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OJHS Rams Excel At Harold Pope Relays
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Both the Oakdale Junior High School Rams’ seventh and eighth grade track and field teams, like cream, rose to the top of the 24-team Harold Pope Relays on Saturday, May 6 at Modesto Junior College’s Pirate Stadium. Athletes competed in a total of 26 events, 13 each for the girls and boys, at both the seventh and eighth grade levels. Girls’ and boys’ scores for each grade were combined to render unofficial overall seventh grade and eighth grade team scores—unofficial because there was no team trophy or certificate awarded. At the eighth grade level, led by an outstanding performance by the girls, Oakdale mustered 166.5 points to win the team competition, besting second place Turlock Junior High School by 11.5 points. Not to be outdone, the Rams’ seventh graders had more of a gender balance in scoring a highly impressive victory, amassing 194 points, while second place Big Valley Christian School finished with 113.5—a lopsided 80.5-point margin.

The Harold Pope Relays have been the culmination of the junior high school/middle school-level track and field season in Stanislaus County for 74 years and are sponsored by the Stanislaus County Office of Education, Sutter Health, and the Education Foundation of Stanislaus County. The meet’s longtime track and field coordinator, retired Oakdale Junior High School physical education teacher Maggie Banducci, noted that the meet is named in honor of former Valley Home superintendent and principal Harold Pope, who was a multi-year advocate for youth athletics, particularly track and field. Banducci also expressed gratitude for the many volunteers from throughout the county, some of whom hail from Oakdale, who make the meet possible year-to-year.

Seventh grader Gianna Carroll started the meet off for the Rams with flying colors by winning the 70-meter hurdles (the meet’s first event) in 16.49 seconds. Carroll would later win the long jump with a leap of 12 feet, 7¼ inches and finish second in the 200-meter dash in 29.35 seconds, completing a personal monster day. Eighth grader Olivia Rodrigues followed Carroll’s lead by winning the eighth grade girls’ 70-meter hurdles in 11.82 seconds with teammate Alli Oliveira finishing third.

All four levels of Rams placed very well in the always-exciting 4 by 100-meter relay, with the seventh grade girls’ team of Ashlyn Spettstoesser, Kaia Cox, Addison Wiley, and Kinsley Alves finishing first in 55.76 seconds. Matching that effort, the seventh grade boys’ team of Jackson Seefeldt, Daniel Anderson, Gian Kleinart, and Iker Juarez won its race in 52.06 seconds. The two eighth grade teams of Gaby Acosta, Alli Oliveira, Janet Cisneros, and Gracie Madru for the girls and Angel Arellano, David Castro, Robbie Morales, and Beau Kesterson for the boys finished second in their respective races.

Seventh grader Kinsley Alves won the 400-meter dash in 1:06.81 and anchored the first place 4 by 400-meter relay team. Joining Alves in the latter championship were Cecillia Cotton, Hayden Stepps, and Bella Cortes. Stepps also earned second place in the 800-meter run in 2:51.66 and finished fourth in the high jump. Kaia Cox, in addition to being part of the winning 4 x 100-meter relay team, finished second in the 100-meter dash and third in the 200-meter dash. Ashlyn Spettstoesser, in addition to her role in the 4 x 100-meter relay victory, won the triple jump with a leap of 29 feet, ¼ inch and finished fifth in the 100-meters. Additional placers in the field events for the seventh grade girls included Taeya Riley (second in the high jump), Bella Kesterson (second in the long jump), and Cortes (third in the triple jump).

For the seventh grade boys, Iker Juarez complemented his sprinting prowess as part of the 4 x 100-meter relay team by winning the 200-meter dash in 26.40 seconds and finishing second in the long jump in 17 feet, ½ inch. Gavin Watson finished fifth in the 400-meters and third in the high jump, while Gian Kleinart finished second in the 100-meters. Aden Cavanaugh, whose brothers Caleb and Jacob were part of the Oakdale High School California state champion cross country team this year, kept up the family distance running tradition by finishing a strong third in the 1,600-meter run. Trenton Williams earned fourth place in the triple jump and the team of Seefeldt, Landyn Pechmann, Jhon Rueda-Trivino, and Watson ran to a fourth-place finish in the 4 by 400-meter relay.

For the eighth grade boys, in addition to finishing second in the 4x100-meter relay, Beau Kesterson finished third in the 100-meters, Evan Perez was fourth in the 200-meters, David Graham finished third in the discus throw, and Dwight Skinner-Howard earned fourth in the triple jump.

The eighth grade girls had a huge day. In addition to Rodrigues’ victory in the 70-meter hurdles, Natalie Powell won the discus throw with a heave of 70 feet, 5 inches and complemented that effort with a second-place finish in the shot put (30’ 3 ½”). Distance runner Taylor Reams finished second in the 800-meters and fifth in the 1,600 meters, while Madru and Cisneros from the 4 x 100-meter relay team sprinted to second and third place finishes in the 100-meters. Another relay teammate, Acosta, finished fourth in the long jump. Skyler Cavanaugh earned a third-place medal in the high jump and Alicia Osmundson, Cavanaugh, and Claire Tolboe finished second, fourth, and fifth respectively in the triple jump. Rounding out the impressive day for the eighth grade girls was the team of Tolboe, Zeidy Cornejo, Shelby Mitchell, and Unique Sanders who finished third in the 4 by 400-meter relay.

The seventh and eighth grade victorious performances at the Harold Pope Relays nicely complemented the championships at all four levels recorded by the Oakdale High School track and field teams at the Valley Oak League championships on Thursday, May 4, making last week one of the more prolific weeks in the history of Oakdale track and field.