As a new season begins, the championship feeling from last season sheds its final layers for the Porterville High School boys cross country team.
The Panthers made history last year when they won the CIF Central Section Division IV Championship. It was the first championship in program history, and on Monday, they were given their letterman patches honoring their outstanding accomplishment.
“Nobody believed we could do this,” PHS head coach, Juan Jimenez, said to the team. “Nobody believed in us, except us. Until we started turning some heads, and we started bringing that team together. Bringing that Spirit of the Panther together and making that dream a reality.”
"I have this one AVID shirt that says, ‘Before the reality came the dream.' Before the reality came the dream. You gotta dream big guys," Jimenez said.
Topping off last year’s win was then-senior Jorge Sanchez placing first and becoming the city’s first individual champion in recent history. Sanchez is the team’s only runner who did not return.
The Panthers, who also ordered championship rings, received their patches at the start of Monday's voluntary workout, where Jimenez also reminded them that they still have work to do if they want a repeat of last year’s accomplishments.
“Enjoy today, enjoy this,” he said. “Have fun with it. You earned it. You get to enjoy it about as long as it takes you to put it in your backpack, to put it in your car. That’s about as long as you guys get to enjoy it. Have fun with it. Nobody can ever take it away, but as soon as you go out those gates, it’s time to reset the goals. It’s time to do it again. Except you’re going to have to do a little bit more because this time, you have a big huge target on your back.”
The 2020-21 cross country season is expected to begin on Dec. 14 with the first official day of practice. December 28 is the first date for contests.