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Junior high students expand athletic abilities

Danielle Foster | The Feather Online

Last year, junior high cheer students won the FCC West Coast Championships.

Sports opportunities engage 100 middle school players this fall, including volleyball, flag football, golf and cheer. Both familiar and unfamiliar sports prepare young athletes for success in high school.

Middle school elementary sports director Darbee Whipple’s past experience as a teacher and coach has given her a unique outlook on middle school sports.

“We’ve put in place coaches that are mentoring our junior high coaches and letting them know what they’d like to see,” Whipple said. “I think it prepares them enough to where it alleviates a lot of the fears like the kids that don’t play junior high have when playing on a varsity team.”

Brooklyn Medeiros, ‘26, shares her thoughts on playing middle school sports. She plays sports for both Fresno Christian and local teams. She would describe her experience playing sports in these five words: “fun, amazing, awesome, exciting, and enjoyable.”

“I was excited to hear about middle school sports this year,” Medeiros said. “I knew it would be a great opportunity to play with some people I didn’t know, learn more about sports and improve in the sports I play. I benefit from playing a team sport because I get to compete with my friends, make new friends and have others to pick me up after tough games.”

Danielle Foster | The Feather Online

Coached by Noah Heinz, the junior high flag football team plays their next game against W.E.B DuBois Academy, Oct. 10.

Flag Football

Flag football teams for both seventh and eighth grade are headed by Noah Heinz. He is assisted by Nathan Case, high school biology and zoology teacher. Heinz has been teaching in elementary for several years, and now teaches middle school science.

“There wasn’t a flag football team when I started teaching on campus in 2014,” Heinz said, “so we revived the program and had elementary kids playing with junior high kids in the first couple of years. It’s grown to having as many as 50 kids in some of the past six years we’ve been doing it.”

So far, the scores for flag football are 4-0 for varsity and 3-1 for junior varsity. Last year, the team was undefeated and only lost the championship game by one point.

Elementary flag football, taught by Case, has their fifth game, Oct. 8.

Volleyball 

The volleyball athletes are split into three teams, two Fresno Unified School District (FUSD) league teams and one in the Parochial Athletic League (PAL). High School Athletics Director, John Penberthy, coaches the varsity and junior varsity FUSD teams.

This year, PAL middle school volleyball coach McKensey Neal rallied together a group of eight girls for their upcoming game, Oct. 7.

“I originally just planned to help out with the high school but got asked to coach junior high,” Neal said. “So I did because I thought that it would be fun. We just won our first game, not the match, but one game and that is a win for me.”

Fifth though sixth grade volleyball, coached by Eric and Melissa Cisnerios, is split into maroon and white teams.

In the following podcast, freshmen Feather staffers Zoe Bull and Summer Foshee interview Noah Heinz, middle school science teacher and flag football coach.

Golf

Middle School golf starts out with a bang due to having won all four of their league games. This is the first year that golf has been available outside of high school.

The team’s coach, Johnny Martin, is also new to the campus and has only coached elementary baseball prior to this golf season. Martin shares his favorite part of being in middle school golf.

“Seeing the growth some of the boys have made in such a short time,” Martin said. “Also, seeing us launch a middle school golf team has been fun as well. Fresno Christian has never had a middle school golf team so it’s been great to be a part of the first year.”

The team’s championship game is set for Oct. 8, with individual championships, Oct. 10.

Cheer

Summer Foshee | The Feather Online

Under the leadership of McKensey Neal, the junior high varsity volleyball team plays in the division II playoffs, Oct. 7.

Coaches Hope Villines, Rayna Harris, ’14, and their squad of 17 cheerleaders prepare for another successful year in middle school cheer. They already won 1st place in the Fellowship of Christian Cheerleaders (FCC) Competition.

This is Harris’ second year assisting Villines in middle school cheer. An FCS alumna, she is happy to invest back into the cheer program and sees coaching this team as a joy.

“The girls always have so much energy, ” Harris said. “We practice early in the morning and they always come in smiling and ready to be there. I get to help them become better cheerleaders but I also get to talk with them about school and life and the challenges that come with middle school, so I am thankful for that opportunity.”

This year, cheer will be competing at The Clovis Pep Classic at Clovis High on Jan. 25, the Clovis West Showcase on Feb. 8 and the FCC West Coast Championships at Azusa Pacific University, Feb. 1.

For more articles, read 35th annual homecoming unifies community, supports local nonprofit  or Students engage First Amendment rights through News Engagement Day, Oct. 1

Summer Foshee can be reached via Twitter and via email.

Zoe Bull can be reached via Twitter and via email.

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