The return of a cross country team to Cardozo Middle School was conceived by new running coach Danielle Jensen, offering students another opportunity to participate in an extracurricular activity. The last time Cardozo had a cross country team was approximately five years ago.
“I have been running myself for the last couple years,” stated Jensen. “There is just this need for more things for students to do and I wanted to support the high school program because it is a great program.”
Cardozo ideally will serve as a ‘feeder’ program to the high school, introducing students to the sport at the middle school level.
The conversation began about creating a cross country team at Cardozo after a group of students joined a running club during the summer. Jensen did not want them to have to stop running so she decided to be a coach for the first time and offer the cross country team to the middle schoolers, with more than 20 students consistently running races. The runners often compete against themselves, trying to better than own times, during the races that are couple miles long and are considered more like a fun run, according to Jensen. They run a race once a week during the season and practice about four days a week.
Runners included eighth graders Josie Sosa, Juliana Tolbert, Fernanda Lopez, Jesus Sepulveda, Isaiah Bargas and Jose Nuno. Seventh grade students participating were Amy Rosales, Anthony Leon, Brizzey Martinez; Diego Soto.
The youngest runners were sixth graders Dayanara Ruvalcaba, Serenity Camacho, Ariel Chavez, Kiera Fagundes, Maura Jimenez, Bella Marquez; Anthony Bento, Diego Felix, Jorge Ramirez, Ryan Richardson, Zeke Vela, Elias Nieblas and Daniel Centeno.
The cross country season is shorter for junior/middle high school teams than high school, which began at the end of August. The season ended with a championship race a few weeks ago at Jacob Myers Park. Several middle schools in Stanislaus County participated in the championship race including Cardozo, Salida, Ustach, Somerset, and Oakdale.
“For a couple of the kids though the idea of actually finishing the race is huge,” stated Jensen. “We had maybe a little over a month for practice and then four races with the last one being a championship so we kind of just jumped right into the season, which we are hoping to build for next year to start earlier.”
The top seven runners from each school’s team competed during the championship in a two mile race. At the end of the race there were team medals presented and individual medals given to the runners. Cardozo’s cross country team runners, Anthony Leon, Amy Rosales, Dayanara Ruvalcaba received medals for being among the top runners in the individual championship run.
“Then we had a young man, Jesus Sepulveda run on Saturday at the Run for Cheese and he took first in his age group,” added Jensen. “It was only a mile run but it was like a 6:18 mile, which is a fantastic mile time.
“I had my kids that, though that is not their passion they were out and dedicated.”
As a first time running coach, Jensen is looking forward to next year and is very proud of the improvements shown by team members that she was able to witness firsthand.
“I had a lot of support from Coach (Monte) Wood at the high school and his high school team,” expressed Jensen. “They would come here once a week and run with my kids. I have a volunteer coach and she was a huge support.”
Jensen added that for her first time as a running coach, leading the Eagles cross country team was a good experience.
“The kids are great,” she said.