The Wasco High School varsity girls cross country team has had an impressive season, most recently qualifying for the third straight year for the California State Championships.
Omar Garcia is the head coach. "This set of girls have been working hard since their freshman year, with many of them staying active during the COVID years."
"We competed during their first year, but it wasn't a whole season. Once we were allowed to compete fully, we had an opportunity to showcase their talent."
They won the South Sequoia League three years in a row in that timeframe. They also won the Central Section Championship (formerly known as Valley) as runner-up three years in a row, only losing to higher division schools.
"It's a tough endeavor. It's a long season from June to November, and you have to maintain your spirit. You need a lot of luck to avoid major injuries once you get to state. Not just anybody can get out of bed and do what they do. They must know in their mind they have to put in a set amount of miles just for the opportunity to run a successful 5k when it matters."
The program has stayed successful due to the effort and the sacrifice put in by the past and current runners.
"This group has been led by Nieves Alvarez, Priscilla Raya and Giselle Acevedo. They have been great leaders with exceptional talents, getting these girls to demonstrate their gifts and stay committed to being competitive when given the opportunity."
He said that the one thing the team tries to embody is to live by the motto adopted since 2015, which is 'run as one, work as a team, and finish as a family.'
"And our family has grown. This year, we have 18 girls; 10 are on varsity."
Raya credits the success of the team to Garcia's leadership.
"He's a great coach. We developed a strong bond over these past four years. It was good having him coach us. He knows how to push us the right way, and he knows how to make sure we do well throughout the season."
She said of her participation at the state competition, "It was bittersweet knowing it was my last race as a senior, but it was a lot of fun and very interesting. The adrenaline gets to you, and it's an inspiring moment."
About the sport, she said, "It's not easy being able to run six miles every day with the cold and the heat, but being able to do that with an excellent group of girls is very special, and I will have those memories for a lifetime."
Acevedo shared that she enjoyed going to state. "All of the girls gave it their all. I felt like we deserved to be there and put in the work to achieve that goal. Coach Garcia pushed us. We grew together beyond the limits we had placed on us."
She said the best part was "Meeting people, building bonds with the girls and stepping out of my comfort zone."
Alvarez added that she felt proud about their performance at state. "We did really well and put into play what we'd practiced these last six months."
She, too, was grateful for coach Garcia and the other coaches (Rafael Gonzalez and Leobardo Sanchez). "They taught us so much, from life lessons to how to care for ourselves and just know what's best for us."
Garcia said that he wants to grow his small family in the future "and help these young ladies become mentors and better the community around us."