FOLSOM – Kadyn Rolleri crossed the finish line and waited. She was the third runner to finish, but the Bret Harte junior was two behind Summerville’s first-place runner Sofia Vasquez.
As Rolleri waited, two more runners in purple made their way to the finish line and that was senior Anika Jodie and sophomore Addison Heermance. Shortly after the Bret Harte duo of Jodie and Heermance finished, freshman Lilly O’Geen completed her run and the Bullfrogs were close to their goal.
Shortly after Jodie and Heermance concluded their run, Bret Harte sophomore Savannah Inks, freshman Sophia Keirns and sophomore Taylee McDaniel crossed the finish line. Before the final runner finished her race, it was announced that the Bret Harte girls’ cross country team were section champions.
Bret Harte captured its first blue banner since 2011 Saturday afternoon at the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division V cross country championship meet at Willow Hills Reservoir in Folsom.
For Jodie, the lone senior on the Bret Harte girls’ team, becoming a section champion in her final year at Bret Harte went beyond her expectations.
“Honestly, I didn’t think we would make it this far,” Jodie said. “I knew that we were good, but at the beginning of the season we had a lot of runners who didn’t know how good they could be. They have all persevered and done so well and followed their hearts. Our whole team has done so well to get here.”
Bret Harte won the division V championship with a team score of 28. Placing behind Bret Harte was Vacaville Christian (51), Holt Academy (79), Rio Vista (85), Central Catholic (128), Capital Christian (175) and Millennium (177).
The win is Bret Harte’s 14th section championship victory since 1988 and its first in division V. It was the move from division IV to division V that gave head coach Vicky Johnson the idea that her team might be able to run to a championship.
“Once we heard that we dropped to division 5, we knew there was a chance,” Johnson said. “We knew that teams in our own league are strong, so it was just a matter of which girls would be put together to make the top seven. It was really at the subsections where I said, ‘Wow, we could do this,’ but I never dreamt of a section title. I’m delighted because it has been 10 years.”
Summerville’s Vasquez was the first runner to finish and her time was 19:50.1. Argonaut’s Maeve Klement finished second (19:55.5), which was just ahead of third-place finisher Rolleri, who was the first Bullfrog to finish and did so in 20:24.7.
Jodie and Heermance placed eighth and ninth respectively, with Jodie finishing in 22:00.1 and Heermance finishing in 22:05.1. O’Geen placed 15th and finished in 23:03.2; Inks finished 20th in 23:55.1; Keirns finished 24th in 24:31.8; and McDaniel finished 31st in 25:44.4.
While Rolleri’s third-place time really helped the Bullfrogs, it was the times of those behind her that was the difference between winning the blue banner and losing it.
“The first runner always helps, but it is five, sometimes six, or sometimes seven on the team that makes it work,” Johnson said. “It’s how the personalities jell together, how they run together and how they train together. Even the boys’ team was so supportive of them after their disappointing finish and I think that made a big difference. We have a lot of new cross country runners who usually run hurdles or other events in track and aren’t really used to running three miles. They just really brought it together after a long season.”
Many of Bret Harte’s runners are multi-sport athletes, but they won’t be thinking about their next sport for another few weeks. The Bullfrog runners will try to keep their momentum going, as they prepare for the CIF State Championship meet, which will be Nov. 27 at Woodward Park in Fresno.
Heading into Saturday’s championship race, Jodie didn’t know if it would be the final race of her Bret Harte cross country career. Now, she knows that she’s only got one race left and she’s going to enjoy every moment of what’s to come.
“To be a senior and have this be the year that we are section champions means so much to me,” Jodie said. “This is my last time running with Bret Harte at sections and this is my last year running cross country. I love that I get to have my last year be so important and it just adds to all the memories that I’m going to take with me.”
Smith with join the girls at state meet
After the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section subsection meet, there was the possibility of not only Bret Harte’s girls’ team winning a section championship, but also the boys. But illness once again crept up and changed Bret Harte’s lineup.
The Bullfrogs were unable to win a section championship or qualify as a team for the state meet, but senior Jordan Smith’s season will continue for two more weeks. Smith placed fifth overall and qualified as an individual for the state championship meet.
“It’s honestly really cool, especially because last year we really didn’t get to have much of a season at all,” Smith said. “I’m very glad that I get two more weeks here for my senior year.”
Vacaville Christian and Summerville tied for first with 83 points, but the tiebreaker went to Vacaville Christian. Central Catholic placed third (99), followed by a fourth-place finish from the Bullfrogs (112).
Bret Harte was hopeful that junior standout Winter Whittle would be able to run Saturday after missing the subsection meet a week earlier. But it was decided that Whittle would not race, which was devastating news to Smith and his teammates.
“It was definitely disappointing, but I feel like for most of us, it pushed us a lot harder to run the best that we could today,” Smith said about running without Whittle. “We all feel like we did the best we can and we are happy with that.”
In the division V race, Sacramento County Day freshman Andrew Burr placed first (16:43.0), followed by Summerville’s Cruz Vasquez (17:07.0), Waterford’s Evan Espinoza (17:14.8) and Millennium’s Carson Edwards (17:18.0). Smith placed fifth in 18:10.0, which allows him to run at the state meet.
“I think it’s absolutely fantastic,” Johnson said about Smith’s season continuing a few more weeks. “We talked last week about the possibility of him making it individually to state and he knew what he needed to do. As much as we wanted the team to make it, we knew there were circumstances that might cause it to be a little more difficult, so he did what he had to do. He’s so consistent, so strong and he deserves every minute of it.”
Other Bret Harte times were: Broderick Burita (No. 13, 19:19.2); Alexander Mejia (No. 14, 19:35.2); Kyle Whitsitt (No. 46, 21:00.1); Conrad Felix (No. 50, 21:14.9); Logan Jodie (No. 51, 21:20.7); and Matthew Barajas (No. 60, 22:02.8).
After only having a few races in the shortened spring season, Johnson could not be happier with the current state of her program. Sending the entire girls’ team and Smith to the state championship softens the blow that was felt during the previous season shortened by COVID-19.
“The whole reason we kept it going last year was to keep it going and keep an interest in the program and to not let the flame die,” Johnson said. “I think we managed to do it. It’s a slow trickle upwards, but it’s happening. The feel of normalcy is back and right now, we are very happy.”