After a long and arduous cross country season, Turlock and Pitman High will each have one representative at Saturday’s SJS Division II Section Championship race at Willow Hills Park in Folsom. Bulldog Logan Connor and Pride Jami Ford qualified for the race with impressive performances at the SJS Sub-Sections, finishing 55th and 43rd in their classes, respectively.
“Everyone knows he’s the hardest worker so I’m not surprised,” Turlock’s coach JoAnne Davison said of Connor. “He is a competitor. I never count him out because he’s strong physically and mentally.”
“We were hoping and definitely thought she could qualify at the beginning of the season,” Pitman’s coach Sarah Smith said of Ford. “She’s worked and trained so hard; she has that drive, so no one’s surprised.”
Connor is the first Bulldog in ten years to make it to the Section Championship while Ford stands alone as the first Pride girl to qualify.
Connor’s qualifying time of 17:47 was part of Turlock’s 16th place team finish in the boys division. Fellow Bulldog Rex Doo finished not far behind his teammate with a time of 17:58, narrowly missing the chance to continue his season.
“It is really hard to make it in Division II. There are hardcore teams with long traditions; it’s the largest division,” Davison said. “We wanted to finish in the top 20 so I was super happy and pleased.”
Ford, on the other hand, helped her team of girls finish in 15th place with a qualifying time of 21:15. Ford’s talent was also highlighted during the Sub-Section meet by the distance between her and the nearest Pitman runner, Elisiah Frank, who finished 84th overall with a time of 24:00.
Both the Turlock girls and Pitman boys teams struggled with the absence of top runners. Turlock was without Cassie Derdivanis, Fallon Beaber, and Makenzie Salyer who, after competing at the varsity level all season, were bumped down to the frosh/soph division for Sub-Sections. Without three of their top seven runners, the Lady Bulldogs finished 19th overall as a team.
Pitman was without only one runner, Central California Conference MVP Isaac Gonzalez. The absence of their best runner, who was deemed ineligible at the end of the regular season, led to a disappointing 23rd place finish for the Pride boys.
“We let them compete against their own age group, which hurt the varsity, but it was totally worth it,” Davison said. “They deserved a chance to excel among their peers.”
“It’s something we’ve struggled with all season; consistency and determination,” Smith said of the boys team.
Connor and Ford will begin their three mile races Saturday morning, across from Folsom High School at Willow Hills Park.