Clovis High and Clovis West have battled numerous times at Lamonica Stadium in their storied rivalry — but there was something extra special about the two schools meeting Saturday morning.
When the Cougars and Golden Eagles lined up for a cross country dual meet on the Clovis High campus, it was the first time both schools competed in a sporting event in over 10 months.
“March 13 was the day we shut everything down abruptly,” Clovis West athletic director Matt Loggins said, “and so being able to come here and have an athletic contest is special.”
The Clovis West cross country team defeated Clovis High in Saturday’s dual meet, with the Golden Eagles’ boys and girls picking up the lowest number of team points in the two-mile race.
Clovis West did not pick up 1st place in either the boys or girls’ race, but filled up the top 10 in both races to come away with victories. The Golden Eagles’ girls scored 22 team points to Clovis’ 35, while the boys scored 23 points to Clovis’ 38.
It was fitting for Clovis West’s “team over individual” philosophy that not one Golden Eagle runner stood out, but they all finished close together in the top 10. The girls’ team took 2nd through 4th place, as well as 6th and 7th place. The boys meanwhile took 2nd and 3rd, then swept 5th through 10th place.
“These athletes that are a part of my program have really bought into the idea of really supporting one another,” CW head coach Rich Parris said. “It comes down to their hard work together day in and day out, and now they’re seeing the fruits of their labor.”
Freshman Molly Bizik, junior Julia Bizik, and junior Claire Bringetto finished 2nd through 4th respectively, but Clovis sophomore Emma Ruvalcaba crossed the finish line first on the girls’ side, running a time of 13:00.09.
Ruvalcaba was pleased with her performance, but the fact that she was finally competing impressed her the most.
“All of us were so excited [on Friday] running the course and we were like ‘We can’t believe we are actually doing this,’” Ruvalcaba said. “It was amazing because we had been so excited to race since March. It’s been a long journey and I’m just glad we’re here.”
On the boys’ side, Clovis sophomore Christopher Caudillo staved off Clovis West junior Ben Reyes with one last push in the final seconds, finishing with a 1st place time of 10:39.2.
Caudillo, exhausted from his run, was supported and congratulated by Reyes after the two crossed the finish line.
“Being competitive, it seems like it’s number one, but in reality what comes first is human decency,” Reyes said. “No matter how competitive we are, I’m gonna help whoever’s down and not feeling well before being competitive.”
Reyes finished three seconds behind Caudillo for 2nd, while senior Jack Dresick followed up for 3rd place. The Golden Eagles’ boys took 8 of the top 10 spots, another indication of their strength in numbers.
“The main thing [Parris taught us] is to be selfless, and we gotta realize we’re racing as a team for cross country,” Reyes said. “Once everyone gets that into their head, you can really be a family and race together.”
Clovis High head coach Eloy Quintana said he was impressed with Clovis West’s running ability, and he pointed to the Golden Eagles’ “process” in reaching their success.
“We’re going through that process ourselves right now too,” Quintana said. “The great thing about us is we’re very young, not heavily upperclassmen but we have a lot of freshmen and sophomores. Right now, it’s a learning experience and they’re getting it as we’re going.”
Both teams ran a course that started at the track north of Lamonica Stadium, then reached up to Wrenwood Ave., cut south through Clovis Elementary until Barstow Ave. then wrapped around through Lloyd Merriman Field and into Lamonica where the finish line stood.
Spectators were permitted to watch the race from the track and field bleachers and Lamonica Stadium while wearing face masks.
Both Parris and Quintana expressed gratitude to multiple people for permitting and organizing the race, including Clovis Unified School District associate superintendent Steve France, Clovis High vice principal Matt Hernandez, and both high schools’ principals, Richard Sarkisian for Clovis West and Stephanie Hanks for Clovis.
“Today, regardless of where we’re at with the pandemic, Clovis High did an amazing job putting this on for both of our schools,” Loggins said.
The effort was appreciated not only by coaches and administrators, but the athletes themselves.
“It didn’t hit me until I reached the baseball field,” Ruvalcaba said. “Just hearing the stands, I went ‘Oh my gosh’ because I hadn’t felt this feeling in such a long time.”
“I know I was excited getting up this morning,” Clovis High athletic director Jesse Hardwick said. “We are the original two schools in Clovis, and to have these schools come together and compete in something like this, at the stadium that holds a lot of tradition for both these schools over the years is awesome not just for these two programs, but these two schools and the community.