When the Foothill girls cross country team won the Central Section Division III team championship last season, Trojans’ coach Paul Contreras said it was difficult for his runners to grasp how big that really was.
It was the first such title for the program since the school opened its doors in 1962.
So, when the Trojans repeated as champions last Thursday at Woodward Park in Fresno, the message became louder because the accomplishment was all the more historic.
Led by an 11th place finish by senior Sofia Garcia, the Trojans edged Ridgeview 93-95 for the D-III title once again. It was the first time any athletic program at Foothill has won consecutive section titles.
“Last year when we won it, they didn’t understand it,” Contreras said. “They were the first cross country team at Foothill to win it all. Now they are the first in school history in any sport to win back-to-back titles.”
Said Garcia: "Historical moment. For (Foothill cross country), that is our second and only championship. Our picture and our plaque is now in our Hall of Fame."
Senior Rosie Medina said the team began training in the summer in search of its second straight section crown.
"We had a list of races (the team wanted to win). We wanted to be undefeated in league and win the league championship," Medina said. "We got that, and then we focused on winning Valley. We focused on going back-to-back."
The Trojans, along with six other teams and 12 individual runners, will advance to the CIF State Cross Country Championships on Saturday back at Woodward Park in Fresno.
“For me, it’s great. I ran at Foothill,” Contreras said. “First thing I did was call up my coach (Ted Oliver) and he couldn’t have been more excited.”
Contreras, like many high school coaches, take on a role as more than just coach. The role is as administrator, life advisor, and for some, the only parental figure these teenagers have.
“You take on that role for them,” Contreras said. “They come and talk to you about things that are going on with them.”
There have been times where Contreras will sit with one of his runners long after practice finished just to listen, to learn about them as people and to sometimes counsel and console.
“It’s hard to deal with that. But it’s something that they need,” Contreras said. “They may not have it at home. Just like any other coach, you just have to be there for them.”
The Trojans have the highest GPA of any fall sports team on campus and Contreras says the girls are continually working with each other to not only improve their times on course, but in school as well.
He added that assistant coach Chris Medina has been essential in helping the runners succeed on and off the course as well.
“They are all solid in the classroom,” Contreras said. “They had the highest GPA of any of our fall sports. Most of them are all AP students.”
The team is also battered and bruised.
Rosie Medina, who finished second in the Southeast Yosemite League championships, has been battling shin splints all season. She finished 22nd overall at the section championships. Helping to fill the void, junior Gabby Ramos finished in 18th place while Jacqueline Barrios (26th), Atziri Castellanos (32nd), Virginia Lopez (40th) and Ana Bertha Medel (41st) all had top-50 finishes in the 118-runner field to lead the Trojans to victory.
“These girls are tough,” Contreras said. “Everyone has had some sort of injury all season. They are good kids who are just making the best of their situation.”
Sports Editor Teddy Feinberg contributed to this report