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Ripon girls called for travelling before opening tip

The gas tank is full and the engine is running, so the possibilities are endless.

Go ahead. Point the car in any direction you want, and run it until the fuel tank is burping fumes. Where would you find yourself?

From topped off to tapped out, there are as many options as there are directions.

From Modesto, on one tank of gas, my 1987 Volvo would reach the entrance to Disneyland (338 miles) or could take me to one of Santa Barbara's finer State Street restaurants (340 miles).

For variety, I could visit the U.S. Naval Museum of Armament & Technology in Ridgecrest (343 miles), and if my mileage was really good I might be able to cruise to Winnemucca, Nev. (367 miles), just in time for the annual mule races.

Then there's the possibility of jumping in the car and aiming the headlights north. In 333 miles, about the time I'd be sweating the possibility of being stranded on a desolate and snowy stretch of I-5, I'd see the welcoming elevated gas station signs of Yreka.

Unless your Uncle Bill and Aunt Betty lived in Siskiyou County, you'd be hard-pressed to find another reason to stop there, especially since another 20 miles would find you in Oregon, where gas is 30 cents cheaper.

That gas tip will come in handy for Ripon High supporters, who found out Sunday that a trip to Yreka on Thursday is in order if they wish to see the Indians' first Northern California regional playoff girls basketball game.

The immediate reaction of Ripon athletic director Chris Johnson?

"Ugh," he said. "It's a long way, but you look at it as playing the hand you're dealt. When you lose in a section championship game, you hold your breath and pray for a Bay Area game, knowing something like this is always a possibility."

School officials huddled Monday afternoon to determine the best way to stage the trip, which from campus to campus is 324.5 miles, one way.

The gut reaction of coach George Contente was to leave early Thursday morning and return to Ripon immediately after the 7 p.m. game. That would allow his players to miss only one day of classes. The team would arrive in Yreka in the early afternoon for a pregame meal and, should the Indians win Thursday, would allow for a Friday afternoon practice back home.

Another option would have been to leave Wednesday after school, spend that night in a hotel, and come home Thursday night. But that would limit Wednesday's practice time.

They chose a compromise, which took into account the expense of the trip and the safety and well-being of the players, coaches and bus driver.

The Indians will leave Thursday morning via chartered coach and spend that night in a hotel before heading home Friday. That will result in the loss of two school days and eliminate a Friday practice for a potential Saturday regional semifinal.

"We looked at it, and there would be no way to turn right around after the game," Contente said. "The kids will have to do make-up work for the classes, but there will be plenty of time to study on the bus."

The CIF would have backed any decision. Its policy is to reimburse schools $1 per mile for round-trip travel. It also picks up the cost of six hotel rooms for teams that decide to stay overnight. The CIF reimburses for meals at $7 per person if the team doesn't spend the night, $15 if it does.

"We haven't sat down to do the numbers," Contente said. "But this has never been done at this school by a girls team. It's something new, and we're figuring it out as we go."

It's not lavish, and it wasn't designed to be. In fact, the CIF standard stipend is designed to help the schools, not allow them to break even.

"It's been a dollar a mile for years and years and years," said Emmy Zack, the director of communications for the CIF. "Basketball teams, in general, play 30 games a year and always travel at their own expense.

"They are able to travel to games all year, and all of the sudden some of them want to be fully reimbursed for the playoff games."

The Indians aren't asking for any more than is the CIF's policy. And they're certainly not complaining about having to travel. After all, it's the first regional girls contest in school history.

"You go into every season wanting your team to go as far as possible," Johnson said. "And here we are, playing a game 20 miles from the Oregon border. We can't go any farther than that."

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at 578-2300 or bvanderbeek@modbee.com.

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