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SAL teams at the starting line
Hawks, Coyotes, and Eagles preparing for track season
Denair Track
Denair sophomore Cheyenne Rutherford practices her high jump during a Thursday afternoon practice. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal

Three local teams are preparing for the beginning of track season in the Southern Athletic League. Turlock Christian, Delhi, and Denair High have been conditioning and training their respective athletes for the past couple months with some in search of a SAL championship and others simply in search of competition.

The Hawks enter the season with a sizable, yet young, squad in both the boys and girls divisions. For the boys, returning juniors Hayden Steger and Garret Thomas will lead the pack in the short distance and relay events. Thomas is also expected to contribute in the discus, though it is his first year competing in the event.

“It’s his first year throwing, but he is the quarterback, so there might be some carry over skill there,” Delhi head coach Matt Cabral said of Thomas.

Newcomers Francisco Rodriguez and David Hernandez also look promising in their respective short distance and hurdling events.

“He’s been putting in a lot of work. I really feel like he’ll be a top finisher,” Cabral said of his hurdler Hernandez.

On the girls’ side, Delhi returns with only one experienced competitor, senior Sara Cruz.

“Most are so new that we’re still trying to find out where their niche is going to be,” Cabral said. “Our team’s actually quite bigger, there’s just a lot of new faces.”

Like Delhi, the Coyotes are also enjoying relatively high numbers this season.

“The strength this year is in numbers. I have more athletes this year than in the past, probably the most I’ve had,” Denair head coach Jim Wagner said.

Denair’s boys will be led by the foursome of Trey Howze, Quentin Allen, Jesse Padilla, and Tristen Lima with Howze and Lima specializing in jumping events and Allen and Padilla covering the track from short to long distance.

The Lady Coyotes are a little thinner in the roster with Cheyenne Rutherford as the only returner.

“She wants to focus on high jump this year, but I’m also training her for triple jump and discus,” Wagner said of Rutherford. “She’s a well-rounded athlete.”

Newcomer Kailyn Brammer is also expected to contribute with hurdles and sprints as well.

Unlike their SAL counterparts, TC’s strength is not in its numbers this season. With a total of eight track athletes — three boys and five girls — the Eagles hold no illusions about a league title. Instead, they will be focusing on individual effort and success.

“Basically, they’re trying to make the most out of high school. We’re trying to get them into shape and teach them some mechanics and hopefully help them enjoy their time,” TC head coach Chris Pugh said. “All of our team are playing other sports as well. So they’re not going to have a lot of practice time for track.”

Malik Portillo stands alone as the sole Eagle returner alongside Abi Bawkum and Mikayla Yagi on the girls’ side. Newcomers Carlos Ordaz, Tanner Pugh, Madison Yagi, and Cassie Balswick round out the rest of TC’s roster.

Despite the differences in team dynamics, all three schools are eagerly awaiting the official start of track season.

“We fell a little short last year. This year, I’m a little nervous about our distance athletes, but I’m excited about every other aspect,” Cabral said. “I think this year might be another title year on the boys’ side.”

“I think both my boys and girls varsity teams will be contending (for a league title). They’re both strong teams,” Wagner said.