Around the TRAC: Pushing the limits, and newfound respect

The Buchanan boys cross country team won the D-1 Central Section team championship on Nov. 16 led by Hayden Hanson’s fourth place finish. (Buchanan boys cross country/Contributed)

Full confession Sunday here: last Saturday was my first time attending the CIF State Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park. I know, I know, what’s wrong with me? The massive event is almost literally in my backyard, a stone’s throw from my front yard if I had the combined arm strength of, say, Brett Favre, Matthew Stafford and Adrian Martinez. Clovis Unified runners have garnered much success over the years here: a Buchanan girls D-II team title in 1994, a Clovis High girls D-I crown in 1996, Hagen Reedy with an individual D-I title in 2011 and a plethora of second and third  team and individual finishes. The state meet has only been held at one location since its inception in 1987 and I’ve followed fairly close over the years, either through media outlets or talking and e-mailing with coaches. But alas dear reader, I wasn’t prepared for what I was to witness.

Arriving at 7:57 a.m. and flashing my press credentials like a proud papa, I parked my car and headed up a slight hill to a bevy of tents and booths and more tents and flags roping off areas and runners stretching and running in packs like they were preparing for a medieval battle. I fully expected to see a full armory nestled in the back of said tents. And as far as the eye could see was a never ending sea of colorful uniforms and matching shoes and extremely fit and runner-type people. And did I mention tents? There must have been 200 of those, all branded with the school’s name at the top, screaming “This is our territory, stay off or suffer the consequences! If you enter we shall send you to the pit of despair. Dilly, dilly.”

Oh, and there was a corn dog booth, because nothing says state cross country meet like a big ‘ol breaded hot dog covered in mustard.

After settling down with my media friends (nary a distance runner among them I might add) and asking for tips on how to cover the 3.1 mile labyrinth, the D-I girls race was set to begin at 9:35 a.m. on the dot, the second race of the day among 10 total, each a half-hour apart. Imagine a line of 193 runners, six to a team, all pacing and hopping with nervous energy then getting into their starting positions waiting for the starting gun to go off. “Pop!” and they’re off!

They estimate over 10,000 spectators and it sure feels like it; moms, dads, grandpas, grandmas, coaches and the like disperse to find their best view of the runners, to watch the high school kids punish their bodies for 17 minutes plus, pushing their mental and physical limits to the brink. I followed the masses across a bridge to catch a glimpse of the runners at the one-mile mark, then mosied over to the finish line, as close as my media self allowed and prepared for the coming-home party.

The anticipation was mounting as the leader was about to emerge from around a bend of trees and down the stretch, a clearing where onlookers cheered and yelled encouragement from behind a flimsy, synthetic, orange three-foot-high fence. Who would it be? One of the two Buchanan girls, Corie Smith or Meagen Lowe? Or perhaps one of the other favorites from perennial power Great Oak? Our question was quickly answered when in the distance we could make out a white jersey and red shorts: “It’s Corie!” yelled Brian Weaver, her coach.

With steadfast determination, the rhythmic pounding of foot before foot and eyes focused on the prize, she crossed the finish line to thunderous applause, then did best friend Lowe, a 1-2 teammate punch the state meet had never before seen. Smith kneeled and panted while Lowe fell into the arms of her coach. I suppose I was expecting a huge celebration, like something you would see at a basketball or football game, but not here. There were no hugs upon hugs and the screams of victory; these girls were exhausted, no doubt delirious from the grueling beat down their bodies had just endured. As the rest of the runners crossed, they were dropping like wounded soldiers, like snipers had shot them down, trainers literally catching them before they hit the hard grass and dirt, sitting them down gently, rubbing out cramps and knots and untying their shoes to relieve the pain in their feet. I saw tears. I saw a runner sprawled out on the ground, huffing and puffing like she had just escaped a dangerous fire. This wasn’t a place to celebrate, it was an infirmary.

This caught me off guard to be sure, I wasn’t prepared to see these athletes push their bodies so hard, and be so close to the action. As the action died down, their bodies slowly recovered, finding solace in the arms of teammates, coaches and family members; they indeed ran the race.

And you know what? Right then, right there, among the athletes who left everything they had on the course, cross country earned my utmost respect. I’ll surely be back.

Buchanan boys and girls sweep Valley cross country team titles

For the first time since 2010, Buchanan swept the boys and girls cross country Central Section titles, both in dominating fashion at Woodward Park on Nov. 25.

The Buchanan girls totaled 26 points, followed by Clovis (80) and McFarland (95) – and anyone who has followed cross country surely had little doubt who the top two girls were, even though the results might have been a bit of a surprise.

State and national level cross country runners Meagen Lowe and Corie Smith finished in first and second place, respectively, with times of 17:18.30 and 17:27.12. Olivia Herrera of Clovis was third (18:20.5), Blayney Dolan of Clovis North placed fourth (18:26.5).

For the boys, Buchanan won with 52 points followed by Clovis North (70) and Clovis (109).

Clovis North’s Isaiah Galindo placed second (15:40.9), Chris Watkins of Clovis third (15:46.0) and Buchanan’s Hayden Hansen fourth (15:50.05).

Buchanan girls volleyball fall in second round of state tournament

Buchanan was on the verge of advancing into the regional semifinals of the CIF State Volleyball Division I playoffs and seemingly had everything in place: home court advantage, momentum and a 2-0 lead over No. 6 Sacred Heart Cathedral after winning two thrilling games 25-23 and 27-25.

But, that momentum evaporated quickly when the Bears, the No. 3 seed, lost all of that and more, falling in the next two 25-21, 25-23 and then 15-6 in Game 5.

