The 2014 season is here, and Turlock and Pitman’s cross country teams have been preparing for the start of the new season in the always competitive Central California Conference.
Pitman comes off a struggling season in 2013, finishing in the bottom half of the league standings, but the future looks bright after the frosh/soph girls captured first place in the CCC.
For Turlock, the boys and girls varsity squads come off a second place finish in the CCC, but this year they are chasing first.
“The group we have this year is collectively the hardest working kids upcoming for boys especially,” said Turlock head coach JoAnn Davison. “Everyone hopes to have a team like this, don’t know if we will win, but being around these kids and attitude is great. I love my team, they are neat and hard working.”
Hard work and dedication will be the key factors for this team’s success led by Ara Moosekian, who led the frosh/soph boys last year to a first place finish. He will be accompanied by Erik Sousa, Gali Farias, Javi Lara, Adam Volk, AJ Carbajal and newcomer Brian Mendez.
“We are now a senior heavy team,” Davison said.
The girls side is small but mighty, Davison added. Anchored by Makenzie Salyer and Cassie Derdivanis, who will be joined by Raveena Samra, Amanda Medina, Erin Knopp-Sargoni and Kate Wilson.
“We also have a couple of young up and comers who just might help the Lady 'Dogs get that title we so desperately want,” said Davison. “We didn’t have any one single stand out last year. Our success has come from teamwork, teamwork, teamwork. That is how to win in cross country…seven people with a mission.”
Pitman head coach Sara Smith and co-head coach Debbie Clemens welcome a new crop of talented runners for the upcoming year, hoping to compete in the CCC with their crosstown rivals — but it won’t be an easy task.
“We ran well as individuals last year, but struggled to run as a team at times,” said Smith. “We expect this year to be stronger in all areas. We have been practicing well and are running well as a team. I think the returning runners, specifically our captains, are strong in developing the team spirit.”
Both the boys and girls make up 12 seniors and 10 juniors on the varsity roster for the 2014 season.
Although Pitman loses last year’s star for the boys in Isaac Gonzalez, and the girls' number one in Erika Dwight, Smith says this will be a very talented group that should surprise many.
Of the total of 46 runners at both levels, 25 are returners for the Pride.
Not only do the Pride work hard on the track, but also in the classroom.
“We have very academic and ambitious runners, and the older they get, the more AP classes and such they have,” said Smith. “The strength of our varsity team starts at the lower level, it is hard to separate the frosh/soph and varsity levels because we practice together almost every day.”
The team captains consist of Jared England and Richard Turknett for the boys and the girls will see Cady Riley and Montserrat Zavala taking the lead.
“They are all dedicated and committed runners; and there was no question on why they should be captains this season,” said Smith. “They are doing a great job establishing leadership and fine-tuning our traditions. We think what stands out so far about our team this year is the focus our runners have. We feel confident in our team leadership.
“For parents, as well as general readers, we want them to understand that cross country running takes as much mental focus as physical ability,” she added. “Character plays a strong role in maintaining pace and contributing to the team. We try to strengthen both aspects in our runners with our practices and different activities during the season.”