The Pitman and Turlock High varsity girls and boys cross country teams are ready to compete for a new league title in the Central California Athletic League.
“It will be an interesting year for Turlock cross country as they enter the newly formed CCAL,” said Turlock head coach JoAnn Davison. “Both the frosh/soph boys and frosh/soph girls teams come off of a CCC championship season in 2017. This young crew just may continue their domination in the new league.”
“I have no idea about league placement, but I want the kids to feel they were competitive and improved over the season and what I implemented is going to work,” said Pitman head coach Eren Fisher. “A lot of this year is maintaining great health and improving overall.”
The Pitman Pride welcome first-year head coach Fisher.
Fisher has been a teacher at Pitman for 12 years, as well as assistant coach in track and field for that same time frame.
Despite being a first-year coach in cross country, he has been like a sponge, soaking up all the knowledge passed down from fellow coaches.
It was rough last year for the Pride after the varsity boys took sixth in the Central California Conference and the girls placed fifth.
Both squads bring back a solid group, but the biggest name is Pitman’s Mavleen Mann who is the team’s workhorse according to coach Fisher. She even trains with the boys.
Sarah Siegel makes up the heart and soul of the squad while they also will look to Grace Westbrook, Citlalli Martinez and juniors Stefanie Rodriguez and Annalia Rodriguez. Sophomore Diana Olthof and freshman Camila Stephens could be key contributors to the squad.
The boys include seniors Goevanny Aceves, Matthew Schmidt, juniors Jayson Martin, Jordan Tasho, Bryce Van Allen and Isaac Harp, along with freshman Efren Sanchez.
“We have 55 kids out, there are a lot of hard workers, so I know there are kids I didn't mention that are going to make an impact. I am excited to see how it goes,” said Fisher.
Despite one of the more memorable track and field seasons in the spring, cross country at the varsity level didn’t see the result they wanted as they finished in the bottom half of league.
The Bulldogs finished in the fourth place in the CCC for the varsity girls, while the varsity boys finished in fifth.
“I don't think our team finish reflected the talent we have on this team. If you win a championship, you get this really cool clipboard. I was saying how I'd sure like one,” said Davison.
Turlock senior Sofia Andres proceeded to let her coach know, “we’ll get you one, coach.”
“It was such a great moment, and one that I hope will unite them and drive them,” said Davison.
The frosh/soph boys and girls squads, however, are coming off a league title after they won the CCC Championship and they are looking to bring their winning ways to the varsity level.
Cynthia Varela and Phoebe Santos are incoming runners to varsity and with those key sophomores, they look hungry.
“The Lady ‘Dogs will see if they can't bring back a championship,” said Davison. " I am going to do everything in my power to bring this group of young ladies together in ways that will be formidable. It is my challenge to them."
The boys didn’t meet their expectations from a year ago but head coach Josh Ebersole is challenging his team to best their performance heading into their first year in the CCAL.
“I love this young group of guys that we have heading into the new league. They are tough, they are hungry, and they aren't afraid to work hard,” said Ebersole. “I'm excited to see how we match up with the Modesto schools."
Senior Uriel Alvarez is the staple of the team and is hoping to build off last year.
Alvarez will be joined by Ariel Flores, Nick Santos and Jackson Allen at the varsity level. Freshman standouts Gavin Valenzuela, Adrian Gutierrez, Eric Hernandez and Sergio Mazon dominated league last season, helping secure the CCC crown.
“Now they have an eye on bringing a varsity championship to the boys team,” said Davison. “A feat that was last achieved in 1986. These kids have put in a lot of work, running hills on the weekends and lifting weights. We learned a long time ago that when your goal is only to win then you set yourself up for failure if it doesn't happen.
“So, though a component of any sport is rooted in victories, our guiding principal is to provide a positive team environment and do our best to bring out the best in every athlete. Those are our main goals, ones that we can most certainly achieve.”
Turlock and Pitman kick off the season from Johansen High for the Viking Run at 9 a.m. Sept. 1.