Coach of the year

Darin Sundgren, Shafter

Successful seasons for the Shafter High girls cross country teams are a foregone conclusion.

Even when the Central Section moves the Generals into a tougher division, the success continues.

Shafter, coming off back-to-back section titles in Division III, moved to D-II this season and won again by edging Frontier.

The Generals' coach, Darin Sundgren, has earned The Californian's Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year award in his final season.

Sundgren said when he started coaching at North High in 1995, "we had some injuries and we barely had enough runners to finish the season."

He came to Shafter in 2007 and has had built up the roster size.

"We had about 35 girls," he said. "That makes it competitive and the work ethic of the kids has been outstanding."

The girls' attitude means everything, Sundgren said.

"I can give you good workouts, but it's up to you to do them the right way," he said. "That's the biggest part of coaching: to get them to buy into it. ... You need kids who are good leaders who set a good example, have good work ethic and be good people to other kids on the team.

"If you have that, you'll be successful."

Shafter's success was aided by Nicolette Aldape (third in the D-II race) and Cambria Tudor (11th).

Sundgren has announced he's giving up the Generals' head coaching job.

"I started in 1995 -- that's 18 years," Sundgren said. "I sat out one year, so this is 17 years I've been involved with it. ... I have a son who's 9 who wants to get involved in sports, and I've missed some of his activities. School takes up a lot of my time and I have a lot of (classes) to prepare for.

"It's difficult to find time to do that, coach and be a family person. So I'll step back, but I probably won't get out of it completely. I'll still help out and go to some of the meets."

-- Jeff Evans