Josh Madariaga made his 2016 debut with Ceres High's varsity boys cross country team on Oct. 5.
"We definitely missed him," Bulldogs head coach Katie Timmermans said. "He's always smiling and laughing. He's a really good kid. He works hard."
Madariaga was sidelined the first three weeks of the season due to breathing issues that forced him to miss half the track and field campaign this past spring.
Josh's running career was put on hold after he hyperventilated at Patterson on April 6.
"They wanted to check my heart," Madariaga said. "They did an EKG and ultrasound. Everything came back normal. It was really scary going through that."
"I was pumped up when I found out he was cleared," said Christian Linarez, Ceres High's top runner. "It's great having him back out here."
Doctors cleared Madariaga to return to competition on Sept. 26.
"I tried to run on my own before then but they wouldn't let me until my stress test came back good," he said. "I'm really happy to be back. I missed it. I love running."
The Bulldogs suffered their third straight loss during Western Athletic Conference dual-meet competition this past week.
Livingston edged Ceres High 27-31 on Wednesday at Ceres River Bluff Regional Park.
The Bulldogs lost by identical 27-29 scores to Patterson and Los Banos the previous two weeks.
Madariaga placed 22nd overall with a time of 21 minutes, 40 seconds on the newly-reconfigured 3.1-mile course.
He finished behind Bulldog teammates Linarez (second, 18:42), Noah Holloway (fourth, 18:59), Haaydn Martinez (fifth, 19:01), Roman Acosta (seventh, 19:29), Aaron Alarcon (13th, 20:51), Dominick Nicastro (15th, 21:07), Justin Barnes (16th, 21:12), Jaime Mejia (17th, 21:16) and Gurpreet Dhami (18th, 21:30).
"We go up the hills twice this year," Josh said. "It's really difficult."
Madariaga took fifth as a sophomore while leading Ceres High to a second-place finish at the 2015 Western Athletic Conference Championships. Josh completed the 3-mile course at River Bluff in 17:35.
"I feel like I'll be in good shape for that (the 2016 WAC finals)," he said. "I just need to keep training more, even on my own."
Ceres High's final two WAC dual-meet opponents are Pacheco (today) and Central Valley (Oct. 19).
"Every week, he's going to get faster," Timmermans said.
Added Linarez: "We just have to be patient and give it time. He'll be back at full-strength in a week or two. I'm just happy he's back on the team."