Knowing a beautiful new track facility will be ready this time next year is little consolation for the Cal State Stanislaus track and field teams today.
The Warriors practice two mornings per week at Modesto Junior College, and do their best during other practices on a smooth dirt strip near the Stanislaus tennis courts and residence halls.
"We're improvising big time this year," men's track coach Geoff Bradshaw said. "Everybody's holding up pretty well and getting used to the routine."
A $16.2 million sports and recreation facility should be completed this fall. Until then, the Warriors look forward to road meets where they can support each other in a team atmosphere.
The Wildcat Relays at Chico State on March 8 was a good bonding weekend for the Warriors, who won three events and had personal bests in many others. Ricky Gurrola (hammer), Rosemary Feikert (pole vault) and Jasimen Bailey (shot put) won their events and Catilla Smith placed third in three.
"The last meet was probably the best thing for everybody," Bradshaw said. "It was a relay meet, so everybody got together. It might have been the first race for some people. A lot of them had never been in competition before and got to see what it was like at a collegiate level."
A few athletes will participate in tonight's Jack Albiani Invitational at MJC, and most will help run Saturday's Stanislaus County Invitational high school meet, also at MJC.
Gurrola, a senior, sounded disappointed he would not get to compete for the Warriors at the new facility, but promised to return for open meets on campus. Last year the athletes were encouraged to practice on the track any time. Now they don't have as much freedom.
"It's very hard now because we're not used to the conditions," Gurrola said. "We practice by the dorms, on a walkway, and people are walking by every minute. It stalls practice a bit. But it's the only thing we have."
The MJC swim teams can empathize. The Pirates had to work out at Ripon High -- diving in for 5 a.m. practices -- for three weeks in February while their heater was being replaced.
FAMILIAR FACE -- Being picked as on of Sports Illustrated's "Faces in the Crowd" was the topping on a pretty sweet volleyball career for Oakdale's Heather Hernandez.
Hernandez, a senior at Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio, was in the Feb. 28 issue after being named the NAIA National Libero of the Year. The defensive specialist helped the Cavaliers (29-9) finish 23rd in the country. She averaged 6.74 digs -- 15th in the country -- and is third in the school record book with 2,085 digs.
A psychology major who will graduate from the private Catholic school next month, Hernandez is considering staying in the area to pursue her master's degree and assist the volleyball team. Hernandez, the daughter of Sal and Dana, is an alum of Stockton's Delta Valley club program and played all four years at Walsh.
SO CLOSE -- Modesto's Bryan Haile placed second in the 100 breaststroke at the California-Nevada Sectionals in Mission Viejo on March 8. The Cal Baptist junior missed the Olympic Trials cut-off time by half a second, coming in at 1 minute, 5.33 seconds.
Bee staff writer Kelly Jones can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2300.