The 30th and final cross country banquet with head coach Ellen Peterson was a fitting farewell to the most successful coach in Yosemite High history.
The banquet was held Dec. 7 at the Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church, with more than 200 runners and family in attendance. Peterson was emcee. Staff included husband John Peterson, Kim Lawhorn and Sonja Mazaira.
Yosemite Cross Country is the largest participation sport at Yosemite High. Peterson honored all 62 runners (34 boys and 28 girls). Each went to the stage and spoke about their experience with Badger Cross Country. Peterson reviewed the season, passed out awards, and announced her successor.
The program contained a buffet dinner, a slide show on big screens, and a good time had by all.
With Peterson’s retirement came a lot of emotion and some tears. Virtually all runners said Peterson, the coaching staff, and the experience of being in Badger cross country will have a “positive effect” for the rest of their lives.
Peterson has had that type of influence in her 30 year program, with a Badger record 43 combined boys & girls league titles.
The Badger runners didn’t bring home a final North Sequoia League title for Peterson. The boys took second and the girls third in the North Sequoia League meet.
It didn’t matter to Peterson. The team did win three Valley invitational meets in the year.
“We had a great year,” Peterson said. “We worked hard and had fun. We all learned a lot about each other. We were a great team. Our seniors were leaders that pushed everyone to get better. We had a blast at Mt. SAC (Mt. SAC Invitational) and Magic Mountain. What a year and a great way to go out.”
Boys team honors
* Coach’s award: Shane Eckstein and Andrew Volpetti.
* Captain’s award: Kevin Kirk and Russell Warmerdam.
* Most Improved Runner: Jacob Ruiz.
* “Thunder and Lightning” awards: Senior boys-Matt Horton and Brendan Rhoan; Junior boys-Joseph Campbell and Matthew Roberts; Sophomore boys-David O’Brien, Isaac Rumohr, and Russell Zelazo; Freshman boys-Ethan Conti and Henry Curley.
“Joseph Campbell was our number one runner at Valley,” Peterson said. Campbell ran 18:05 at the 3.1-mile course at Woodward Park.
“Kevin Kirk and Russell Warmerdam were deserving captains in every sense of the word,” Peterson added. “They worked hard to make everyone better and were a huge help to our staff. Russell was also a commanding officer at Cadet Corps. He worked so hard.”
Girls team honors
* Coach’s award: Allie Donnell and Olivia Mattos.
* Captain’s award: Jessica Fine.
* “Thunder and Lightning” awards: Senior girls-Jessica Fine and Balanna Ramos; Junior girls-Elyse Espe and Hannah Scott; Sophomore girls-Gabi Stegge and Rachel Mattos; Freshman girls-Randi Johnson and Addison McCully.
“Gabi Stegge was our MVP,” Peterson said. “She was number one in Valley (18.14). She is mentally tough yet always has a smile through the tough runs. Jessica was such a natural runner and was a coach on the field. She is a leader and a great teammate. Hannah had long days running and being in band. She was so dedicated. Her schedule went from 6 am to 8pm. Total dedication.”
Out of many runners, sophomore Lindsey Guidry may have said it best.
“Coach Peterson, you made this team into a family. I loved running for you!”
“This is the greatest sport I’ve ever been a part of,” added Hannah Scott.
Judging from the response of the entire room, the crowd shared the sentiment.
In the end, Peterson named longtime assistant Sonja Mazaira as her well-deserved replacement.
“It is really a great honor to take over for Coach Peterson,” Mazaira said. “There are big shoes to fill. We have a strong group next season. I love this program and will work hard to continue its success.”
A longtime coach, Mazaira has been a head coach of YHS volleyball, and an assistant in track and cross country. Mazaira’s coaching was critical in the 2014 NSL championship for YHS girls track.
Peterson, a 40-year history teacher and leader of the YHS Cadet Corps quoted Teddy Roosevelt at the end of the program. The words were “so appropriate” to Peterson and words she wanted her runners to remember them going forward.
“In the battle of life, it is not the critic who counts, not the person who points out how the strong stumbled or where the doer of the deed could have done better.
The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust, sweat, and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcomings; who knows the great devotion and spends themselves in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end, the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, even if they fail, at least fails daring greatly.”