The 2012 Cross Country campaign is underway and once again, the Yosemite High School Badgers have enjoyed immediate success. On Sept. 1 the team participated in the 16th Annual Dinuba Cross Country Invitational meet.
In the boys division, junior Alek Simpson placed second out of 100 runners with a time of 11:42, just two seconds behind winner Kasey Knevelbaard of Immanuel.
Two years ago as a 5-foot-8, 120 pound freshman, Simpson finished the race in 22nd place. This year he's bigger and stronger at 6-foot-1, 140 pounds.
Badgers Chris Grant came in 16th (13.01) and Alex Statkus placed 18th (13.08), both receiving medals.
Freshman Sam Knoles was 13th in the frosh/soph division with a time of 13:59.
Simpson's success so early in the season is attributable to his work ethic and desire to constantly improve. Head coach Ellen Peterson cited Simpson's efforts.
"Alek worked hard all summer," Peterson said. "He is our co-captain and leads by example. During each workout, Alek typically finishes ahead of all our runners. To get extra distance, Alek circles back and brings in runners who have not yet finished. He is a total team guy."
Along with Simpson, Grant, and Statkus, five other Badgers finished in the top 40 in the men's division of the meet. Brian Tenorio (24th - 13:33), Issac Soliz (30th - 13:39), Nick Adelizi (33rd - 13:41), Ben Williams (37th - 14:00) and Tristan Webb (40th - 14:02).
"This year, our men's team looks very strong," Petersen said. "We've had a great turnout thanks to the men's soccer program. Coach Rick Lemberg asked soccer players to run and it has really swelled the ranks. We so appreciate his support of our program."
Peterson, in her 27th year as the school's cross country coach, has 62 runners on the team this season, an all-time high. Cross Country is the largest participation sport at Yosemite. With the school's current enrollment around 700, nearly 1 in 10 students run for Peterson. This is tribute to the long time success of Peterson.
No program in YHS history has won more league championships than the boys and girls cross country program. Volleyball isn't far behind, but cross country just keeps on winning. This year, however, poses some challenges for the mighty Badger runners.
North Sequoia League
There could be a new sheriff in town this season. Peterson acknowledges Kerman as the favorite to capture the league crown in both the men's and women's divisions, after her girls team has had an incredible run of 22 consecutive league titles.
"Kerman absolutely is the favorite this year," Peterson said. "They spanked us at Dinuba. Kerman has a lot of runners and the program has been improving."
The Yosemite men will be in contention and Liberty-Madera Ranchos is expected to make a move up.
"Liberty is steadily improving in all sports, but they have made big strides in cross country," Peterson said. "They also have a large team. Numbers and depth wins meets and championships in cross country."
23 straight titles for girls
The Yosemite women only fielded five varsity runners at Dinuba. Of them, Phoenix Skeahan placed 25th (18:11) out of a field of 50 runners. Azani Pusina place 31st ( 18:56), Sharon Warmerdam 40th (20:20), Lindsey Rubottom 41st (20:29) and Susanne Sullivan 44th (21:11).
Sierrah Slocum placed 25th in the girls frosh/soph division with a time of 19:35.
Depth is an issue this year for the Badger women who own a streak of 23 straight league championships. This incredible streak could be in jeopardy this year.
"Our women are working hard but we are looking to get more runners out for the team," Peterson said.
Peterson is assisted by Robbie Ellis and John Peterson.