By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Cross Country Preview Cougars Look For Strong Run Through TVL Cross Country Competition
Strong individuals will have to work together as a team, pushing each other in the pursuit of a Trans-Valley League crown.

Escalon's cross country team boasts some strong returning performers on both the boys' and girls' sides, and those seasoned veterans will be counted on this season to rally their teammates.

Numbers are not as high as they have been in the past, noted returning coach Rick Heflin, making it all the more important for those runners with experience to step up into leadership roles.

"Our boys are a little thin," Heflin said. "We need more boys. We have strong individuals but we need to fill some holes to make a team."

Key returners are junior Josh Vandagriff, sophomore Alec Carpenter, junior Josh Proch, seniors Tanner Roark, Logan Stewart and Stuart Eachus, and junior Jake Carroll.

"The girls have some major talent," added Heflin. "Our key returners there are Janelle Giuntoli (junior), Adriana Delucci (sophomore), Jordyn Walden (sophomore), Sierra Lionudakis (sophomore), Sam Cuddy (sophomore)."

The boys are coming off a year in which they took first place in the TVL but have lost standout performers in graduates Matt Barnum, Clancy Casteel and Philip Plott, and will have to find runners to fill those spots in the scoring line up.

The girls were third place overall last season but with a strong nucleus of returning runners, Heflin said the Lady Cougars may be the ones to catch this year.

"The kids are positive, it's a good environment," Heflin said.

Assistant coaches this year also bring a new level of enthusiasm and expertise to the squad, Malinda Walker - who also serves as the JV softball coach - coming in as Heflin's assistant and Shane Brookshire joining the effort as a volunteer assistant.

"I'm excited," Heflin said. "It's going to be a positive season."

The Cougars will see new TVL rivals Hilmar and Orestimba during the course of the season, with those two schools moving in to the Trans-Valley League and Ripon Christian moving out.

"For the boys, I think the people to beat will be Ripon, they didn't really lose anybody," Heflin said of likely contenders for the TVL title.

For the girls, Escalon is gearing up for a run against Riverbank and Hughson, the three expected to battle it out for league honors.

The Cougars are scheduled to visit Oakdale for a scrimmage meet on Thursday, Aug. 26 and then get their first taste of competition at the Lodi Invitational, Lodi Lake, on Wednesday, Sept. 1. The first TVL meet is set at Legion Park in Modesto on Wednesday, Sept. 8 and the second TVL meet is Sept. 30.

Escalon's annual invitational at Woodward Reservoir will be Wednesday, Oct. 6.