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Seven track athletes from Turlock, Pitman and Hilmar advance to State
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Turlock High’s 4x1 relay team that consists of (left to right) Bryce Souza, Antonio Ruiz, Sammy Wilson and Colton Cummings will be advancing to the CIF State Meet this upcoming weekend. - photo by Contributed

Qualifying to compete in the California Interscholastic Federation State Meet for track and field isn’t easy. It doesn’t happen often and that is the case for every school, where even one qualifier is significant, and this year Pitman, Turlock and Hilmar will each be sending at least one athlete to the State meet.

Out of the 44 representatives at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters meet, a total of seven qualified after Turlock led the way with five athletes and Pitman and Hilmar each had one apiece move forward after a standout performance from Elk Grove High this past Friday.

“This season has been wild. I am so very proud of the group of guys who have made it to the State meet,” said Turlock head coach Bergann Hernandez. “When we started this season, I had no idea this is where it would finish; I knew we were going to be fast and jump high.”

“State qualifiers are few and far between,” said Pitman head coach Thad Moren. “Whitney (Barnes) made it, there's a good story about perseverance there. Missed volleyball this year but will be our first kid to compete twice at the State meet in the same event.”

Barnes overcame a serious injury and missed her entire senior season in varsity volleyball this past fall after helping the Pride win three straight Sac-Joaquin Section Division-I titles in her first three years from 2014-16.

The San Jose State commit finally came back in the spring and had a standout final season.

Barnes placed third at Master’s after a close call in the girls shot put, clearing 40’8” and earning her a second consecutive run at the State meet.

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Whitney Barnes of Pitman High qualified for the State meet for the second consecutive season after she placed third at 40’8”. - photo by Contributed

“On Whitney’s side, the last girl to medal in any event from Turlock is Wendy Martin in the triple jump from 1985,” said Moren.

Of the six competing at Master’s for Hilmar, only one representative will be advancing and that is freshman standout Mikela Labno. She cleared 5’4” in the high jump at Master’s to place sixth and qualify for State.

“Only four freshmen in the entire state made it to high jump so we're very fortunate and happy for Mikela. It's been very surreal,” said Hilmar head coach Clement Lebrouche.

The story of the afternoon came from Turlock High, which qualified athletes to the State meet for the first time in 14 years. The last Turlock athletes to reach State were Carlos Souza and Antonio Bethel.

The qualifiers include pole-vaulter Silas Fredeen, who will be advancing along with the Bulldogs’ 4x1 relay team that consists of Colton Cummings, Sammy Wilson, Antonio Ruiz and Bryce Souza.

“Our 4x1 team school record was broken a total of eight times this season,” said Hernandez. “We had a few changes in our team as the season went on and kids got faster, with this last grouping of guys hitting crazy fast times.”

“None of our success would have been possible without the total commitment that our coaching staff brings to the track every day,” said Wilson. “Their sacrifice for us possesses more magnitude than any medal we have earned. They are why we succeed.”

The Turlock 4X1 team clocked a time of 42.15, following St. Mary’s at 41.9.

“This feeling is unreal,” said Souza. “Being a first-year runner and being able to come off a terrible injury that happened last year and still make it to State, it blows my mind thinking that I have a chance to run at the biggest meet in all of California representing Turlock High.”

Fredeen cleared the qualifying mark of 14’9” at Master’s and ended up placing fourth as the junior became the second member of his family to reach State after his aunt, joining Maekala Tate who reached state in 1997.

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Junior Silas Fredeen of Turlock High qualified for the state meet after he cleared 14’9” at the Master’s Meet. - photo by Contributed

Fredeen is chasing history as well at the State meet. The last THS athlete to medal at state in pole vault was Donald McDaniels, who took fifth in 1955.

“Reaching State has always been a big goal for me and I am super excited to be able to continue my season and compete amongst the best in the state,” said Fredeen. “I'm definitely shooting for a PR, but the main focus will be to get out there clear some bars and have fun.”

Fredeen shattered the school record back in the first CCC Center Meet when he cleared 15 feet. The second time was at the CCC Championships when he cleared 15’3”.

“I wouldn't be anywhere close to where I am today without Bergann,” said Fredeen. “She is an incredible coach who provides her athletes with all the opportunities and equipment necessary to be successful.  Seventeen feet is the goal for next year and going to State this year will be great to prepare me and help me get used to jumping at more competitive meets.”

The State Championships are taking place from Buchanan High School in Clovis at a time yet to be announced, Friday and Saturday.