I received a nice surprise today when my pal, longtime Bakersfield Californian photographer Felix Adamo, found these photos I shot of the 1987 McFarland boys cross country team. They were requested by People Magazine. This is the team featured in the movie “McFarland USA,” which opens to general release on February 20. There is much excitement and anticipation in McFarland about the film, which stars Kevin Costner as coach Jim White, and as I mentioned in my previous posts that dealt with the enormous heartache this town endured in the 1980s – “Show the world what has happened to my son,” “Prom night, a crash and six teens lost” and “McFarland’s never-ending heartache“– this close-knit town deserves some good will and national love. Because Thomas Valles, McFarland’s top runner in 1987, is the focal point of all these photos, this was most likely a profile I was assigned to shoot of him in advance of the state championship meet. These photos, by the way, are from the California Southern Area meet held at Hart Park in Bakersfield, probably November 1987, and if I remember correctly, it is the meet before the California Interscholastic Federation section championship and the California state championship, which the team went on to win, and is a focus of the film.
Update, February 19, 2015: I found these additional photos from my coverage of the 1986 South Area championship at Hart Park. This race occurred two and one-half weeks after two teammates on the girls team, Silvia Diaz and Herlinda Gonzalez, were struck by a car and killed while practicing. It’s not part of the movie, but the team was, obviously, grieving and impacted deeply.
Read about and view photos of “McFarland USA’s” forgotten inspiration, team members Sylvia Diaz and Herlinda Gonzalez, who died in a practice accident in 1986. Without these two beautiful young ladies, there would be no “McFarland USA.” Click here.
To see additional photos of the McFarland boys and girls teams competing in the 1986 Kern Invitational five days after the tragic accident that took the lives of their teammates, please visit the post “McFarland’s never-ending heartache.”