The Turlock and Pitman high school cross country teams took part in their first competition of the pandemic-delayed season on Wednesday — a cluster meet with Enochs, which saw both of Pitman’s varsity squads walk away with a victory.
Of the three competing Central California Athletic League teams, Pitman boys varsity finished in first place with 22 points while Turlock boys varsity came in second with 36 points.
Pitman’s Efren Sanchez won the three-mile race with a time of 16:32, followed by teammate Damian Garcia, who finished at 16:43. Turlock’s Sergio Mazon came in third and finished with a time of 16:52 and his fellow Bulldog Brody Vecchione followed closely behind in fourth place at 17:01.
Sanchez said that he felt strong during the race, and gave credit to the additional training he does on the weekends.
“It felt good to run for Pitman again and show what our varsity cross country team can do,” he said.
PHS assistant coach Timothy McCabe said being at a race — Wednesday’s meet was held on the PHS campus — helped things feel “normal” again, adding that setting up and preparing for the event was a welcome exhaustion. The team spent time before they were permitted to practice participating in Zoom workouts — something McCabe said was meant to not only help them prepare for the season, but to also get their endorphins pumping during a time when social and emotional needs are at an all-time high.
McCabe was proud of the boys’ performance on Wednesday despite this season’s setbacks, he said. There have been some athletes who quit the team due to frustrations related to the pandemic, he said, and THS boys head coach Josh Ebersole said the Bulldogs have seen a decrease in participants as well.
“We’ve got kids that want to participate but their parents aren’t comfortable with it, and then there are kids who are two or three sport athletes and they’ve got to make a decision and have to pick just one because they can’t be involved in multiple cohorts,” Ebersole said. “We didn’t have much time to prepare, so for the ones who are participating to just jump into it and perform the way they did, we were blown away.”
Ebersole had nothing but positive words for his top two finishers, Mazon and Vecchione, but wasn’t surprised by their success.
“Both Sergio and Brody are incredibly hard working — not to say the rest of the team isn't, but their speed comes from their training,” Ebersole said. “They work super hard and competed every step of the course. They push each other and make each other better athletes, and they both have a strong sense of team.”
On the girls side of the meet, Pitman also finished in first place with 22 points and Turlock came in second with 41 points.
Pitman was led by first place finisher Maci Day, who completed the race with a time of 19:31. The Pride’s Charlotte Lasua came in second and finished at 20:04, followed by Bulldog Fatima Chavez with a time of 21:42 and Pitman’s Bella Kern at 21:50.
Day, a sophomore, said she joined the cross country team over halfway through the season last year and was only able to participate in three meets. Given the fact that this season looks a bit different than normal, she hopes to experience a full season next year.
“It felt amazing. I kind of forgot what it was like to race,” Day said. “I was just trying to come in and get everyone’s respect because I didn’t know what the other girls were going to be able to do.”
THS girls head coach Jo Ann Davison said that to see her athletes race again was to see “their whole self.” While they participated in online workouts as well and ran on their own prior to their sport’s return, she said it was a mark of who they are as people that they came into the season in such great shape.
“Wednesday was quite a surprise to many of them. Considering that we have not had any kind of warm up races, invitationals or traditional practices, the times were not too far off where we would be at the beginning of any season,” Davison said. “They and we — their coaches — were proud!”
The next cross country meets will be held March 10 at 3 p.m. Turlock will travel to Gregori High and compete alongside Gregori and Downey, while Pitman will host another meet on their campus against Enochs and Modesto.