Wildcats run to new levels at State Cross Country Championships

Boys 15th, girls 16th
By: Amanda Calzada/Placer Herald Correspondent
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FRESNO _ Crossing the finish line in 16 minutes flat, Whitney High’s Jacob Zufelt placed 29th in the CIF State Cross Country Championships for Division II boys to help the Wildcats earn 15th place as a team last month.

“We knew they would be fast starts and we would have to go with that and get into a position to compete in the top half,” said Whitney head coach Mark Snow, who said most of his runners performed well given the hectic pace of the meet.

Zufelt, who attained a personal best time, said he felt strong throughout his entire race.

Junior Nathan Wellington, who came in at 16:19 for 56th place, also said most racers started out really fast on the very flat course with only one hill.

Seniors Ryan Hodgens (102nd) and Taylor Bradshaw (116th)  clocked 16:43 and 17:03, respectively.

Freshman Isaiah Hanna ran at 17:13 (144th) while sophomore Eric Leverenz finished at 17:40 (167th). Junior Nicholas Pulido finished at 19:47 (184th).

Hanna finished as the sixth fastest freshman in the Division II race.

The squad finished 16 points ahead of Westview High of San Diego, 17 ahead of St. Francis of Mountain View, and 57 points ahead of Jesuit High School.

The varsity girls squad came in 16th for the Division II lineup. They beat Maria Carrillo High by 21 points, Los Altos by 72 points and Shafter High by 101.

Senior Megan Hall set the pace for the girls, as she crossed 55th in the race at 19:14. She was six seconds ahead of junior Jenica Dodge who placed 64th.

Hall, who qualified for the State Meet as a sophomore two years ago, said her performance improved greatly.

“This time going into it, I wanted to go all out,” she said.

Dodge said she stayed positive throughout the race, despite the course not being her favorite.

Five underclassmen, four of which are freshmen, rounded out the scoring for the lady Wildcats. Jordan Sienkiewicz finished in the top 100 at 19:51 (94th). Nicole Wellington crossed in 20:49 (142nd) while Ozora Cheek finished three spots behind Sienkiewicz at 20:54.

Hattie Groat turned in a time of 22:11 while sophomore Haley Ellis trailed two spots behind  at 22:30.

Nicole Wellington said she was very happy to compete and applauds the entire team for their races.              

Snow was especially proud of the seniors for leading their team to Whitney’s first showing at the State Meet in the program’s eighth year.

The coach predicted both the boys and girls varsity squads would defend their Capital Athletic League titles next year and qualify at section to earn another shot at state as a team.

Snow had high praise for Nathan Wellington and felt he would be one of the top runners in Division II for the entire Sac-Joaquin Section.  He said Sienkiewicz had an awesome performance as a young runner and would hold her spot as one of the fastest girls in sections given her ambition.

Snow said Dodge, as a senior leader next season, would also be one of the fastest runners in sections. A strong group of sophomores and freshmen will help fill out the varsity roster and the underclassmen should all return with ambition to make state again.

“I know that these are things that will happen because our kids are willing and want to do the work,” said Snow.