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Cu-Nisha Mitchell starts the first leg of the four by 100 meter relay. Sanger came in second to Edison but won the next relay in girls competition. Coach Clay Manning says his young team still has a lot of work to do.

CMAC meet brings Panthers, Tigers and Knights to Dodson Field

The girls varsity 100 meters came down to a race between two ninth-graders — Bullard’s Iyanna Fuller and Sanger’s Daylah Gonzalez.

The pair finished first and second, Fuller with 13.40 seconds and Gonzalez with 13.63 at the Sanger County Metro Athletic Conference home track meet March 6 at Dodson Field. Athletes from Bullard, Edison and San Joaquin Memorial high schools joined the Apaches.

After the meet and still a little out of breath, Gonzalez said her goal was straightforward. “Just to PR,” she said, referring to attaining a personal record. Her time this race came with an asterisk because of winds.

Soccer standout Monica Villacana took third with 13.72, and three other first-year high-schoolers also placed high in the mix with Edison’s Simone Alford in seventh and Sanger’s Makayla DuPont in eighth and Mikaylah Amezcua in ninth.

Sanger head track coach Clay Manning acknowledged as much. “We’re still very young,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

The new generation Apaches filled in the ranks of this year’s team, providing new talent and top contenders to replace those lost to graduation. But as Manning alluded, these Apaches can and are expected to improve. And, especially in the case of Gonzalez and fellow freshman Nia Lamas who broke the school record in the 1,600 recently, there will be a number of these young athletes to watch.

Gonzalez said she’s been met with friendship and camaraderie. “I like the team,” she said. “They’re really supportive. They make us feel confident. Everyone on the team.”

Sienna Bianchi, a freshman who participated in cross country this year, said her fall training helped get her in shape. “My body recovers quicker,” she said of all the distance work. She placed third in the 100 meter hurdles behind two Edison competitors and second in the 300 hurdles. Fellow class member Gianna McClain finished close behind in both races.

In the boys 1,600 meter competition, Juan Zamora, a junior, finished first amongst the Apaches with a 4:52.46 minute time and fifth place. But Zamora said he and his fellow distance runners treated the race as more of a workout.

On March 8 at the Clovis East Carnival meet, Zamora placed sixth in the 3,200 meter race with a 10:17.63 minutes. Buchanan junior Kelly Brewer won the race with 9:44.44 followed by teammate and senior Dustyn McKenney in second at 9:48.28.

Sanger’s seniors also scored well at the CMAC. Football safety Isaiah Gaucin forced a duel with Edison’s Fernando Alvarez in the 400 meter for the top two spots, with Alvarez nabbing the top with 54.93 seconds and Gaucin right behind with 55.51 seconds. Behind a block of Tiger runners came Apache freshmen Jaden Terrones in seventh and Emmanuel Salas in eighth.

Villacana said she’s a soccer player first but admitted to looking forward to the track season. “I’m soccer fast, not track fast,” she said.

Fellow senior Cu-Nisha Mitchell responded to Villacana’s claim. “She’s track fast,” Mitchell said.

Seniors are expected to play an important role as the season unfolds, befriending and encouraging younger athletes. And Villacana did just that cheering on the 1,600 girls runners.

“People look up to you and ask you questions,” said Mitchell, who played four years of varsity basketball. Her four by 100 meter relay team pulled a second place by a little more than a 10th of a second behind Edison. Gonzalez had the third leg on the Apache team. Senior Lynley Montano and junior Jennifer Villalobos had the other two legs.

Mitchell’s four by 400 meter relay team beat Edison for first with 4:17.12 minutes. The roster was the same except for junior Annie Ramirez on the closing leg.

Villalobos said she’s excited for the season “because we have a lot of freshies, and they’re really fast.”

Mitchell said the talent level of the team in her perspective is very good. “It’s a big contributor to our team,” she said. “I know we’ll do big things. We have the speed. We have the motivation. We have the focus. We just have to put it together on meet days and execute.”

Junior Noel Collazo, Sanger’s quarterback, took up high jump. “I’m doing track to stay in shape,” he said. “I don’t have good form, but I’m going to try.” The 6-foot-4 Collazo didn’t do badly, finishing third with 5 feet 8 inches behind Jaden McDonald of Bullard and Fernando Alvarez of Edison.

Sophmore Jose Lunar ran the 100 and 200 meter races “mostly training for football.” He played wide receiver on the junior varsity team last year and is “working on getting faster,” he said. He finished midway through the pack on both.

Other football players also made an impact. David Ayala didn’t have a pack of defenders chasing him on the gridiron as a running back for the Apaches. The senior finished sixth in the 100 meters with 12.43 seconds almost neck and neck with fellow senior Ben Rust with 12.47. Winning the 100 with 11.69 seconds was sophomore Apache Jose Porras. He also won the 200 with 23.90 seconds, followed by football player and senior Damian Duarte in second with 24.23.

Ayala said he always gives 100 percent. On the football field he epitomized the Apache ethic of giving it his all week after week, scoring touchdowns against bigger teams using determination and grit to gain yardage.

“The wind was bad though,” Ayala said. He said the team is “actually well rounded this year. We’re doing really well as a team and putting in a lot of work.”

Also from the football team but throwing shot put were seniors Jake Boust and Isaac Salas. Boust threw 39 feet for third place and Salas 37 for fourth. Sophomore Matt Garza threw 36 feet 9 inches for fifth.

Kaley Cardenas ran the 400 meter race along with fellow sophomore Alondra Huerta and a number of others. Cardenas, who finished fifth in the 400, said her goal for the year in her signature race, the 800 meters, is clocking a 2:20 minutes. Her personal best is 2 seconds slower.

Huerta said she’s had “this crazy improvement” in her race times. She finished seventh in the 400. “I’m looking forward to what I’m going to accomplish.” She said she’s focusing on mid distance and having “good PRs.” She and Cardenas belong to a very strong girls cross country team, and their teammates are all doing much the same thing. 

Jahari Garcia, third in the 800 behind freshman Diana Garcia in first and fellow sophomore Jennifer Recinos in second said, “I’ve got to train harder.”

Expect big things from the group.

Rust, who is senior president this year, and his four by 100 relay team beat Edison’s for first. On that team were freshmen Chidera Agina and Angel Campa with sophomore Luis Lopez.

“I’m very tired and a lot sore,” Rust said after the race. He said he’s pushing hard this final season. “I want to make Valley,” he said. He called his teammates “very energetic, especially the freshmen.”

The reporter can be contacted by email at nemethfeatures@gmail.com or by phone at the Herald at (559) 875-2511.

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