Owen Brown is rebuilding Ceres High School’s cross country program.
The second-year head coach had just 12 runners on his roster last season, which was moved from the fall to the spring due to public safety concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The numbers are up,” Brown said. “I’m just glad the kids are getting an opportunity to compete and feel a sense of accomplishment for the time they put into working out. Last year, we struggled to have a team (for various reasons).”
“It’s a fantastic sport that prepares you for challenges in your future,” he added. “It helps you build a good work ethic. You have to learn how to struggle through different pains.”
The Bulldogs have a roster size of 22 this fall.
“We’re starting over,” Brown said. “This year is all about the kids having fun and getting better. I’ll be happy if we beat any of the other teams.”
Ceres High’s boys program returns four runners from last year’s team, including Eddie Ortiz (Sr.), Rey Soto (So.), Cesar Bolanos (Jr.) and Nathan Martin (Sr.).
The Bulldogs’ top newcomers are Eli Vas Dinis (Sr.), Adrian Ontiveros (Jr.), Erik Bonilla (So.) and Diego Ayala (So.).
Ortiz has been named team captain.
“He shows great leadership and concern for the other runners,” Brown said. “Everyone respects him.”
Ceres High’s girls program returns zero runners from a season ago.
Wendi Lizola, Elizabeth Mercado, Bianca De Los Reyes and Gabriela Soto graduated.
The Bulldogs’ top newcomers are Jaden Stahl (Fr.), Alexa Romo (Fr.), Maricela Saavedra (Fr.), Jayda Bryant (Jr.) and Juliana Molina (Sr.)
Stahl, Romo and Saavedra will compete at the JV level this season due to a lack of experience.
“It’s been challenging trying to recruit,” Brown said. “We don’t have any mentor senior girls leading the team. It’s a new group. I’m excited about the future. If they put the work in, that will allow us to have greater depth and a much better chance at success in the coming years.”
Ceres High’s Western Athletic Conference regular-season schedule consists of three cluster meets.
The Bulldogs will compete against Beyer, Grace Davis, Johansen, Lathrop, Mountain House, Los Banos and Pacheco.
The WAC was split into two divisions last fall because of safety concerns related to COVID-19.
Ceres High, Johansen, Los Banos and Pacheco were South members.
The Bulldogs will also make an appearance at the Hughson SuperCross Invitational this year.
“It may sound pessimistic,” Brown said. “But anything is a win for us even just having personal records and seeing the kids improve. That would be progress. We’ll be more optimistic about our chances for league next year.”