Wednesday marked a unique afternoon at Turlock High, as they saw three student-athletes sign their National Letters of Intent to their respective four-year universities and sports.
Jessica Bettencourt (Cal State Monterey Bay) and Eric Alvarez (Stanislaus State) will both be moving on to compete in track and field while Sophie Bigler (Stanislaus State) chose to stay nearby and compete in college volleyball after making a historic run with her Bulldog teammates in the fall of 2016.
“I signed at the same time as Eric and I was just so happy to be able to sign with him,” said Bettencourt. “I have seen how hard he works on the track and he deserved it. I am so blessed with the opportunity to be added to the list of college athletes, I could not have done it without my coaches for sure.”
“I've worked really hard throughout my last four years of running and it would only be right if I thanked the girl who kept pushing me through all four years—Carolina Guillen—I have to thank her for everything she has done for me and it would only be right if she was my prom date,” said Alvarez.
Alvarez is coming off two first place finishes in the second CCC Center Meet in the 1600 and 3200 meter races.
“Today was a good day,” said Alvarez who bested his personal record in the mile (3200) by 25 seconds on Wednesday. “I was going to Stanislaus either way, but when they reached out about me joining their program, they convinced me (to continue competing). I told myself I might as well try it to see how I do.”
Bigler was part of Turlock's historic seasons the last two years that included a share of the Central California Conference title in 2015 with crosstown foe Pitman High after a record of 9-1, and a Section Championship berth.
Turlock won 32 games during the 2015 season and after such a monumental year, Bigler and her teammates decided that 2016 would be an even better year and they weren't wrong.
With the help of a loaded roster, great coaching and a pair of seniors that included Bigler in the regular starting lineup, Turlock made one of the most impressive runs in the Division-I Sac-Joaquin Section Tournament.
“I am so proud of how far the volleyball program has come at Turlock in the past three years,” said Bigler. “I loved playing for THS. The team was so close and our ability to get along and work with each other was what brought us all the way to the state tournament, as well as all the talent we had on that team in every player.”
Bigler decided to continue her volleyball career at Stanislaus so she could stay close to home.
“Family is a big part of my life. I also really like the girls on the team and the coaches,” said Bigler. “I’m so proud that my fellow classmates and I are moving on to play sports at the college level, which is not easy, it's amazing to see our hard work pay off.”
Bettencourt, who was seriously considering passing on college athletics, said that her high school coaches continued to push her and saw the college athlete inside of her even when she had doubts.
“I received a few letters from some different colleges, but nothing big,” said Bettencourt. “Honestly, I decided I wanted to run in college at the beginning of this track season. I reached out to the coach a month or so ago and we met up and talked about all the opportunities and almost immediately after leaving the campus I knew I was ready to take it to the next level.”
While at Turlock High, Bettencout was No. 1 in the county for the 300m hurdles in 2015 and 2017.
She is also part of the 4x100 team and was a part of beating Turlock's school record from 1992 with a time of 49.20.
“I decided on CSUMB for track and cross country because of the school itself and the area,” said Bettencourt. “I loved the feel of the school and since I was little, Monterey has always been mine and my family’s favorite weekend getaway.”
Bettencourt hopes to major in social science while at CSUMB.
“For CSUMB, I will be ready for the cross-country season. I am going to be training over the summer,” said Bettencourt. “I hope to either run the 400m hurdles or the steeple chase, which is a hurdle race that is eight laps around the track with about four big hurdles with water underneath one of them.”