Starting out the season this year has been a challenge for all area high school sports teams because of the heat. Cougar cross country runners are no different.
“In cross country, the heat keeps us at the park and off of the roads since the asphalt intensifies the heat,” noted head coach Rick Heflin. “We have worked on form and pace work a lot to get quality workouts in spite of the heat. The team has been very tough in the workouts and well-disciplined by staying hydrated.”
Escalon boys are looking strong, with a solid group of returning runners, while the girls have small numbers out for the squad.
“We have several starters returning. Juan Lopez, Sam Fletcher, Gabe Romero, Rex Robbins, and Emiliano Ramirez are all returning from last year’s varsity. There are quite a few runners from last year that might fill the extra spots that are vacant from Zach Gardner and Eddy Calderon graduating,” Heflin said. “Also newcomers that were not on the team last year, Troy Bedell and Alex Jimenez have a shot at those spots. With 40 boys on the team and a lot of talent, we will have steep competition for the two spots.”
On the girls side, Jackie Lau, Lizeth Calderon, Marisol Aguayo and Cady Wing are the only returners. There are only 15 girls out for the team.
“Our first outing was the Lodi Flame invite at Lodi Lake. The team ran well. The varsity boys placed ninth in a division one meet. We beat Bret Harte, Ripon and Calaveras which was a nice surprise early in the season,” Heflin said. “Ethan Resendes was our top finisher in the sophomore race, Brandon Karp was the top in the JV race for us, Connor Lambeth was our best in the frosh race. Juan Lopez and Sam Fletcher led the varsity.”
With the smaller numbers, the girls may have a tougher time, but Heflin likes the work ethic he has seen.
“Jackie Lau is our strongest returner on the girls side. Lizeth Calderon has worked very hard this summer and has improved a lot,” he pointed out. “With most of the girls being new, it will be a challenge to put together a strong girls team. We are improving every week so we will see what we get at the end of the season. This week we have our first league meet on Wednesday and we have a huge invite in San Francisco on Saturday.”