Local small school cross country teams are back hitting their strides and ready to kick off league.
Turlock Christian has almost 10 percent of the school’s population on its cross country team. The Eagles will focus, as always, on being Christian student-athletes — and hydration, said TC head coach Paul Lund.
Hughson is looking to keep their rich tradition of cross country going and possibly make a run for state on both the girls and boys side. Hilmar will be battling against the Huskies — who have won over 20 league titles for the boys and girls combined since 2000.
“They kind of have it hanging that this could potentially be the year we send our girls and boys team to state,” said Hughson head coach Joel Bernard. “Whether it happens, we will see. We have had the girls make it three times and the boys have made it four times, not in the same year, so that is kind of the goal. But I try to stay away from that because it is tough to control the situation and times and a good race.”
Last year Hughson’s varsity girls and boys each won their respective Trans-Valley League titles.
“We had varsity girls individual championship, won team championship, just not JV boys, but everything else we won. It was six out of eight, it was a pretty good year last year,” said Bernard. “Our girls have won four straight league titles… and top three in section last four years. Last four years our girls went to state and in 2016 we won sections.”
The Hughson varsity boys team saw a lengthy league title streak from 2000 through 2015, which included 16 titles.
“The group of boys I have now is incredible and we should be in contention for sections for sure, I am very confident in this group,” said Bernard. “We had preseason time trials recently and our times are looking really good for the girls side as well. We are looking to see what times we are running and compared to Hughson teams in the past, since we run similar courses.”
Hilmar is coming off their best year to date on the varsity girls and boys sides.
The boys took second in the TVL behind Hughson and 11th in sub sections, said head coach Howie Tremble. The girls took third in the TVL and 14th in sub sections.
This year’s Hilmar girls squad is headed by leaders Jacinta Alves, Lexie Avalos, Jacqueline Azevedo, Isabel Patterson and Andrea Yanez.
The boys team leader is Jonathan Chavez (top 25 in section) and the squad consists of Kyle Barcelos, Fernando Castaneda, Zachary Goodnight, Emmanuel Rabago and Will Sousa.
It is also the first time in a decade that the team will boast a full varsity girls and full varsity boys roster, as well as a full JV squad.
“What helps is we have three sport athletes and I have kids doing that and they are just really athletic and I think that is what helps the school out in the long run is the commitment that these kids have to athletics, and it actually ties into academics which is really nice,” said Tremble. “Also, our kids in this program had the highest GPA of all sports in our school last year, which is really nice.”
Turlock Christian is definitely making progress in the cross country realm and second-year head coach Lund is thrilled about the upcoming year.
The TC girls squad is made up of four: Aliyah Amaya, Jocelyn Gamez, Johana Perez and Rae Robison.
Captain David Lund is expected to lead the boys team with Shadon Boswell, along with eight other student-athletes on the roster in Caleb Comfort, Case De Jong, Ian Bullard-Stapp, Jonas Goldberg, Joseph Orrick, Manny Delgadillo, Rob York and Will York.
“Last year, varsity we had nine total, three boys and six girls… little bit lopsided, but opposite now, with four girls and 10 boys on varsity,” said Lund. “Either way the program is growing. Doing a bunch of research and learning the team last year, it has worked out well, the team is getting bigger. The team has practiced well together so far and become a family. I love this sport… the more I am around it and the more I research it and learn about it, I love it, there is a cool atmosphere to it.”
TC just lost three from last year’s team, and on the boys side, they should be competitors in the Central California Athletic Alliance.
Last year the girls took third while the boys were last in league.
“It takes five to get a team score for that event, might place top 4, but if you don’t have a fifth you won’t score. Last year we had six with the girls. We are in a small league and not everyone has a cross country team,” said Lund. “…I am very excited for the season, such a different sport and we may have more focus on this sport as well since cross country is under the radar.”