LADY CATS TRACK PROGRAM WINS SOUTHERN LEAGUE TITLE
ATWATER, CA – The Championship drought at Waterford High School is now officially over. That was the message left on my voicemail Friday night by Waterford's Athletic Director Josh Whitfield. The last title to grace the walls of Waterford High's gym was softball almost three years ago. Despite Wildcat's Athletics turning in the most successful season in school history, when considering Wins and Losses, a championship remained absent from the storyline this year. Volleyball, Football, Cross Country, Wrestling, Boys & Girls Basketball, Boys & Girls Soccer, Softball (Currently in the SJS Playoffs), Tennis & Track and Field all posted .500 or better records this school year. JV Girls Basketball & Soccer would post undefeated seasons in league play. But, it would be Girls Track & Field that shattered the glass ceiling to grasp the golden ring of a championship.
The Lady Cats Track team entered the stadium in Atwater California trailing their league rival, Denair High School, in overall points. Confidence was none-the-less high for a Wildcat Girls Team who knew they had the talent to compete against anyone at any time. Each League Meet the entire Track & Field program for Waterford improved. They had what every playoff team desires at the right moment, "The Big Mo." They had all the momentum on their side and by late Friday Night, the small town tucked away in the far eastern reaches of Stanislaus County began to learn, The Big Mo – and all their Track Athletes hard work had paid off in a big way.
"I happened to be talking to some of our tennis parents out in town, talking about the next season and how we can continue to improve, when I literally said not five minutes before I got the text from Coach Jones (about winning the title) that the only thing left to do now is ending the (championship) drought," said Waterford Athletic Director Josh Whitfield. "It was really a surreal moment like it was meant to be, and the tennis parents and I, well we less than quietly celebrated in the public place we were at. It's very exciting for our town and school."
Waterford Principal Ignacio Ramirez brought "The Committed" program to Waterford High School. It's derived from "In the Life of an Athlete" a national program sometimes called "Athlete Committed" created by John Underwood of the Human Performance Project. This program has sought to change the culture at Waterford by bringing strict standards against substance abuse, encouraging a healthy lifestyle and providing non-stop fitness opportunities to the students. Variations of the program have since been implemented at Hughson and Patterson High Schools.
Change is always difficult to implement. But clearly, Waterford High School has seen direct or indirect benefits from this "Culture Change." Sports participation has almost doubled in two seasons, winning has increased and Student-Athlete losses to academic or discipline shortcomings have plummeted over that same time-span.
"The recipe for success, well it's not rocket science. It's like they say, if you build it they will come. Tradition takes consistency, effort and time. The kids who give the effort in practices & workouts are seeing improvement. Coaches have to remain dedicated to giving their time here, it's demanding to run a successful sports program. Finally, it's up to our Athletics staff and school to provide the consistency. We have work to do, we aren't without mistakes or flaws, but each year we improve here as a whole," said Whitfield.
"Yes the Committed program has had an impact. Commitment, dedication, and perseverance are key traits for any athlete," added Track Head Coach Arend Jones. "Two-years ago when I was an assistant coach the program barely had 20 athletes. Now we are hovering around 40."
WATERFORD GIRLS COMEBACK TO WIN TRACK TITLE 147-143 OVER DENAIR
To say it was a nail-biter is an understatement. In track & field terms this was a buzzer beater, a last second touchdown or a walk-off championship home run. The Waterford ladies were near perfect when they had to be and in the events that mattered the most.
Freshmen Jaecelyn Romero led the Lady Cats with individual titles in the 1600m, 800m and as a member of the 4x400m relay team, which also won a title. All said Romero brought home over 30 crucial points. The team's captain Emily Ward anchored the 4x100m relay team (also champions) and ran the first leg of the 4x400m relay race. She also won the 200m individual race bringing in 23 points. Her cousin, Allison Ward, took 2nd in Triple Jump and was the second leg on that 4x400m relay team contributing over 16 points. Rachel Price took home the Discus Championship and ran with the 4x100m relay team for over 14 points. Elizabeth Wixom ran the first leg of the 4x100m relay and placed in the 100m, 200m and High Jump, good for over 20 points. Also contributing for the Lady Cats was Lizbeth Lopez with over 13 points (4x400 relay team, 2nd Pole Vault), Lexi Lovitt 4.5 points, Madison Romero 2.5 points, Timea Friesen 1 point, Adela Alcazar 1 point and Megan Boucher 1 point. Each member of the team had to contribute to get the Lady Cats over the line and contribute they did. A team championship they can be proud of and history in the annuals of their high school they can never be taken out of.
I asked coach Jones what changes to the Track program have contributed to this years success? He replied, "Preliminary tests at the beginning of the season to gauge where students are at, (so we can) place them in their strengths and work on weak areas, routine (specific warm-up exercises, weekly workouts, and event techniques), and video analysis."
BOYS TRACK RUNNERS-UP BEHIND DELHI 166-116
Waterford Boys Track should not be overlooked in the years to come. They came awfully close to their own title as well. Despite an excellent day in Atwater, the gap between Delhi and Waterford was perhaps never seriously in reach, but the Wildcats Track Boys sent a clear message to their league opponents, "We are young, strong, fast and we are coming next year for the gold."
Kwalie McWashington led the boys with individual titles at 200m, 400m and he anchored the 4x400m team which took second place. David Miller would take home the Discus title securing that sweep for both boys and girls for the cats. Cody Ellis took home the Shot Put title as well.
More contributors on the day for Boys Track were: Gerardo Gonzalez, Daniel Rosas, Jonah Price, Jonathan Staley, Brandon Bonefacio, Dale Stafford, Jonathan Nusom, Edward Echeverria, Jared Alvarez and Ethan Valdez.
The Wildcats also fielded a J.V. Men's team which placed 5th overall and Fernando Alcazar taking home 1st in JV Pole Vault.
A TIME TO CELEBRATE
Waterford is now in the process of winding down the school year, but they are planning to honor their track program in the near future. Waterford's Principal Ignacio Ramirez was full of praise for the Track Team saying, "Our track coaches and athletes have been working so hard all season. It's great for them, our school, and the Waterford community to see the fruits of their labor. I'm very proud of them!"
In response to his programs achievements in Atwater Friday night, Coach Jones said, " I am a young coach, so I am truly humbled by the events of this season! The accomplishments achieved by the team were not done by me, but by the athletes. I merely guide the team to the best of my ability. I want to thank my assistant coaches; George Bardis who has taught me so much about the different elements of coaching, Denise Moran who has such a strong passion for coaching the throwing events, and to Barry Wixom whose help is invaluable when I cannot be in two or more places at once."
The only thing left to do now for the Wildcats is to hang a brand new championship banner.
"It's a very easy chore for us to do," said Whitfield. "We are looking forward to it and much more to come."
This article was corrected at 7:04 PM on 5/14/17 to show the stats of Elizabeth Wixom.