Runners eagerly lined up at the starting line, Brian Weaver raised his cap gun, and a single shot ripped through the air.
And with that, high school sports have returned to Clovis.
“It makes my heart happy to see so many kids going out there and doing their best,” Weaver said. “I think it made life a little bit more normal for them.”
Buchanan High and Clovis East competed in the first dual cross country meet of the 2021 season Thursday, Feb. 4, the first time both schools competed in any sport since last March. The Bears defeated the Timberwolves in both races, with final scores of 15 to 44 team points for the girls’ race, and 18 to 48 for the boys’ race.
The Bears’ head coach Weaver admitted he was nervous leading up to the moment when he fired the starting gun.
After all, it had been 14 months since his cross country team last ran in an official meet — and this was no ordinary meet, with competitors wearing face masks up to the starting line
“Anytime that there’s anything new that’s going on, with the guidelines and making sure athletes are safe, parents are safe… you want to make sure you can show you’re doing it right,” Weaver said.
Buchanan sophomore Sydney Sundgren also felt anxious, until she made a realization once the race started.
“I got out there and thought ‘I’m doing this, I’m finally racing again’ and it just felt good,” Sundgren said.
Sundgren ran the top time for the girls’ side, clocking in at 11:09.04. She led a sweep for the Buchanan girls, who recorded the top five finishes on Thursday. Sophomores Grace Hutchison and Caroline Mendyk took 2nd and 3rd place respectively, followed by seniors Morgan Hutchison and Gianna Chiaramonte in 4th and 5th place.
In their first meet since winning the CIF state team championship in November 2019, the Buchanan girls’ cross country team picked up right where they left off.
“They all did exactly what they were supposed to, they pushed when they were supposed to, they attacked when they were supposed to, from the first kid to the last kid,” Weaver said.
Clovis East runners took 6th through 8th place, led by freshman Jazlin Diehl. Sophomore Ayane Isleta and junior Ariana Womack placed 7th and 8th respectively for the Timberwolves, who were missing three of their top 7 against the Bears.
“We ran tired today, but I’m sure so did Buchanan,” Clovis East head coach Jim Farmer said. “I like our competitiveness. I like that they didn’t cower or bow down to the Valley and defending State champions [Buchanan]… there were a lot of positives that came out of today.”
The Buchanan boys had seven of the top eight finishes against Clovis East. Bears senior Bo Olsen took 1st place with a time of 10:06.4, and senior Sebastian McGehee-Adams finished close behind in 2nd place.
The lone Timberwolf to break into the top eight was freshman Carter Spradling, who placed third in his first high school meet.
“Carter is a savage,” Farmer said. “He’s a special one.”
Clovis East arrived at Buchanan High School in two socially-distanced buses, with an opportunity to compete in the school’s first high school sporting event in 10 months. Farmer said he didn’t realize the weight of the occasion until he sent an email out to teachers, asking to excuse his runners from their afternoon online classes.
“I must have gotten 50 emails saying it was nice to see us run again and wishing us good luck. It was almost like we were the tip of the spear,” Farmer said. “I told the kids and they liked that. It was important to them.”
Clovis East and Buchanan will both run dual meets again next week: the Timberwolves will race Clovis West on Friday, Feb. 12, while Buchanan runs against Clovis North next Wednesday, Feb.10.