The Escalon Cross Country team had its first league meet on Wednesday Sept. 1 at Hilmar High School.
“We were supposed to race at the Calaveras fairgrounds the week before but the meet got displaced because firefighters were using the park as a staging area. In addition, our planned league course in Ceres experienced a small fire and was unavailable,” explained head coach Michael Bower. “As a result, we raced Hilmar’s home course for league. This past week has seen multiple changes due to the fires, but the kids have responded well. Showing up, doing what we can, and having fun along the way.”
The Trans-Valley League race brought together all six schools with a 2-mile JV course and 5k varsity course around the canals behind Hilmar High School.
Escalon started off league play with a strong showing in the JV girls race. Coming in second, third, and fourth overall were sophomore Hannah Wampler (15:45), freshman Tori Rich (15:56), and sophomore Destiny Reyes (16:09).
The JV boys had some big personal improvements. The team was led by two freshmen: Nate Millard finished in 13:20, sixth overall, and Jake Sawyer finished in 14:13, 10th overall.
“Both boys shaved almost 60 seconds off of their previous best 2-mile time,” Bower said. “Almost half of our runners set personal best or season best marks in their respective races. Considering it had been a warm week, it was a new course, and we had a last minute transportation change, this is really good and reflective of the fact the kids are ready to show up and do their thing.”
For many of this year’s varsity team members, this marked their first time racing in a 5k.
“I know nerves got to some of them. But the first step to conquering those nerves is to show up and do it. Realize that you can always reflect on the moment and walk away with something good and something learned,” noted Bower.
And, said the coach, there was plenty of good. The varsity boys were led by junior Joshua Churchill (20:53) and sophomore Andrew Morales (21:31), while the varsity girls were led by freshman Katherine Romero (23:40), sophomore Laura Thompson (26:17.5) and Megan Fahey (26:17.7).
“It’s also worth noting that for a large number of these kids, they didn’t participate in last year’s short season, so this officially marks their return to the sport. When you account for the extended time off, they can be incredibly proud,” Bower said of the squad. “It was fun to watch the kids run, they got into their races and you could tell they wanted to beat the person next to them. Some of the kids had slow starts but then they got focused and just kept moving up the line, grabbing one jersey at a time. I am incredibly pleased with how the team started the season and am excited for where we can get to.”
Bower said just getting the runners to where they needed to be took a team effort as well.
“I do want to give a huge thank you to several staff members. The bus garage was down drivers so we got notice Wednesday morning that we had to leave a couple hours earlier than planned,” the coach explained. “(Athletic Director) Nate Bartelink arranged for us to stay inside an air conditioned room at Hilmar and the EHS snack bar had items ready for our kids to pick up at the earlier time. While small details, they speak loudly about how the staff strives to serve our students well.”
The cross country team is scheduled to race Saturday, Sept. 11 at the Josh Ruff Memorial Invite in Folsom and then enter a two-week period of focused training before returning to compete in TVL 2 on Wednesday, Sept. 29.