The Badger cross country team participated in the 43rd Annual Mt. Whitney Invitational meet last week in Visalia, with 35 schools and more than 700 runners.
Coming off a successful performance at the Sanger Invitational the previous week, the Badgers competed in another high-level meet. For Coach Ellen Peterson, the more competition the better.
“Like Sanger, this was another high quality meet for the program,” Peterson said. “Our kids ran under tough conditions. Last year, it was 78 degrees. This year it was 100. It was dry and hot. Some runners dealt with some dehydration. Despite this we ran well and I am really proud of this group.”
The Yosemite girls captured titles in the frosh/soph and JV girl’s small school division, equaling the two titles won last week in Sanger. The frosh/soph boys captured the small school title.
For the frosh/soph girls, YHS took the small school title but was fifth overall in all schools. Rachel Mattos led the Badgers, finishing 18 with a time of 14:47. Mattos earned a medal for a top 25 finish. Other top 50 finishes were by Randi Johnson (34) 15:25, Olivia Mattos (41) 15:24, and Natalie Guynn (44) 16:02.
“As soon as Rachel (Mattos) finished she was doing all she could to help her teammates,” Peterson said. “Rachel was like another coach on the field. She is a total team player.”
YHS also captured the small school title for the JV girls and like the frosh/soph girls took fifth place overall. Elena Conklin (16:17) and Amy Whitcomb (16:26) finished 23, and 26 respectively to lead Yosemite.
Elyse Espe and Gabby Stegge had strong performances for the varsity girls. Espe finished 37 with a time of 22:34 and Stegge 40th at 22:44 out of 140 runners. Espe, a junior, and Stegge a sophomore.
“Elyse is really realizing her potential in cross country,” Peterson said. “She runs mostly sprints in track, but she has built endurance and has a strong finish. She is only going to improve.”
Isaac Rumohr and Russell Zelazo led the frosh/soph boys to victory in the small school division. Rumohr had the highest finish of the day for all Badger runners (8th) 18:40. Russell Zelazo was 13th with a time of 18:49, and David O’Brien finished (28) 19:34.
The Badger JV boys finished second to Avenal. The JV boys were fourth overall in the division. Five Badger runners medaled including Thomas Lazar (15th - 20:34), Aaron Arroyo (19th - 21:09), Mike Vanbalinghem (21st - 21:19), and brothers Trevor (24) and Travis Wood (25) (21:38 and 21:40).
Yosemite was fifth overall in the varsity division, with Matt Holden and Brendan finishing in the top 75.
Peterson named Espe and Stegge varsity girls runners of the week.
“Gabby encourages all her teammates to be their best,” Peterson said. “Regardless of the conditions Gabby has a smile and it is contagious. It lifts our team. Because of her work ethic, Gabby is constantly improving.”
Peterson named Rumohr and Zelazo co-runners of the week for the boys.
The Badgers compete this Friday at the prestigious 40-team Golden West Invitational Meet in Visalia.
“This meet will include some of the best small schools in the section,” Peterson said. “It will give our runners a good idea where they stand in the Sierra-Sequoia division (small schools).