2013-06-28 / Sports

Strider track stars find groove

By Gilberto Manzano


RUNNING GIRL—Ellie Easley, 8, works on her form during practice with the Moorpark Striders youth track and field club on Wednesday. 
Photos by IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers RUNNING GIRL—Ellie Easley, 8, works on her form during practice with the Moorpark Striders youth track and field club on Wednesday. Photos by IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers The Moorpark Striders just keep going and going and going.

The Striders youth track and field club is still running strong after 40 seasons.

Six athletes on the Striders will compete in the USATF National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships in Greensboro, N.C., July 22 through 28.

While many youngsters enjoy frolicking on the beach during a summer heat wave, these Striders prefer working up a sweat on the track.

“It’s hard, but I enjoy running,” said Ellie Easley, an 8-year-old who will compete in the 1,500-meter race at nationals. “I want to stay in shape, and running is the best way to do that.”

Ellie, a first-year runner, was surprised she qualified for the national meet.

She joined the Striders because she wanted to improve as a soccer player.


PUSHING FORWARD—Moorpark Striders coach Craig Whitt, left, runs with long-distance specialist Drew Daniels at practice this week. PUSHING FORWARD—Moorpark Striders coach Craig Whitt, left, runs with long-distance specialist Drew Daniels at practice this week. “I wanted to work on my speed and dribble, so I joined the Striders,” said Ellie, a forward on her soccer club. “Now I really like track. It’s a tie between soccer and track. I like them both.”

Ellie’s top 1,500 time is an impressive 6 minutes, 27 seconds. She also runs the 400 and has won four medals this season.

Moorpark High’s top runners coach the Striders.

Michelle Magnani and Drew Daniels are coaches and athletes for the Striders. Magnani and Daniels, both 15, just finished their freshman year at Moorpark.

As soon as the high school track season ended, the Musketeers became Striders.

Magnani made it to nationals for the girls’ 800 and 1,500. Daniels qualified for the same events on the boys’ side.

“I was tired from the high school season, but running is my passion,” said Magnani, who won the 800 during the Ventura County Championships and Marmonte League finals. “I like working with the younger kids. I help them with their form and I encourage them to work hard when they’re tired.”

Magnani runs a 2:16 in the 800 and a 4:52 in the 1,500.

Daniels, whose fastest time in the 800 is 2:07, has been a Strider for six years.

“I’m going to be nervous at nationals, but at the same time I’ll be really excited,” said Daniels, who is active in the health science academy at Moorpark. “There are going to be a lot of people watching me. I’ll be ready.”

Daniels’ father, Robb, is the long-distance coach for the Striders. Drew Daniels swims three times a week to stay in cardiovascular shape for track and cross country.

Josh James, 15, is a natural on the track.

James, a first-year track and field competitor, advanced to the nationals in the boys’ 100, 200, high jump and long jump.

“I always had a feeling I was athletic, but I didn’t know I would do this well,” James said. “I’m a big track guy now.”

James runs the 100 in 11.9 seconds and the 200 in 24.29 seconds.

He’s now being recruited by Moorpark and Simi Valley to join their respective track and field teams in the fall. James has been home-schooled.

“I never thought I would go to a regular high school,” James said. “I’m really interested in running track for a high school. It’s going to be a tough decision.”

Franklin Ruvalcaba, 12, hasn’t punched his ticket to a national meet yet. He’s participating in the West Coast AAU regional meet in Reno, Nev., this weekend.

If Franklin fares well in the 200 or 400, he moves on to the AAU nationals in Michigan.

Johnny Wotawa, 10, and Victoria Plummer, 11, will compete in the high jump and long jump during the Junior Olympics.

Johnny, who enjoys playing soccer, jumps 4 feet, 2 inches in the boys’ high jump.

Victoria also qualified in the girls’ 80-meter hurdles. It’s her first season jumping over hurdles.

“Hurdles looked fun, and I wanted to give it a try,” Victoria said.

“I’ve been improving in every event.”

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