If you are out around town between 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. weekdays and have seen a huge mass of teenagers running, it is this year’s Escalon cross country team.
“We are currently 81 athletes strong. About one-tenth the size of the whole school,” said head coach Rick Heflin. “We have 51 boys and 30 girls. The great thing about our sport is everyone gets to compete every time we go to a meet. You get a chance to improve and push yourself at every race.”
And Heflin said while running “might not be everyone’s first choice” for a sport, “the things each athlete accomplishes in a season regardless of athletic ability is impressive.”
The coach noted that, with only a couple of meets so far, most of the team has “already shattered” the times they posted for the first race.
“We started the season off with a team scrimmage. Since seven athletes make a team we were able to have nine teams with extras. The day was a great chance to set the stage for the meet at Lodi Lake on August 23.”
That was a Division 1 event with teams from Sacramento and Modesto.
“Briana Briones was the shining star by placing second in the varsity girls race with a PR from last year. Braiden Vega led the varsity boys to an eighth place overall finish,” said Heflin. “Based on the first event the newcomers to watch were, on boys, Mikey Freitas, TJ McNeil, Josh Corrales and Jacen Peoples. On the girls side Kim Abney, Molly Terpstra, and Rachel Farley.”
The next contest for the team was a new meet in Elk Grove, with every division running two miles, even the varsity.
“It was a fast and fun day. People found out that they could cover some ground after a few weeks of training,” Heflin said. “Briana was second in the varsity race. The frosh/soph boys, frosh/soph girls and the JV boys all took home the third place team honors. Varsity boys placed fourth.”
The first Trans-Valley League Meet of the season was up next, where the varsity boys finished third overall.
“They were led by Gabe Romero. Mikey Freitas stepped up to varsity and placed fourth on the varsity team. Briana Briones won the girls race,” said Heflin.
This past weekend saw the team competing in Folsom.
“It was a very hot day and after a hard week of training the course was challenging. The event hosted 2700 athletes in eight races,” the coach said. “Kim Abney led the frosh/soph girls. Escalon placed third overall. Leading the frosh/soph boys was Mikey Freitas. The boys placed seventh.”
The varsity boys were led by Juan Lopez. Heflin added that a team is made up of seven athletes but this season, Escalon has about 10 that could make the team.
“The order of runners changes daily on the varsity boys team. You can see that by the listing of a different leader each contest,” he noted. “The JV boys placed seventh overall with Josh Corrales leading our group. Briana Briones was seventh overall with a time of 20:15. That time beats her PR on this course from last year by over a minute.”
Heflin said he anticipates a good season for this group of Cougars.
“This year should be fun to watch since we have so many new runners that are working hard,” he explained. “This week the cross country team will be asking for pledges for our jog-a-thon. This is our only fundraiser for our team. We are raising money for our training weekend, lodging for away meets, team gear, and equipment. Please help out. Our promise to you is that we will never sell candy bars, candles, or cookie dough.”