MERCED — The Merced High boys cross country team is on the verge of ending a 19-year drought.
If the Bears can win the Central California Conference cluster race on Wednesday at Applegate Park, they'll wrap up the program's first CCC title since 1994.
It's an impressive accomplishment when you consider Merced has done it with basically five runners.
"We have 12 or 13 boys on the team, but only five true varsity runners who are going to score points for a team," said first-year Merced coach Tim Hagerman. "Those give guys have done a good job."
The Bears are led by senior Abel Aleman, who has been the top runner in the conference. Sophomore Daniel Ambriz has also been one of the top runners in the CCC and Merced's No. 3 runner Kirk Hagerman transferred from Golden Valley.
Junior Emilio Sanchez was recruited out of a P.E. class this fall and has done well. Fellow junior Faustino Reyes has really come on this season after not training during the summer.
"I had a P.E. teacher tell me about (Sanchez) running a fast mile," Tim Hagerman said. "I walked up to him in class and asked if he'd want to come out. He's fit well into the whole mix.
"Most teams have a lot of depth. A lot of teams will have a strong seven. If you look at the other local teams, they have a lot of guys. We tried to find guys who want to run so we wouldn't be so thin. We've got five."
The lack of depth has made it a challenge to keep everyone healthy. It's led to some practices where the guys have had to do workouts on bikes or modified workouts.
The Bears are enjoying the fruits of their success.
"One thing about Abel: When we talked at the beginning of the summer, the first thing out of his mouth was he wanted the team to win league," Tim Hagerman said. "It's wasn't anything about him wanting to win league. It was about the team. I thought that was great."
It's been a rough season on the field for the Dos Palos football team. The Broncos (1-7) won their first game last week with a 40-0 victory over Tranquility.
One bright spot has been Noah Croninger.
The senior set a school record with a 51-yard field goal against Los Banos on Sept. 20.
Croninger then broke his own record with a field goal from 52 yards out against Firebaugh on Oct. 18.
The Merced High baseball program is hosting a fund-raiser on Nov. 23.
The guest speakers at the Surf and Turf Dinner will be local Major League Baseball players Doug Fister (Detroit Tigers) and Curtis Partch (Cincinnati Reds) and former All-Star closer Brian Fuentes.
The dinner will be held at the Pellissier Ranch, 2507 North Arboleda Drive in Merced.
The event is scheduled for 6 p.m. The cost is $25 per ticket. There will be a raffle for prizes, including a stay at a condo in Hawaii.
For more information, contact Butch Hughes at (209) 756-4751. Tickets can be purchased at United Floor Covering Carpet One on Main Street or at the Merced High student body office.
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.