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Pitman, Turlock runners ready to go the distance
boys cross country
Pitman Highs Issac Gonzalez leads Turlock Highs Rex Doo during the second lap of Wednesdays Cross Country Turlock Scrimmage at Donnelly Park. - photo by FRANKIE TOVAR / The Journal

It was sunny but the occasional breeze helped lessen the heat on Wednesday at Donnelly Park. Still, there was no avoiding sweat and fatigue as runners from Turlock and Pitman High took three laps around the park for the Cross County Turlock Scrimmage.

The Bulldogs and Pride had trained for this since mid June, but only two weeks removed from the official tryouts they all knew it was only the beginning of a long, tough season; and they loved it.

The boys led the pack, completing three miles in less than 20 minutes. The quick completion of the course was a highlight of the returning experience for both Turlock and Pitman on the boys side with Issac Gonzalez, Carlos Casas, Eric Finch, and Sam Wittstruck leading the Pride and Rex Doo, Logan Conner, Oscar Guzman, Anthony Hieber, Niko Cassidy-Lopez, and Nico Lopez leading the Bulldogs.

Last season Turlock boys finished slightly ahead of Pitman in the Central California Conference standings but the cross-town rivals don’t have each other in their cross hairs this season; they have their sights on defending CCC Cross Country Champions Buhach Colony High.

Turlock and Pitman’s girl runners have the same thing in mind, working towards team improvement to take down the Thunder.

Turlock’s girls squad is one of fresh faces, boasting young talent like freshman Cassie Derdivanis and sophomore Fallon Beaber, but the Bulldogs also have experienced leadership from the likes of Monica Gutierrez, Claire Silva, and Mallory Patino, a track standout who qualified for the Masters last season.

For the Pride, the majority of their girls are experienced and ready to go the distance. Jami Ford is expected to shine this season as her teammates Erika Dwight, Elisah Frank, and Audrey and Katie Hanf follow suit.

“They have a really strong team ethic; they’re working hard as a team and running well in groups,” Pitman’s coach Sara Smith said of her two teams. “The varsity runners are emerging as leaders.”

“We want to get out of the bottom and really start racing as a team,” Turlock’s coach JoAnn Davison said of her girls squad. “For the guys, we’d like to stay in the upper half of the league.”

Both Turlock and Pitman have one more avenue of preparation, the Sierra Invitational on Sept. 8, before the Sept. 12 CCC Center Meet at Donnelly Park.