FCC Track Team Resilient

Tomas Kassahun
March 30, 2011
Filed under Sports

It’s raining. It’s pouring. Ratcliffe Stadium is flooding.

Ratcliffe Stadium, now known as “Lake Ratcliffe”, doesn’t seem like the ideal place to be, yet the Fresno City College Track and Field team can be found here.  

The Rams can’t stay away from the track. On the pit, eight long jumpers dig out the water and begin their jumps, ignoring the mud they slip and fall into. On the track, the runners skip over the puddles and continue with business as usual.  

“No hail, no high water can stop us,” said head coach Jesus Reyes. “When the competition is not working, we are working.”

Reyes, who came into the season with high expectations for his team, has seen his student athletes grow throughout the season. “I’m an optimist. I came into the season wide-eyed and bushy tailed,” he said. “We had solid group training in the fall. Many of our athletes were slated high.”

The track coach considers winning only a by product. He measures the success of his team not by wins and losses, but by what they achieve in the classroom and on the track.

“When they do the best they can do, that’s winning,” said Reyes. “They have to focus on the hot dog, not the condiments,”

He said he lets success happen naturally. “When everyone works towards the goal, success will come. Every team wants to win, but not everyone is willing to do it.”

Part of the goal Reyes has set for his team includes building a strong foundation. “You have to tell kids they can do it and then give them guidelines, give them the tools to build the house,” said Reyes. “But when you’re building a house, do you start with the windows or the foundation?”  

The Rams’ resiliency was in full display at a meet in Delta, where the weather was so dreadful; the meet had to be canceled half-way through. Many of the athletes were able to set new personal records in their events, and the relay teams ran their fastest times. “It showed we have the mental aptitude to focus despite the conditions,” said Reyes. “We find ways in, not out.”

For jumper Mark Sasselli, the biggest setback of the season was the American River meet. His personal best, 47 feet, was scratched. Still Sasselli came out of the meet with his head held high. “It woke me up. It showed me what I can do,” said Sasselli. “I’m determined to keep improving.”

Sasselli came into the season with his mind set on making it to the NorCal State Meet and placing in the top 10 in jumping. More importantly, Sasselli hopes to help his team win the State Championship.  

Twin brother Michael Sasselli is also optimistic about the team’s chance to win the State Championship. “Everyone works hard and we keep getting better,” he said. “Everyone wants to be here. It’s all about dedication.”

Michael Sasselli said he believes that strong chemistry is the most impressive part of the team. “We are all very friendly. We’re always making jokes. We always have a good time but we also work hard,” he said.

The Ram’s strong chemistry has especially been important for new-comers such as Taylor Allsup. “We have a strong bond here. I have gotten to know everybody,” said Allsup. “I have made a lot of friends here, and even the coaches are a lot of fun.”

After clearing 40 feet in the triple jump at the start of the season, Allsup is now making 46 feet. He gives the credit to his teammates who keep him motivated and to his coaches who have helped him with his technique.

“It can only get better from here. I’m excited for the rest of the season,” said Allsup.

On the women’s side, Jenny Saklar has emerged as one of the best surprises. Saklar, who is usually known for her long distance prowess, has made the transition to sprinting. Saklar runs the 200-meter, the 400, and the relays. “The 400 is crazy. The first time I ran it, I lost a sense of my mind,” Saklar said. “I’m learning how to be more in control now.”

For Saklar, the highlight of the season so far has been anchoring the 4 X 400 meter relay. “I felt honored to run with my teammates. The entire team was yelling and encouraging me,” She said.

Whether in practice or during meets, Saklar gives maximum effort. “The competition is good. I have to stay focused. Otherwise I will look like a fool,” she said.

Saklar said she is thankful to have former Olympian Robert Foster as her sprint coach, “He’s always pushing me to do my best, and he gives me a lot of great advice.”

And thanks to long hours in the weight room, Saklar has become mentally stronger and has also improved her form.

“The transition to sprinting has been amazing. I’m pleased with how it’s going,” said Saklar.

Another Ram with huge aspirations is Wendy Izquierdo. After completing her first heptathlon earlier in the season, Izquierdo has her eyes on winning the State Championship.

“I have to keep reminding myself of the goals I have set. I always remember hard work pays off,” said Izquierdo.

At the Run for the Dream meet, Izquierdo scored some of her strongest marks of the season. She finished second in the long jump with 5.33m and tied for second in the long jump with 1.48m. [Not sure if this is correct. Not sure in what section of sports guidelines under track and field this would be found.]

Izquierdo’s other strong performances of the season include a first place finish in the 800m [For sports guidelines – Should this be “800-meter”?…] at the Beaver Multis, a first place finish in the 200m […And subsequently, should this be “the 200″?] and also a second place finish in the javelin throw at the Modesto Mini Meet.

Izquierdo says her motivation comes from her teammates. “We are constantly pushing each other,”  she said. “We got each other’s back.”

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