Despite all the miles and workouts they demanded from their runners during the first week of fall practice, the cross country coaches at Pitman High and Turlock High had a problem. It was, essentially, a good kind of problem to have. They had too many runners.
Before AJ Derr was born, his soon-to-be parents took a trip to the Atwater High football field with his future grandma. At the time, Jon Derr was working at the school as a teacher and football coach, so he had access to the press box. While grandma Sue, and his mother, Mindee, were on the field, his father announced through the loud speakers various arrangements of initials, like DJ, RJ and AJ - ending each one with "Derr."
DENAIR - Inside his office, Denair High football coach Therion Gregory was fixing a helmet for one of his players. His office sits right next to the school's football field, so on this day, he has a clear view of his team practicing. At the moment, the Coyotes were stretching.
As a group of parents and other supporters of the Turlock Youth Football League watched nearby, a Turlock High offensive lineman was on the verge of puking. He was down on one knee, his hand to his stomach.
The other day, Steve Feaver walked to his car after practice. Right before he stepped inside, he spotted a familiar face. It was one of Turlock High's campus maintenance employees, who made small talk with the Bulldogs boys' water polo coach.
This week signifies the beginning of the fall sports season. Athletes from Pitman High, Turlock High, Turlock Christian, Denair High and Hilmar High all worked out underneath the sun for the past two days, and they will continue on for the next few weeks. The first official game in any sport won't start until Aug. 26, so for now, footballers, tennis players, cross country runners, water polo athletes, golfers and volleyball players all are working hard to prepare for the upcoming season.
In June, Allison Kuchan graduated from Pitman High without truly knowing if she'd play softball at the college level - a childhood goal. A few weeks earlier, she helped lead the Pride's softball team to its first playoff game in the school's short history.
Pitman High track and field head coach Thad Moren said the Pride has had one goal in mind since finishing the last league meet in April. That goal was to put all the season's hard work into a top showing at last week's CIF Sac-Joaquin Division I Section finals.
Hilmar High walked out of the Trans Valley League track season and into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV/V Championship Trials with four TVL champions - Dani Olson, Hudson Harris, Kenzye Spears and Angelique Souza.
Since claiming the Southern Athletic League championship in 2012 for the first time in program history, Delhi High's boys track team has struggled to add another league title year to its banner. The Hawks have been in the running the past two years, but ultimately fell just short, and it seemed that would again be the case in 2015.
The Pitman High Pride were coming off a clutch one-run victory over Gregori last week and looked to continue their playoff streak as they had their eyes set on the quarterfinal match on Monday against a familiar foe from the Modesto Metro Conference-Beyer High.