Clovis-Buchanan women’s track and field team has been a juggernaut in the Central Section, winning four consecutive section team titles and six of the past seven.
The only local program that has come close to the Bears during that stretch was Liberty last season, as the Patriots finished second overall at the Masters championships.
And Liberty did it with a threesome of freshmen that burst onto the scene to help gain points and put the Patriots on the map.
Faith Bender became the top girls competitor in the shot put and discus in the United States in her class and finished fifth at the CIF State Track and Field Championships in the discus last season.
Reese Renz won the section 300 hurdles title and also advanced to state in the 100 hurdles and the long jump.
Rebecca Vanderpoel finished second in the section finals in the 200-meter and 400 finals and was a state qualifier.
All as freshmen.
No longer are they the fun story of young kids having fun, these three, along with Bella Rigby in the discus have Liberty inching closer to Buchanan and an outside shot at a state title next weekend.
Heading into Saturday’s section championships at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium in Clovis that begins with field events at 4 p.m. and running events at 5, the Patriots are on a quest the likes Kern County hasn’t seen in a decade.
“The most exciting part is these are some of the most harding working kids we have,” Liberty coach Ryan Renz said. “They are in the weight room all of the time and busting their tails. They are doing everything right to get better. The next exciting thing is the fact that they are sophomores.”
Reese Renz has come on strong this season. She ran a personal-best time of 42.40 in the 300 hurdles, which is No. 2 in the state this season for those still eligible for postseason. She also is ranked in the top-10 in the state in the 100 hurdles and is the favorite to win both hurdles titles on Saturday. In addition, she has a chance to add another individual title in the long jump.
“Last year going into state I got a chance to see how cool it was and how awesome it is to be a part of a team like this,” Reese Renz said. “Now this year, we definitely do have a target on our backs, but we have the expectations of ourselves. That’s cool for this team to all be such great friends.”
Vanderpoel won the South Area title on May 8 in the 200 and the 400 and is a favorite in both events Saturday. Along with Renz, junior Ellen Palmgren and senior Alexa Schacher are part of the 1,600 relay team that has a chance at another title for the Patriots.
“It’s really exciting because even the next (two) years are only going to get better,” Vanderpoel said. “We could win Valley and win state.”
Winning a state title is something that hasn’t been spoken of locally since the Frontier boys shared the team state title in 2009 and Stockdale was the last girls team to win a section title in 2007.
Renz and Vanderpoel are both capable of winning multiple running events. Bender is the top sophomore nationally in the discus (164-2) and is also the No. 2 sophomore nationally in the shot put (46-8).
That adds up at the section level, but even more importantly, puts the Patriots in contention for a state title. Add in Rigby, who is ranked No. 8 in the state in the discus (148-0) and No. 2 in the state for sophomores behind Bender, there is promise for the future, but the present is quite bright, too.
“It’s really exciting knowing how far up we are as sophomores and then seeing what we can do as seniors,” Bender said.
•Bakersfield High freshman Mia Bolton continues to electrify the sprinting community. Bolton is a favorite to win the 100 title on Saturday and her wind-legal time of 11.97 seconds at South Area is the top time for a freshman in California.
•Speaking of sprinters, Liberty senior Ramon Henderson put his name in the hat as one of the top sprinters in the state with a wind-legal 10.59 at South Area. That’s the fourth-fastest wind-legal time in California.
•With a strong possibility of rain in the forecast in Clovis on Saturday night, Liberty throws coaches Rod Chronister and Paul Bender hosed down the shot put ring for practice this week to better suit the like of Bender, Rigby and boys national leader Daniel Viveros.
Viveros, who is battling a cold this week, was still hitting marks more than 65 feet. His PR at South Area of 71-3 is the top mark in the U.S. and just the second mark more than 70 feet in Central Section history.