Track and Field Team Competes in CIF


Photo Courtesy of Aaron Raya

Sophomore Jayden Hernandez running in the men’s 1600 meter race during Golden West League Finals. Photo taken at Westminster High School on April 28th, 2022.

Arman Sangar, Staff Writer

The Godinez Fundamental High School (GFHS) track and field team made it to California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) for the first time in three years. 

Head Coach Aaron Raya, a GFHS alumnus, took on coaching track and field for the first time this year. One of his goals was to send at least one athlete for every event to CIF. He came close except for the one category, shot putting.

“All of the athletes are extremely hardworking. It was awesome to see athletes compete in track and field for the first time and to make the progress that they made,” said Raya.

One of his biggest challenges was the rule changes and coaching athletes that have never done track and field before. 

But Raya is most proud of the size of the program. The team grew from less than 20 athletes last year to 90+ this year.  All of them competed at some point during their season. 

Senior Luz Sandoval qualified for the women’s four by one team, in the 100 and 200 meters. 

Coming into the race, Sandoval knew it was going to be difficult, but managed to give it her best shot.

She thinks one of the biggest challenges the team faces is having to practice everyday on a dirt track. But despite that, she had a great season. 

“My experience in track was really good because I honestly didn’t think I was going to have a season this year and being able to come back in the sport was really exciting,” said Sandoval.

She recommends those wanting to join track to, “Do not give up. It’s going to be tough and they are going to get really tired. They are going to not want to continue doing a certain sport, but they should not give up on what they are working on,” said Sandoval. 

Sophomore Raquel Cabezas also qualified for the women’s four by one team with Sandoval. 

Before CIF, Cabezas felt the team would set a personal record with their 52.0 second race. She thinks her biggest challenges in track was learning how to properly pass the baton and working with three girls she never knew before. 

“It was my first year in track and field in high school and it was extremely fun. I love the new bonds I made with the other athletes and track helped me in soccer,” said Cabezas. 

When asked to describe Coach Raya, Cabezas said, “He is very determined to win, also stubborn, but he just wants us to win. Overall, Raya is one of the best coaches I have ever had. I really do love him,” said Cabezas.

Junior Sophia Garcia also qualified for the women four by one team along with Sandoval and Cabezas. Garcia did not know what to expect because it was her first time going to CIF. She believes that her biggest challenge was staying focused during races when someone was ahead of her because it played with her mind. 

“I really enjoyed track and field. It was my first whole track season in track and field because my freshman year was cut short due to COVID-19 (pandemics). I was really excited that I got to compete in races,” said Garcia. 

GFHS track and field women’s four by one team pose after winning first place in Golden West League finals. From left to right:Luz Sandoval, Raquel Cabezas, Jalaiya Brooks and Sophia Garcia. Photo taken at Westminster High School on April 28th, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Raya)

Garcia described Coach Raya as demanding at first, but then taught the athletes new skills. Raya inspired Garcia to work on her form to get better at track. 

Sophomore Jalaiya Brooks also qualified for the women’s four by one team in CIF with Sandoval, Cabezas, and Garcia. Brooks thinks her biggest challenge in track and field is staying focused because she easily gets distracted.

“My overall experience was really good. It was my first year and I had a very enjoyable time,” said Brooks. 

Brooks encourages people to join track and field. 

“You should join track and field because of how fun it is and the bonds they will make with other athletes also in track and field,” added Brooks. 

The GFHS women’s four by one team got a new personal record of 52.48 seconds and placed 35th out of 40 teams. 

Senior Jesse Church qualified for the men’s high jump.  His biggest challenge was only having one week to practice for his event. 

Unfortunately, Church did not get a personal record or place in CIF prelims. 

“This is my first year in track and field. I have been to five meets and about six practice days. I won three out of five meets in my event,” said Church

Church thinks people should join track because it’s one of the easier sports to do well in. 

Coach Jose Penaloza, also a GFHS alumnus, enjoys coaching and training athletes to reach their potential. He is most proud of the hard work the athletes put in day to day especially when it pays off once they race and compete. 

“All of the athletes work hard and are able to push themselves. All of them put in the work everyday,” said Penaloza.  

When asked what he would recommend for those wanting to join track next year, Penaloza said, “Just give yourself a chance. Try out to see how it feels, and if you like it or not. You’re never going to know if you’re good at it unless you try it out.”

Penaloza added, “I use to run here, so I am a big fan of Godinez athletics, so it’s nice to see other kids doing well and making it to the CIF prelims and finals.” 

Prior to CIF, sophomore Diego Mejia felt he would make it to the finals in the 400 meter race and hoped to get third place. For the 800 meter race, Mejia wanted to go all the way to masters, which is after finals. He wanted a new personal record  and to break the school record for both races. 

Mejia struggles with competing against himself and others the most because he has little to no experience since his first year in track and field was during the pandemic which minimized the amount of time training. 

“I love how big this family is, it’s a lot bigger than the one last year. I have met a lot of new people and made some memories,” said Mejia.

Mejia thinks Raya is a great coach and helped him a lot throughout the season. 

Mejia finished off his season 13th in the 400 meters and eighth in the 800 meters for sophomores in California. 

“I would like to thank Coach Penaloza, Raya, and Fedele for all the hard work they put in throughout the season,” said Mejia. 

Sadly, Mejia was disqualified in the 800 meters where he would have set a new personal and school record for the 800 meters. In addition, he would have gotten sixth out of 46 runners. 

Sophomore Jayden Hernandez qualified for the 1600 and 3200 meter race. He planned to stay with the pack during CIF and keep up the older and fast seniors during his races. His biggest challenges was getting faster and competing with higher level runners. 

“I have been running since freshman year, but I played soccer before and I think that helped me. So I think I am a natural,” said Hernandez.

Hernandez recommends people join track and field next year because it is a fun sport, a good way to get your name out there, and you make friends. 

“Penaloza has been a good mentor for me these past couple years in running and I appreciate him being here,” concluded Hernandez.

Hernandez raced a new personal record 4:18.83 minutes and secured the school record which put him 12th out of 46 runners. He finished his season 10th for the 1600 meters and 35th in the 3200 meters for sophomores in California. 

Unfortunately, no one made it past CIF prelims. 

When asked what he would recommend for those wanting to join track and field next year, Raya said, ”If you are someone who loves to compete, loves to better yourself and loves to be in an environment where you will be supported and work on yourself, then join track and field.”