Badgers prepare for another successful track season

Yosemite sophomore Sayda Taylor, left, and senior Elyse Espe are two reasons the Badger’s girls track & field team is expected to win the North Sequoia League title.
Yosemite sophomore Sayda Taylor, left, and senior Elyse Espe are two reasons the Badger’s girls track & field team is expected to win the North Sequoia League title. Sierra Star

The Yosemite High track and field program is set for another run at a North Sequoia League championship. Since taking over in 2002, head coach and former Badger and Fresno State track standout Walker Vaughn continues to win - an expectation from the most successful track and field coach in school history.

Combined, the boys and girls teams have won 16 league championships (boys 10 and the girls 6). The boys program have two CIF runners up while the girls won the CIF title in 2005 and were runners up in 2004.

The girls team is coming off its second straight NSL title. The 2016 edition was historic with 17 top-10 all-time school marks, a record for one season.

The team is loaded with talent and with virtually everyone back from last season, the Lady Badgers have a good chance to repeat, with Sierra and Liberty challenging as they did last season.

“Our girls are young and our sprint athletes and field events will be deep,” Vaughn said. “The boys will be stronger as well. We have more athletes than last year. For the boys our strength will be in the throws and the hurdles.”

Last season freshman Sayda Taylor had one of the great single seasons in Yosemite track history. She broke two records: the 100 meter dash (12.54) and the 200 (25.25). Besides the sprints, Taylor long jumped 17-2 (No. 3 all-time) and high jumped 5-4 (tied for No. 2). She broke the school record in the 200 at the CIF State Meet at Buchanan High.

Taylor has had a temporary setback, pulling a quad muscle in Sanger halfway through the 100 dash on March 3.

“It’s healing pretty fast and I expect to be 100% soon,” Taylor said last week.

Senior Elyse Espe holds top 10 times in the 300 hurdles (47.14 - No. 4), 400 dash (62.78 - No. 9) and also has a best of 32-8 in the triple jump (No. 6).

Espe, with a 3.4 GPA, has received an academic scholarship valued at more than $100,000 over four years to Whittier College, an NCAA D-III school in Southern California. She will major in psychology and be a member of the school’s track and field team. Being part Chukchansi, she will also receive financial assistance from the tribe.

“I was looking at colleges and had not yet found one that fit what I was looking for, when I got a call from Whittier track coach Aaron Lund,” said Espe, who turned 18 last Sunday. “I had never heard of the school, but was super excited to get the call.”

Espe made a two-day trip to the school recently to meet coaches and professors.

“I fell in love with the beautiful school and town,.” Espe said. “It’s great to have the opportunity to attend a school that has a great psychology department ... and being a smaller school students get a lot of attention from the professors.”

During practice last week Espe was proud to point out she was wearing a Yosemite Badgers Track & Field T-shirt and Whittier Poets running shorts.

Junior Peyton Garner owns top 10 times in the 100 (13.02 - No. 6) and 200 (27.14 - No. 6), and Chloe Duke is No. 8 in the 100 hurdles at 17.68 and No. 6 with a long jump of 15-5. Like Taylor, Garner and Duke set their marks as freshman last year.

Athletic senior Riley Ashton is No. 9 in the 800 (2:37) and No. 4 in the pole vault at 8-feet. Junior Allie Ruiz gives YHS depth in the 300 hurdles (51.1 - No. 9). In the jumps, sophomore Linnea Leinau is No. 7 in the triple jump (31-11).

Senior Lauren Peterson has a time of 17.33 in the 100 hurdles (No. 6).

The team of Peterson, Garner, Duke and Taylor just missed the 1983 4x100 relay record of 50.48 with a time of 50.88.

Martinez and Bulawsky return

For the boys who placed third in the NSL last season, a number of solid performers return.

Peter Martinez is now No. 5 all-time in the discus with a throw of 134-10 as a sophomore last season. He is poised to break one of the oldest records at YHS of 150-6 by Charile Remaks in 1984.

Senior Kevin Bulawsky posted two top 10 marks in just his first season in track. Bulawsky ran 16.35 in the 110 high hurdles (No. 7) and threw 122-7 in the discus.

The Yosemite coaching staff includes Vaughn who will handle the sprints, relays, and high jump, Kellie Vaughn (long and triple jump), Ron Cox (hurdles), Sonya Mazaira (distance runners and throws), and first year coaches Shaina Zelazo (throws), and DJ Zelazo (pole vault). DJ replaces long time assistant Ed Chaney who guided the vaulters for many years.

DJ, a Mariposa High alum, was a decathlete and Shaina, originally from Visalia, was a heptathlete at Stanislaus State in Turlock.

Season opener at Sanger Spring Classic

YHS got the year started at the15-team Sanger Spring Classic on March 3 and at the Clovis East Carnival March 10.

“The Spring Classic is a good meet with tough big school competition,” Vaughn said. “Overall, we had some good individual marks. I was happy with the boys shot and discus. Kevin and Peter had a strong opening meet.”

At the Clovis East meet, Garner had a big meet, placing second in the 100 (13.40), third in the 200 (27.36), and fifth in the triple jump (31-03).

The Badgers next meet will be the 30-team Rafer Johnson Invitational in Kingsburg this Saturday.

Sanger Spring Classic Highlights

Against top section competition Riley Ashton ran a personal best 13:27 in the 3200 and took 17th place. Her time is now #9 all-time in YHS history. Elyse Espe took 7th in the 300m hurdles (53.74) and was 13th in the 400 (1:09.3); Chloe Duke was 10th in the 100m hurdles (19.27);

For the boys, Kevin Bulawsky had a good amazing first meet of the season, placing fifth in the 110 high hurdles (17.93), sixth in the shot put with a personal best 43-05, tenth in the discus (119-04), and tenth in the 300 hurdles (48.03). Finally Bulawsky (48.03) and Russell Zelazo (48.06) were 10th and 11th respectively in the 300m hurdles-one of track’s most challenging races.

Trevor Peter took 5th in the high jump at 5-2. Newcomer Noah West, a senior had a strong performance in his first meet. West ran 12.52 in the 100m and 25.29 in the 200m.

In the frosh/soph division Christian Rold high jumped 5-4 for 4th place and ran 12.58 in his first 100 meter race-good for 14th place.

Clovis East Carnival Highlights

Peyton Garner had a great meet, placing second in the 100 (13.40), third in the 200 (27.36), and fifth in the triple jump (31-03). She also ran the second leg on the fourth place 4x100 relay team (Duke, Garner, Abigail Rumohr and Linnea Leinau) that posted a time of 53.25 now No. 3 all-time at YHS.

Ruiz (1.04.98) and Espe (1:07.1) were sixth and ninth respectively in the 400. Ruiz also placed fifth (17.83) in the 100 hurdles. Espe (51.07) and Ruiz (53.48) were sixth and eighth in the 300 hurdles.

For the boys, Bulawsky continued his strong early season start, placing third in the 110 high hurdles (17.35) and sixth in the 300 hurdles (46.37). Teammates Cass Moreno (seventh 110m hurdles 19.07) and Russell Zelazo (seventh 300 hurdles 46.07) had good performances.

Bulawsky had good performances in the weights taking third in the shot with a career best 43-10 put. Bulawsky was 10th in the discus at 117-05. Fellow weight man Martinez took fourth in the discus with a throw of 129-09 and took 10th in the shot at 41-07.