ATWATER, CA – Wildcats Track & Field has done it again. For the third time in three years, the Waterford High School Track & Field program is bringing a Championship back to that little (and proud) farm town on the eastern side of Stanislaus County.
Waterford has won the Southern League Boys Track Title for the second year in a row. They defended their Championship from a reliable and surging Orestimba Warriors team that exchanged the lead with the Wildcats down to the last event of the night, the 4x400m relay race. While the Wildcats did not win that race, they did beat out their competition from Orestimba, securing a thin razor edge victory of just 19 points. In Track terms, it may as well of been a one-run victory in baseball, a field goal victory in football, or a two-point victory in basketball. Two years ago, it was the Girls Track & Field team that brought home a title for Waterford — ending a multi-year title drought in all sports for the Wildcats. The Girls team is young and remains full of promise heading into the future.
Asked what the secret is to his program’s success has been Head Coach Arend Jones replied, “We celebrate individual improvement and strive for consistency from our coaching staff.” He added that local support had been key to growing the program to record-breaking levels of participation. “We have around 70 athletes, about ten more than we had last year,” added Jones.
The level of participation has been a three-year turnaround from just around 20 Track & Field athletes when Coach Jones took over at Waterford. Waterford Track & Field had a more impressive season amongst its talent this year than it did last year. “It’s a very talented group of athletes,” said Josh Whitfield – Waterford’s Athletic Director. “I think our Track & Field program will continue to be strong for the near future.” Strong might be an understatement. Dynasty may be the word of the day. Eight school records fell this season, and the Wildcats Junior Varsity Boys Team ranked in the first place by a wide margin at the end of competition at the Southern League Championships. New Waterford High School Principal Peggy Herndon had high praise for the Track & Field coaches and athletes. “I see our track team out there every day working hard,” said Principal Herndon. “I attribute a lot of the success to the positive attitude of Coach Jones and his staff. They can be seen as encouraging and praising the abilities and talent of each individual athlete every single day. I am so proud of them all.”
The Varsity Boys Championship team this year was anchored by a near-perfect performance from Senior Runner Kwa’Lie McWashington. He won three out of his four races Friday night. (200m sprint, 400m sprint, 300m hurdles) He took a photo finish second place for the only race he dropped, a race he had never run before getting the assignment last Friday night. (100m sprint) For his stellar night, he almost certainly will be crowned the Southern League Boys Track & Field MVP.
Other Waterford Track athletes up for potential All-League honors will be Girls runners Jaecelyn Romero (who placed 1st in the 3200m) and Shauna Huggins. Girls thrower Rachael Price and Girls Jumper Ashleigh Van Mater. (Who broke the school record in High Jump). Boys runners Jonathan Staley, (who placed 1st in 1600m & 3200m races) Zach Velazquez, and Boys pole vaulter Jacob Graham.
Both the Varsity Boys and Girls Track Teams have qualified to the Section Championships this year for their performances in Friday night’s Southern League Championships. McWashington, Staley, and Velazquez will be Boys Athletes to watch as they attempt to chase individual titles in their respective events. On the Girls Side Romero, Price and Huggins are all capable of bringing home hardware from the Section Championships as well.
One thing the Wildcats will have to endure after this year will be the large graduating class of Track & Field seniors. One thing Waterford has done well over the last few years is encouraging its Freshmen class to try out for all its sports teams. According to Waterford, it has around one-third of its student-body participating in sports this year. In comparison to similarly sized schools, it’s a rate of participation that is nothing short of phenomenal. Adding to that point Coach Jones said, “Nearly a quarter of our team was composed of seniors this year. We were pleasantly surprised by how many talented freshmen joined the program this year. We are optimistic that we will continue to have success.”
The one sure thing is that Waterford High School Track & Field remains on the top of the mountain in the Southern League. Three straight years of league titles are enough to prove that claim. Next year the Wildcats will have to again contend with a resurgent Orestimba Track Program. That Orestimba program had proven strong enough to challenge Waterford for dominance of the top of the Track & Field mountain next year. Can the Wildcats make it four titles in a row? Can they sweep a year with both a Boys and Girls title? Only hard work in the off-season and time itself will tell us.