The Yosemite High boys and girls track and field teams look down from a high perch as Yosemite High graduate and Coach Walker Vaughn guides the boys and girls teams for his 13th season. The track and field program is one of the most successful at Yosemite in the last decade, and league titles have been a standard for the Badgers and Vaughn.
"We go into every year with the attitude that we will win league," Vaughn said. "Some years are more challenging than others. This season, we feel good about our chances, especially the boy's program."
Overall, the Badgers have more participants than last year (31) but will be young in many areas including the sprints and the jumps.
The boys are coming off their second straight league championship. The boys program has won nine North Sequoia League championships since 2002. The Yosemite girls won five straight titles from 2005-2010 but haven't won league since then. They placed third last year. Both boys and girls teams this year have top 10 all-time performers at Yosemite.
Simpson starts strong
Vaughn has every reason to be optimistic especially with the boy's program. Yosemite's strength is their distance runners and it starts with senior Alek Simpson. Simpson has anchored the distance races for three years. He is poised to break school records in the 800, 1600, and 3200 meter runs.
"I have set my sights on breaking three records this season," Simpson said. "I will have to be strategic each meet. I trained a lot this summer, especially in altitude. I know it won't be easy though."
Simpson is No. 3 all time in the 1600 (4:25.80) and No. 2 in the 3200 (9:54.56).
He is coming off a dominating cross country season where he placed 11th in state for D-III.
Simpson had a great start at the Sanger Spring Classic on March 7. He clocked a 2:00.03 to earn the top time in the Fresno Bee 800 meter ranking at the time.
"The Sanger Spring Classic is a strong meet with top Valley programs such as Buchanan," Vaughn said. "Alek ran against the best and had a great season start."
Simpson's time is No. 2 all-time at Yosemite, just behind Scott Cole's 2:00.00 set in 1987. Simpson also finished fourth in the 3200 at 10:03 and 11th in the 1600 at 4:43.59.
The Badgers will have senior Liam Womack to push Simpson.
"Liam is so valuable to us," Vaughn said. "His experience is huge. Liam gives us valuable depth and he is a great competitor."
Womack owns top 10 marks in the 800, 1600, and 3200. At Sanger Womack took ninth in the 3200 and 19th in the 1600 (4:51.5).
Senior Nick Adelizi leads the boy's sprints. Adelizi is No. 9 all-time at Yosemite in the 200 meters (23.28) and No. 6 in the 400 (52.14).
Sophomore phenom Jayson Lee earned the No. 3 all-time school ranking in the 110m high hurdles at 17.38 as a freshman. Lee took second in the frosh/soph 110 high hurdles at Sanger with a time of 17.46. He will also participate in the 300 hurdles as well as the long jump.
"The 17.46 was a great time for Jayson," Vaughn said. "Jayson just finished basketball, so to have a race like that against top competition bodes well for him."
The weights will be much improved versus the last few seasons. Seniors Leo Meza and Anthony Archer anchor the shot and discus. Meza had a near personal best 38-feet-10 at Sanger placing ninth. Meza took 11th in the discus at 113-feet-10. He is closing in on the top 10 list in both shot and discus.
Archer, a Texas transfer, has previously thrown the shot over 43-feet.
Hughey holds school 1600 record
Senior distance specialist Brittany Hughey, one of the top distance runners in Yosemite history, will lead the girls team.
Hughey broke the 1600 meter record last year recording 5:21.46. Hughey has school top 10 rankings in the 800 (No. 5 - 2:32.6) and the 3200 (No. 5 - 12:55.0).
"Brittany is an amazing runner," Vaughn said. "She is a hard worker and deserves all her success. This year Brittany will also run the 400. She is a strong sprinter."
Hughey showed her speed early at Sanger placing fourth in the 400 (1:03.63). Hughey is now No. 9 all time in school history in that event. She then placed sixth in the 800 at 2:28.75 good for No. 5 all time. She finished the day placing fifth in the 1600 in a very difficult triple.
The Yosemite girls will be solid in the hurdles and field events. Senior Jessica Rudd is No. 3 all time at the school in the triple jump (31-feet-7). Rudd will also compete in the long jump and hurdles.
Junior Christen Cogdell returns as the school record holder in the pole vault at 9-0, and junior Christy Halbert will join Cogdell in the event. Halbert placed sixth at Sanger with a vault of 7-feet-9.
Senior Victoria Glanzer is tied at No. 6 on the school's record chart in the high jump at 4-feet-8. Cogdell and Glanzer will both run hurdles. Cogdell was 11th in the 100 low hurdles at Sanger with a time of 18.7.
Depth will be a key issue with the girl's team this season. Most athletes compete in four events.
Rafer Johnson Invitational
Selected YHS track and field athletes participated in the 37 school Rafer Johnson Invitational in Kingsburg on March 22. The meet honors Kingsburg's greatest athlete who won the decathlon gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games.
Brittney Hughey continued her impressive season start by finishing fourth in the 1600 meter race posting a time of 5:25.15. Hughey, who has the school all-time 1600 record, had the second fastest time for Yosemite. She also took eighth in the 400 with a time of 1:03.66.
Jessica Rudd took sixth in the triple jump (31-feet-01) and 12th in the 100 hurdles (18.49).
The girls also placed well in the field events with Christy Halbert placing seventh in the pole vault at 7-feet-9. Victoria Glanzer placed ninth in the high jump at 4-feet-09.
For the boys, Simpson had another strong day. Running against top section competition, he placed fifth in the 3200 with a personal best time of 9:50.43. The mark is No. 2 all-time in YHS history. Simpson took seventh in the 1600 with a time of 4:32.28.
The team will compete in the West Coast Relays at Buchanan April 5, and have a league meet at Washington Union at 3 p.m.,April 9. The Yosemite Mountain Invitational is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Friday, April 11.