the Air Force, serving from 2007-12 and placing fourth in the 2007 and 2008 half marathon events for the base team. The last place Alvarado was stationed was Fort Meade, which led him to stay in the area.

With many of HCC’s athletes coming from Howard County schools, Alvarado believes coaching the Dragons is a good fit. Six of the seven athletes on the track and field team last season were from Howard County — Leopold Mesamours Jr. (Mt. Hebron), Jared Nguyen (Oakland Mills), John Jurobi (Wilde Lake), Mirela Oliveira-Balestino (Marriotts Ridge), Grant Bunyard (Atholton) and Miles Easterling (Atholton). Alvarado coached Bunyard and Easterling at Atholton.

“It’s going to be almost a seamless transition, and I think it’s going to be cool to see them progress at this next level and be a part of their lives for those one or two years,” Alvarado said. “That will be the same for the rest of the kids throughout the county. Obviously I’ve been the Atholton coach, but one of the things I’ve always liked to do was to research the other runners from the other schools. A lot of these kids, I have a pretty good background on the type of athletes they are.”

One of the athletes who will follow Alvarado to HCC is Cassidy Bunyard, who was the best high jumper in the county.

“I’m very excited to compete for (Alvarado) again,” Cassidy Bunyard said. “I don’t know if I’ll be at HCC for one or two years, but I can’t wait. I wish we could be out there every day. I’m absolutely thrilled.”

Alvarado was Cassidy Bunyard’s high jump coach when she was a freshman. She said learning from him was a great way to start to her high school career.

“He’s a great coach,” she said. “He definitely has a ton of dedication to his athletes. He puts so much time and effort into doing what he does, and it’s clear he enjoys being a coach.”

The Dragons compete in NJCAA Division III, and Alvarado’s goal is to be a top-tier D-III program.

“The sky is the limit,” he said. “I definitely want to compete at the upper echelon of Division III. Right off the bat, I want to instill a level of consistency. We need to get the program to a consistent level of performance.”

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