Gary Girard

Gary Girard.

Changes in league realignment are to take effect in the fall, but maybe for the future, Delano High School and the Central Section of the California Interscholastic Federation need to take a long look at Delano High’s placement.

“Zero” period has apparently become standard at all high schools as a way for schools to have their athletes in early morning practices to prepare for the athletic season. At Delano High, the stress has been in football where DHS for many years suffered behind its practice and league competitors, not having the size and strength of the opposing schools and having to install the “zero” period to try to keep up with other schools.

Delano High is the oldest school in the Delano Joint Union High School District and the one facing the biggest challenge in athletics since Cesar Chavez High opened in the early 2000s and Robert F. Kennedy about four years later.

Delano has long competed in athletics in the East Yosemite League. After Chavez and Kennedy had brief stays in the EYL, they moved into the South Sequoia League, basically a bit less competitive in most sports.

The Delano High program was even struggling in the '80s ad '90s before the opening of the two other high schools in Delano. In 2011 the Delano High varsity football team — during the school’s centennial year — achieved the first league football title for the Tigers since 2003. Prior to that, their only football success at the varsity level was a co-title in 1998 and then in 1977, co-titles in 1974 and back-to-back championships in 1972 and 1973.

About 1960, the then head football coach at Tulare High School addressed a gathering in Pixley where he urged residents to move their youngsters from the Delano to Tulare district. He told the gathering that it would be better for the students, that Delano High was too crowded, and said the Tulare district would probably eventually build Pixley its own high school. With the loss of Pixley students, Delano lost a large number of athletes. In the early 1950s when Delano won a league football title, about 40 percent of the varsity players were from Pixley.

Around 1968, during the summer, a player from the Earlimart-Pixley area, Frank Allen, went to the Delano High School Board of Trustees and asked that it change a rule that did not allow married students to compete in sports. The board turned him down and Allen competed in sports his senior year at Tulare. He was followed by many athletic brothers (one was a section long jump champion) and others in the Teviston area. By the way, Allen’s grandson, Kazmeir, was at Tulare Union the past fall as the nation’s high school touchdown leader. For many years, the Teviston area and area between Earlimart and Pixley had been a hotbed of excellent athletes for the Delano district.

With the opening of two new high schools in Delano, about 40 percent of the Delano High population has come from Earlimart. The athletes from Earlimart compose nearly half of those involved in sports at Delano High School.

Those who play football are enrolled in zero period class that requires them to depart by bus from Earlimart about 6 a.m. and then in the evening to catch the bus home from Delano High on what is called the 6 p.m. bus, but is actually closer to 6:30 p.m., meaning that those athletes from Earlimart are away from home about 13 hours each school day — all the months of school. Maybe a Monday-through-Wednesday schedule might be less taxing on these athletes and they could receive half the credits.

Some parents probably do not even allow their youngsters to enroll in zero period or compete in sports because of the length of time they are away from home. And most parents work in the fields and go to bed early and rise early for work. Sometimes high schoolers are the family’s babysitters or because they can speak English, must accompany parents or siblings to doctor appointments or otherwise miss school.

Many athletes enrolled in zero period are taken to the school cafeteria for a semblance of breakfast in the morning, but most who show up in class are tired, sleepy, and cannot focus. Whereas many students in the past participated in two or three sports, those who play football or one sport are so exhausted from the long school day that they elect to play only one sport or maybe two.

Delano’s last varsity championship was in boys’ tennis a couple of years back. There has been some success in lower levels, but not at the varsity level where Delano for at least 20 years has been at the bottom of the totem pole when the East Yosemite League lists its rankings of the six schools at the end of the school year.

Since the opening of the other two high schools, Delano High historically had more students than the other two high schools, but this school year there has been a flip-flop. Numbers in late February listed Cesar Chavez at 1,488 students, Delano High at 1,388 and Robert F. Kennedy at 1,199.

Apparently the community’s growth has not met expectations. In about 2009 when Kennedy opened, the district estimates were that each of the three high schools would have about 1,425 students. Wonderful Prep Academy charter school has gathered many of the district’s students with the lure of innovative programs and promised scholarships upon graduation.

Delano High is surrounded in the community chiefly by older homes and thus older residents, which has translated into fewer high school age youngsters within DHS boundaries.

Occasionally Delano teams have a few members who are involved in travel teams, but only occasionally is this the case, by far not as many as those who lived in more affluent communities.

The Central Section of the CIF has suggested in recent years movement of Delano to other leagues, but always in the Yosemite League schools structure, not at a lower level. The South Sequoia League might be a fit, but other schools in the SSL probably would not like to have another trip to Delano and three of the league’s schools all from one community.

Other communities represented in the SSL currently are Wasco, Shafter, Arvin and Taft, all of which have only one high school. Next year, McFarland is to join in all sports and Wonderful Prep in some sports.

Chavez and Kennedy have been able to hold their own in the SSL, and Delano might be able to do the same, but Delano has not been able to contend for championships or even winning records in most varsity sports in the EYL.

I don’t even believe officials of Delano High School or the district are even interested in placing Delano High in another league, but it appears that nothing ahead will enable the school to compete at a high level in varsity sports with the current competition in and out of league play.

Gary Girard is a longtime resident of Delano. He can be reached at 661-725-8803.

(1) comment

GaryJohns

Sounds like another case for Dolores Huerta and her "foundation".... Someone needs to redraw those boundary lines....

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