It's official. The winter season of prep sports is over.
A couple winter teams still have legs in the post season, but the majority of young athletes are making the annual transition from sport to sport. Right on schedule, just as the sun comes out.
Runners, jumpers, hurdlers, throwers, and vaulters are the most noticeable of the bunch, their appearance on the tracks and fields of high schools across the Valley are a sure way to know what time of year it is.
But not everything will be routine this season, at least not for Turlock and Pitman High. The Central California Conference has experienced a shake up as dual meets have fallen by the wayside and have been replaced by a new format of three, all inclusive CCC meets. The change will favor team depth but will also allow for more time to recover and train.
Both the Bulldogs and Pride are eager to see how it all turns out.
“It’s something totally new,” Pitman coach Thad Moren said.
“It should be interesting,” Turlock coach Mike Brown said.
Turlock and Pitman enter the season with different strengths but similar goals—qualify as many athletes for the post-season as possible.
Turlock’s strengths will lie in field events this season. The Bulldogs excelled in sprints and relays last year, but with runner Ty Hyer out with a broken arm Turlock’s relay output is up in the air. Still, the return of Jevon Hogan—Masters qualifier for the 200m—should keep Turlock in the short distance game.
Logan Connor is also back and ready to tackle the 300m hurdles, alongside Anthony Hieber in the 1600m and Tank Mendoza in the discus.
As for Turlock’s girls, Cierra Booz and Mallory Patino return with Masters experience. Booz is expected to once again excel in the long and triple jumps while Patino is looking for another great hurdling season. Makenzie Salyer and Brooke Vierra should also be watched closely in distance and throwing events, respectively.
“We have some really good athletes but we’re not very deep,” Brown said. “If we were back in our other format I’d be feeling really good about our chances at a title, but I’m really waiting and wondering how it will affect everything.
“But our ultimate goal is to try and get at least two van loads of kids to go on to the next level,” he added.
Like their cross town rivals, the Pride boasts a well rounded girls team this season. Kelsee Derr is back as Pitman’s top hurdler and will also assume relay duties along with Claire Littlefield and Lauren Cariaso. Littlefield and Cariaso are also top long and triple jumpers for Pitman alongside Allysa Gonzalez.
Lindsey Phillips will compete in pole vaults, Mackenzie Hassett in long distance events, and Rashel Pritchard in throws—all of which are expected to do well—but newcomer Kiana Clay is one to watch in the 400m.
“She’s our best 400 meter runner already, so we’re expecting big things out of her,” Moren said of Clay.
Pitman’s boys have some promising athletes, too. Isaac Gonzales is Pitman’s best bet in the 1600m and 3200m and Aaron Mayfield returns to defend his 800m league championship. But the Pride’s greatest strength on the boys’ side is undoubtedly their depth of 400m runners, led by Jordan Porter. Pitman will also have the throws covered with Nick Roditis and Mark Abdishou.
“We’re looking for big things out of this group of kids,” Moren said.
SAL and TVL
Turlock and Pitman are not alone in ambition, however. Defending Southern Athletic League champs, Delhi High, is back with a pack of young faces and looking for a repeat.
Sophomores Hayden Steger, Garret Thomas, Jesus Soto, and junior Sergio Espindola are set to lead the Hawks into SAL competition. Steger and Thomas will compete in sprinting and jumping events as well as relays while Soto and Espindola assume the responsibilities of the long distance events. But even with its talent, Delhi has some work to do if it is to return to championship glory.
“We have some shoes to fill, especially with the throwers,” Delhi coach Matt Cabral said.
Delhi’s girls squad is less formed but with senior Rosemary DaLuz—an all around threat and three time section trial qualifier—lining up for the 100m, 200m, and 1600m the Hawks will have a consistent athlete for their standings.
“She can literally do everything. She’s been one of the top girls in the last few years,” Cabral said.
“Obviously, we set a standard with a title. But beyond that, we’d really like to start sending athletes past the trial phase of sections and into the finals,” he added.
Denair and Turlock Christian High are also in the hunt for SAL success.
The Coyotes return on a quest to repeat at girls champions with section qualifiers Bridgette Burges and Sierra Jantz competing in the sprinting and jumping events. Theresa Martinez is also expected to be productive with both the shot put and discus.
Trey Howze and Quinten Allen also qualified for sections last season and will make a dash for a return trip in their respective events, hurdles, jumps and sprints.
“Right now both teams look a little stronger than last year,” Denair coach Jim Wagner said. “It all depends on what the rest of league brings, though.”
While the Eagles are out of contention for a SAL title with their small numbers, a handful of athletes are set to have a promising season. Donte Barron and Nick Steely will shore up the jumping events for TC while Jared Zunija and newcomer Malik Portillo will compete in the hurdles and sprints. TC isn’t expected to compete in much of the long distance events and its girls team is both young and untested with many Lady Eagles still on the basketball court.
“We want to make sure we get better as we go along,” TC’s coach Chris Pugh said. “But we haven’t really had a full assessment of where everybody’s at.”
Hilmar High is also struggling with numbers as the track season begins with a roster in the high 30s.
“It’s one of the smallest teams I’ve ever had,” Hilmar’s coach Clement Labrouche said.
At the small pack’s lead is Chancellor Adams, Gabriel Texiera, and the brothers of Andres and Alfonzo Moran who make up the Yellowjacket relay team. Adams and the Morans will also compete in the 400m and 800m events while Texiera will attempt to parlay his top-five finish in the 1600m at the junior varsity level into varsity success.
“We’re hoping he can make it to sections this year,” Labrouche said of Texiera.
Hudson Harris is also someone to look out for on the boys side. Harris, who has been dubbed the future of Hilmar’s track team, has his hands in a variety of events including pole vault, high jump, hurdles, relays, and middle distance running.
As for the Lady ‘Jackets, Danny Olsen will be Hilmar's top sprinter and hurdler and Angelique Sousa will compete in the high jump, an event in which she qualified for sections last season.
“We’re trying to get as many kids as we can to qualify into the post-season,” Labrouche said.
Delhi, Denair, and Hilmar will be competing in today’s Dean Andreessen Classic at Atwater High.