With a contingent of more than 30 athletes, the Patterson High cross country team hopes to make 2013 their year with a strong start out of the blocks.
"We have the quantity. Now we need to work on getting the most out of each runner," said Patterson coach Joe Aguilar. "We're going to have to really run well if we plan to contend in the league. We believe we have the pieces to do that."
In his 30th season as Patterson’s cross country coach, Aguilar looks to continue the building process he first began last season.
Entering the fall campaign, the Tigers hope to keep the momentum rolling with a strong set of returners and an exciting group of newcomers.
"There is experience up and down the team. That experience can go a long way in helping to motivate the team to reach for even more success," Aguilar said. "The talent and hard work is there. It's up to the runners as to how far that is going to take them."
The Patterson boys cross country squad used a team-first approach last fall.
Rather than rely on one or two elite runners to carry the team, the Tigers employed a pack mentality that fostered enough depth to earn Aguilar's unit a third-place finish in the WAC championship at River Bluff Regional Park in Ceres.
It’s a similar approach Patterson hopes to take this fall as it prepares to open its season Sept. 14 in the Sierra Invitational at Legion Park in Modesto.
"Barring injuries and with consistent improvement, I don’t know that a top finish in the WAC can’t happen," Aguilar said.
Some prep athletes might not think running five to nine miles in the late summer to early fall is the best way to spend three months of the year.
Yet the blistering summer temperatures and grueling distances haven’t stopped Patterson High School cross country runner Nathan Stanton from entering his fourth and final season.
"We're working hard and coming to practice each day, and giving it our all," Stanton said. "Many of us ran in the summer and got the miles on our legs, so that when it came to practice, we were ready."
Stanton, who placed 14th out of 228 runners on the three-mile varsity boys course in the Sac-Joaquin Subsection meet Nov. 3 at Frogtown at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds in Angels Camp, joins junior teammate Antonio Venegas in highlighting a fiercely competitive boys team that finished third last year in the WAC behind frontrunner Livingston High.
"We're starting to do more team involved activities. We run as a team and try to achieve our goals together," Venegas said.
Patterson will also be led by junior Dylan Halland, who along with Venegas, qualified to race in the junior varsity competition at last year's SJS championship meet. Junior Jose Jaramillo also is back from last year’s top seven scoring runners, while newcomers include sophomores Steven Halseth, Sean Hicks and Ethan Schut.
"Right now, we're trying to get some miles on our feet," Venegas said. "We're working on our speed to decrease our times, so that we can reach our goals."
The Tiger girls will feature, what Aguilar considers, a decent amount of experience from last year, including junior Lupe Ventura, who led Patterson’s JV girls contingent with a seventh-place finish on the two-mile course in the SJS subsection meet.
Patterson’s girls team finished fourth behind league champion Los Banos High last year and aims to pick up where its predecessors left off.
"The goal is to place higher and try harder this year," Ventura said. "We want better times, and we're really pushing ourselves to work together."
The Tiger girls will also be led by juniors Jenevy Esqueda and Stephanie Esqueda. Aguilar said junior newcomer Brenda Vargas may also help bolster the girls team.
"We're constantly pushing each other to work harder so that we can get the most from our team," Ventura said. Winning a WAC title won’t be easy, Aguilar concedes, but it’s a goal worthy of consideration.
"We need to carry the hard work that we've put in so far, all the way through the season," Aguilar said. "We need to show a lot of heart, and that we want (to win). Right now, we're positive and we believe we can contend for a championship."
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or email@example.com.