Jacqueline Wooding knows how to appeal to the ego of a high school kid. That’s how the Golden Valley High track coach got a future star in Shawn Bettencourt to stay on the team.
Bettencourt grew up as a soccer player. He had never considered participating in track. He only decided to join the track team his sophomore year because some of his soccer friends wanted to get faster for soccer.
“They ended up leaving and I was the only one that stayed on the team,” Bettencourt said. “That’s because the first time I ran the 100, I was timed at around 12 seconds. Mrs. Wooding hyped me up like I was the fastest one ever.”
“I made it seem like he was Usain Bolt,” Wooding said. “I talked him up so much. I told him how amazing he was. He decided to stick with it.”
It was one of the best decisions he ever made. Bettencourt has blossomed into one of the top track & field athletes in school history, rewriting the Golden Valley record books in the 110-meter hurdles, 300 hurdles and helping set a new 4x100 record this season.
After placing fifth at the CIF State Meet in the 110 hurdles, Bettencourt is the Stanislaus District’s Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year.
Bettencourt’s school record marks are 13.90 seconds in the 110 hurdles, which he set at the state meet. He broke James Levine’s 20-year old record in the 300 hurdles at the Division I championship finals with a 38.12. He was also part of a 4x100 team that crossed the finish line in 42.19 at a Central California Conference Center Meet this season.
“The records mean a lot,” Bettencourt said. “I can look back in 10 years and still see my name in the GV record books. To hold a spot in school history is amazing.”
Bettencourt is a natural in the hurdles. He didn’t start running them until late into his junior season. He then worked hard over the summer to get better, meeting GV’s new boys track coach, John Wooding, for summer workouts. Wooding came over from Buhach Colony to join his wife’s staff at Golden Valley.
“I do the summer workout program quite a bit,” Wooding said. “Every summer I offer it but only a handful of people show up. Nobody showed up as consistently as Shawn. He was out there every day. He wanted to be the best. He watches videos of hurdle drills. He must have spent hundreds of hours watching video. Then he’ll ask if we can do different drills he’s seen.”
The work paid off as Bettencourt watched his times drop throughout the season. He was a big part in the GV boys track team winning its first section title in 20 years. Bettencourt won three individual titles at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I meet, as he stood atop the podium after the 100-meter dash, the 110 hurdles and the 300 hurdles. He also was part of the winning 4x100 relay team.
“It was one of the best feelings ever for our team to win our first section title in 20 years,” Bettencourt said. “I did everything I could to help.”
Bettencourt tried to advance to state in four events a week later at Masters, but he just ran out of energy. Competing in four events two weeks in a row took its toll on his body. He still battled through the fatigue to qualify in the 110 hurdles and the 4x100 relay.
“If I had it to do over again I probably would have dropped the 100,” Bettencourt said. “I stayed in bed all day the next day. There was nothing I could do besides just lay there.”
Bettencourt’s success, which included reaching the finals at the state meet in the 110 hurdles, netted him a scholarship to Stanislaus State – something he never dreamed of when he first started track.
“I trusted Mrs. Wooding in the beginning,” Bettencourt said. “She sold me on it. I’m grateful for the coaches I’ve had – Mr. Wooding coming over from Buhach Colony. When I found out he was coming over I knew my times would drop. He just knows ways to push you that you didn’t know existed. I know my times would go down, but almost 2 seconds is a lot.”