Last year the Central California Athletic League was dominated in cross-country by Gregori High, but this year, both Pitman and Turlock High’s girls and boys teams are looking to make an early statement.
“Last year our girls were second to Gregori and working to get there again and making our league better as well and looking for incoming juniors and freshmen and sophomores to step up,” said Pitman head coach Eren Fisher.
Turlock’s varsity boys placed fourth in CCAL while the Bulldogs varsity girls side finished in fifth place.
“I am so proud of these kids. They inspire me with their hard work. It’s just crazy how motivated and driven they are,” said Turlock head coach JoAnn Davison. “I am excited for this season. We have a core group of kids that are truly on a mission to win some championships.”
In order to win, Davison and boys head coach Josh Ebersole are looking to several leaders and standouts.
The girls team will be led by a group of runners who trained all summer said Davison.
Returning All-league runner Cynthia Varela will be joined by Fatima Chavez, who is coming off a dominant performance during the track season in the 800 and 1600-meter race.
The team also features boxing superstar Sandra Tovar, Eliana Moreno, Ashley Mendez, Phoebe Santos and Kylee Redman, another track standout.
Newcomers include sophomore Andrea Gonzalez, who had a promising track season, and senior Anna Lima, who is running her first cross season.
“It looks like they will be helping the Lady ‘Dogs in the league title quest. Koryn Nunes, Cadence Roy William, Avery Hayes are working hard at the varsity level in hopes of putting more muscle into the CCAL championship goal,” said Davison. “That is the gift of this team. They work hard. It is always a team goal that every athlete has their best season ever. The winning will take care of itself. What will stay with our athletes is the journey to the goal.”
For the boys, Eric Hernandez and Brody Vecchione are looking to lead their squad after each earned all-league honors just a season ago.
Sergio Mazon is looking stronger than ever and is ready to race said Davison. Returning varsity runners include Adrian Gutierrez, Jackson Allen, Nick Santos, Pablo Guizar, Matt Haynam, Nate Haynam and Aiden Cooke. Newcomers consist of Adrian Rosero, Luke Redman and varsity newcomer Jonah Bertalotto, who should complement the team.
“These boys have worked hard all summer with a clear goal in mind,” said Davison. “Much like the ladies, the number one goal is a league title. But they have a loftier goal as well. We look forward to what this young group can do.”
“Last year we had a young team and I really feel that it was a building year,” Ebersole added. “Our guys are hungry and have been putting in hard work all summer to get ready for this season. They've just come off of a great track season and they really want to translate those performances to the cross-country season. We didn't lose a huge number of senior boys at the end of last season, but we lost some awesome leadership. However, this group is made up of another crop of formidable leaders that will carry on that tradition.”
Pitman’s girls are coming off a record-breaking season just a year ago, while the boys are hoping to improve on their last-place CCAL finish.
This year, however, head coach Fisher is confident that this squad could best last year’s result overall.
“We are looking for the girls to be strong contenders this year for varsity. Lost our best runner, but second-best runner is there and the rest are strong returners, we feel we have a strong team,” said Fisher.
The varsity girl returners include Camila Stephens, Stefanie Rodriquez, Diana Olthof and Charlotte Laska.
Some of the impact runners for the team are expected to be Yvette Gonzalez, Michelle Moshirnia, Beverly Rubio, Yaritza Ronces Barragan, Isabella Dominguez, Bella Kern and Mimi Olthof.
“Still feel we have a very strong team,” said Fisher. “…This group has some strong runners as well, we could see, overall, better. Last year will be tough to follow up on, that was a really good team.”
On the boys side, the team is expecting big things from Bryce Van Allen (returning captain), Jayson Martin, Jason England, Ethan Robinson, Christian Balderas (transferred in this year), Efren Sanchez, Damian Garcia, Zach Blood, Gabe Gutierrez and Ben Plaa.
“This year's team is hungry for success on the boys side,” said Fisher. “Last year was tough for varsity boys, not a lot of numbers, but this year we have more kids. So, looking to step it up this year and the boys are working to make it a banner year for Pitman cross country.”