With the first day of classes just a few short weeks away, it’s definitely starting to heat up at high schools around the area. And that isn’t just due to scorching triple-digit temperatures.

For Ridgeview cross country coach Ryan Lucker things started warming up around 6:30 a.m. Monday morning when he guided his team through workouts on and around the Stine Road campus as part of the Central Section’s official first day of practice for fall sports teams.

“We lost three seniors from last year, so right now it’s a matter of getting our younger and older team members together,” said Ryan Lucker, the Wolf Pack’s girls cross country coach, who teamed with boys coach Greg Dabbs to lead the boys team to the State Division III championship last year. “We’re working on building a base, alternating between intervals, easy mileage and hill training.”

It’s all preparation for Ridgeview’s season opener Aug. 21 at Fresno’s Woodward Park — where the Wolf Pack won the state title eight months ago — for the preseason Highlander Invitational.

About five miles north on New Stine, Derrick Dunham and his staff celebrated his 22nd year at West High, his fourth as head football coach, with a two and a half hour practice at 7:30 a.m.

“We kind of figure that if we don’t get it done in 2 ½ hours, we don’t know what the hell we’re talking about,” said Dunham, who led the Vikings to the Division III quarterfinals last year. “I’ve been doing it for so long, and I have a bunch of guys with experience, so we just try to get it all done at one time.

“We really focus on the agility sessions. And then we review. Get their minds right, get them focused. And then we start reviewing things that we introduced this summer and had some success with. Then we go back to it, revisit vocabulary and work on our footwork, just getting accustomed to what we were doing before our break.”

Third-year Mira Monte volleyball coach Jenae Long had a similar approach when she worked out her squad from 8:30 a.m. until noon.

“Right now were doing conditioning,” said Long, the BVarsity volleyball coach of the year last year after guiding the Lions to the SEYL title and the second round of the state Division IV playoffs. “We’re doing everything from sprints, to the mile outside on the track. We’ll be inside doing some circuit training, weight room and agility type stuff. We do that for the first hour and a half to two hours, then it’s on the court doing drills.

“The overall attitude and demeanor on the court has been it’s exciting. They’re confident. It’s fun seeing the freshmen from last year come up. They have a season under their belt and their level of confidence from last year to this year … it’s fun to see that.”

Wes Webb and his North High girls tennis team got together Monday evening, looking to fine-tune things and build off the momentum of last year’s group which reached the Central Section semifinals for the third straight year.

“On the first day, hopefully it’s just getting them back into shape,” Webb said. “This first week, it’s figuring out who is going to be on what team. We play the second day of school, so it’s right around the corner. It’s crazy.

“The turnaround is quicker than it’s ever been. So I just have to make sure mentally the girls are ready for it. I have to go over things because going from JV to varsity, even the rules are different. I have to make sure they are ready for the longer matches. By the first game we’ll know the rules and we’ll be ready for everything so nothing is a surprise.”

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