Kristi Yorke — a sprinter at Clovis East High School — lost a shoe this spring during a relay race.
A teammate accidentally stepped on Yorke’s foot during a baton exchange at the Arcadia Invitational, and the shoe ripped off.
Unrelenting, Yorke kept her composure and ran her leg of the race with a bare foot.
That’s the kind of experience helping to guide Clovis East’s track and field program this spring, said head coach Jim Farmer. “Kristi was seasoned enough to know to keep going,” he said.
The girls and boys teams have seniors capping their high school careers with impressive performances, juniors emerging as stars, and younger students gaining valuable experience for future seasons.
This season, meanwhile, is entering its final stretch with upcoming meets to determine champions in the Tri-River Athletic Conference, North Area (Fresno to Oakhurst), Central Section (Oakhurst to Tehachapi) and the state.
Clovis East has won at the state meet before. In 2009, the boys team captured the state title on the strength of performances by Michael Peterson in the pole vault and Willy Irwin in the discus and shot put.
“It was a signature win for our team, school and community, and the current team wants to live up to that and honor our tradition,” Farmer said.
Adding to the tradition this year are seniors such as Yorke — who competes in pole vault in addition to track events — and Tanner Tucker, another runner.
Other notable seniors are Tiphaine Nouantanouvanh, who runs relays and does the long jump and triple jump, and pole vaulter Nikki Crouch.
In addition, a talented group of freshman girls has great potential, Farmer said. They are distance runners MacKenzie Madron, Jadyn Pennington, Chloe Schultz and Ashley Gardner.
Another underclassman, sophomore Alessandra Quisado, has established herself as one of the best hurdlers in the Valley, Farmer said.
On the boys team, junior Jared Falcone — a standout cross country runner — is a top distance runner. “He’s come a long way since his freshman year,” Farmer said. “He’s matured and started to shine as a junior.”
Two other juniors — Pablo Perez and Romello Knight — are returning to action after injuries, and Farmer expects them to make big contributions.
Perez competes in the hurdles, pole vault and mile relay. Knight competes in the long jump and triple jump.
Here’s a closer look at four members of the Clovis East teams:
Highlight of the season: Competing at the Arcadia Invitational in Southern California. It’s one of the nation’s most prestigious meets, attracting top competitors from California and other states.
When she started running: In eighth grade at Reyburn Intermediate School. She began pole vaulting as a freshman at Clovis East.
Of vaulting, Yorke said: “It was crazy. I couldn’t believe it when my coach came up and asked me if I wanted to start doing it. I was like, ‘You’re crazy, dude. I’m not going to throw myself up in the air using a pole. No thank you.’ Now, it’s fun and a challenge. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but I enjoy the challenge.”
Favorite track athlete: Jenna Prandini, a Clovis High School graduate who competed in the 2016 Olympics. “It’s awesome seeing someone from the Central Valley do something so big. And she is so humble. She’s met and run with Usain Bolt, but she still comes back here and says ‘hi’ to people.”
Highlight of the season: Competing in the West Coast Relays. She finished first in the 300 meter hurdles and second in the 100 meter hurdles (invitational). “I pushed myself and realized what I can do if I work really hard. It surprised me. Honestly, I underestimate myself a lot. But the West Coast Relays validated all my hard work this season and last season.”
When she started hurdling: In seventh grade at Reyburn. “My coach [Jeff Vogt] kept telling me that he believed in me and that I had potential. He pushed me to do races even though I didn’t like it. Eventually his belief rubbed off on me, and I started believing in myself. Coach Farmer has kept believing in me, and that pushes me even more.”
Favorite track athlete: Olympian Jenna Prandini. “It’s nice to see someone local grow up to do something amazing.”
Highlight of the season: Going to the highly-competitive Arcadia Invitational. “I got to run the 400, and I ran my best time. Getting the best competition is what I strive for. It makes me do better. I want to go against the best every time I run.”
When he started running: In fourth grade at Dry Creek Elementary School. “It’s always been natural to me, and I’ve always had good coaches. I work to do my best.”
Favorite track athlete: Usain Bolt. “He’s the best.”
Highlight of the season: Meet of Champions at Azusa Pacific University. “It was my first night meet, and I liked the track. The curves were short, and the straightaways were longer. That’s what you want as a distance runner so you can pass more people.” He was happy with his time of 9:32 in the 3200 meters.
When he started running: As a boy with his father, Ernest. “I was little, and my dad would run faster. One day, I decided I wanted to stay with him. So I kept working and working, and now I’m able to beat him. When I run a race, he tells me, ‘Oh, I was never that fast.’ ”
Favorite track athlete: Evert Silva, a runner at Fresno High School. “He dropped his time at lot in cross country, and that’s what I want to do. Once you put in the work, and your PRs [personal records] start rolling in, it feels great.”