Kennedy Rice recorded 17 kills, Lexi Pagani 15 and Ashley Dittmann 14. Mikayla Weiss had 47 assists, a season high.

Game 5s have been a bugaboo for the Bears (34-8) in the midst of a great season; they lost to TRAC foe Central three times that went the distance, including in the D-I Valley title game.

In the opening round of the state playoffs, they disposed of Valley Christian from San Jose 23-25, 25-21, 25-15, 25-19 behind Pagani’s 11 kills with Rice and Dittmann each recording 10. Weiss registered 33 assists.

Next year looks again promising for Buchanan as Pagani, Dittmann and Weiss all return as seniors. Rice has signed to play at Chico State.

Clovis West junior Maddie Campbell returns to the Golden Eagles after winning the CIF State Open Division title last year. She scored 24 points with 8 rebounds and 7 assists in the team’s 88-26 win over Liberty of Brentwood to open the season. (Chad Cotton/Contributed)

Clovis West basketball girls start season with big win, host tourney

The big question surrounding the Clovis West girls basketball team coming off a CIF Open Division state championship and No. 1 national ranking by ESPN would be how they will replace five departing Division I players.

Well, if their first game of the season is any indication, they’re gonna be just fine.

Led by junior all-everything Madison Campbell’s 24 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists and classmate Champney Pulliam’s 20 points, they ushered in a new era by routing Liberty of Brentwood 88-26 in a home game where head coach Craig Campbell used five freshman who combined for 24 points. Junior Aari Sanders chipped in with 14 points.

They are also hosting a big early season tournament from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 – the Nike Central Valley Showdown – featuring, of course, Clovis West. The 16-team tournament also features Clovis North, Buchanan, Central and Rufus King, the No. 1 ranked team in Wisconsin. Other local schools are Stockdale, Garces, Yosemite and Bullard.

ob Davis, far left, has retired from working the down markers at Clovis West football games after working over 600 games in the last 40 years, starting in 1977. Joining Bob in his retirement is his son
Mike, brother John, and sister-in-law Marylou Peckfelder. (Contributed)

Long time Clovis West chain gain, Bob Davis retires

On the football sidelines for Clovis West since 1977 and after well over 600 games, Bob Davis and his merry band of colleagues are retiring.

No, he’s not a coach or an administrator or a statistician, he’s the one in the bright yellow checkered vest holding the down marker, a faithful fixture that has seen the highs and lows of a proud Golden Eagle football program over 40 years of service.

Last Friday’s Clovis West loss to Buchanan at Veterans Memorial Stadium signaled the last hurrah for the 85-year old.

“It’s bittersweet, I have to watch my grandchildren play,” said Davis, a retired mailman. “I’ve been here 40 years and I’m 85 now.”

It all started when Clovis West Athletic Director Dennis Lindsey asked Bob’s wife, Janice (Lindsey’s wife and Janice worked together at Dry Creek School), if he would do the chains one game. He agreed, and the rest is history.

“Yeah, if I could be down on the field and see my son play,” Davis said about the opportunity. “I started doing it and I enjoyed it so much I kept doing it.”

Davis estimates he’s only missed five games since 1977 and his favorite teams to watch were the Randy Blankenship teams which were 90-14 from 1991-98 and quite possibly the most dominant era in section history with four section titles.

He has been in charge of getting the members of the chain gang for about 30 years.

In fact, all the members of the current chain group are retiring. The other members are Bob’s son Mike, who has been with the group for 3 years, his brother-in-law John Peckfelder who has been with the group for 17 years and his wife Marylou who has been with the group 15 years.

Bob and Janice have followed Clovis West football since the school began because their four children attended the school, playing football, basketball and volleyball. Now they’ll channel their energy into following Buchanan and their seven grandchildren in various sports who are currently attending or will in the future.

Clovis senior Seth Nevills signed a National Letter of Intent to wrestle at Penn State. Nevills is a three-time California heavyweight champion and is 127-0 in his high school career. (Tony Rotundo/Contributed)

28 CUSD athletes sign college letters of intent

Buchanan High

Tyler Ashman, golf, Northeastern State University

Kyle Merchen, boys volleyball, Concordia

Molly Millar, softball, Stanford

Anthony Montalvo, wrestling, Oklahoma State

Katie Nili, track/cross country, Westmont

Analiese Raley, softball, Nebraska

Kennedy Rice, girls volleyball, Chico State

Anaya Sperling, basketball, San Francisco State

Julianna Tookoian, crew, UCLA

Clovis High

Ashley Kincaid, softball, Azusa Pacific

McKenna Lewis, track/cross country, UC San Diego

Danielle Lung, softball, Fresno State

Jordyn Martinez, softball, Sonoma State

Tori Mueller, softball, University of Massachusetts, Lowell

Seth Nevills, wrestling, Penn State

Clovis East High

Mya Felder, softball, New Mexico State

Morgan Polterock, water polo, UC Davis

Clovis North High

Madison Avery, softball, CSU Monterey Bay

James Bell, baseball, University of Oregon

Nick Caviglia, baseball, University of Utah

Blayney Dolan, track/cross country, Sac State

Georgia Phillips, water polo, UCLA

Amy Zaninovich, water polo, Fresno Pacific

Clovis West High

Jane Ellis, tennis, Fresno State

Tyler Gardner, golf, Fresno State

Triniti Scruggs, softball, San Francisco State

Caitlyn Snyder, water polo, UC Santa Barbara

Rhyan Voss, softball, Hardin-Simmons University