Running at Lodi and in Fresno, some early season solid times seem to bode well for Escalon’s cross country team.
Now with some 55 runners hitting the course, they saw their first contact against other teams in the Lodi Flame Invitational. Along with some strong efforts there, head coach Rick Heflin said the Lodi event continued a longstanding tradition.
“With Bret Harte and us, there has been this contest between us for the last 28 years,” Heflin explained. “The biggest team gets ice cream from the other team and we absolutely destroyed them.”
The friendly rivalry saw Escalon far outnumber the Bullfrogs on the starting line for the Lodi invite, and that means the Cougars will be provided with ice cream, courtesy of Bret Harte, at Escalon’s invitational later this fall.
Heflin said the cross country team has picked up a few soccer players on the boys’ side that would normally be suiting up to play on the pitch but now have the fall season open due to boys and girls soccer moving to winter.
“The kids are real excited,” he added of the overall attitude of the team.
The freshman boys took third at Lodi with top finishers Juan Lopez, Gabriel Romero and Emiliano Ramirez. Sam Fletcher ran strong as a sophomore and newcomer Rex Robbins, opting for cross country over football this season, did well in his first competition at the varsity level.
Yajaira Salinas and Nora Nash finished one-two for the Lady Cougars in the varsity girls race.
“I only have 11 girls,” Heflin said of a small turnout on that side of the squad. “Getting someone for that fifth (varsity) spot will define us.”
The Cougars then traveled to the Highlander Meet in Fresno on Wednesday, Aug. 31.
Varsity boys leading the way were Eddy Calderon (18:29) and Zack Gardner, with Fletcher and Robbins also showing well in their first run on the state meet course.
“The frosh-soph boys won it, that was a cool thing,” Heflin said of his young runners topping all competitors on the frosh-soph course, which covered 2.2 miles.
Lopez was fifth overall in 12:25, Romero was seventh in 12:28 and Ramirez was 19th in 13:11. Finishing in 29th place at 13:29 was Xavier Chavez, John Strand was 52nd at 14:11 and David Plascencia, with a time of 14:45, turned out to be the tiebreaker, as Escalon was knotted with another squad at 93 points apiece, but Plascencia finished well ahead of his sixth place counterpart, giving the Cougars the overall victory.
“You hardly ever see that,” Heflin said of having to use the tiebreaker formula.
For the girls, Salinas was fifth overall in 21:53, running the state course faster this year than she did last year, later in the season, showing she is already ahead of her 2015 pace.
Nash was 22nd in 23:18; Jackie Lau was 25th, 23:37; Marisol Aguayo, 41st, 24:54; and Gabby Avalos, 65th, 26:13.
“At the sophomore level, I have one girl,” Heflin pointed out. “Kady Ring is our only sophomore girl, she was 51st in 19:10.”
The Cougars will be back in action today, Wednesday, Sept. 7 at the first Trans-Valley League Meet of the season, running in Modesto. They will go this weekend to the Lowell Meet at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. They are traveling there because a previously scheduled meet this weekend in Salinas was canceled due to wildfires in that area.
“I have 44 boys and 11 girls,” Heflin said. “It’s going to be interesting to see what these kids can do. Hughson should be the powerhouse in league for both boys and girls.”