One of the more touching scenes in the movie “McFarland USA” – as in get-out-your-Kleenex and hankies – is when coach Jim White, played by Kevin Costner, takes his team to the beach for the first time in most of the runners’ lives. Well, it really happened, though a little different from the movie. Coach White took both the boys and girls to the California central coast beachs at Morro Bay and Cuyucos during the 1985 season, and for many, it was the first time they ever saw the ocean.
These photos of that day were shot by Silvia Diaz’s brother, Raul, or by teammates using Raul’s camera, and provided by Flora Diaz, Silvia’s younger sister. Silvia was one of the two runners on the girls team, the other was Herlinda Gonzalez, who were struck by a car and killed in the practice accident on October 27, 1986. Silvia died on October 27, Herlinda on October 28. Both girls were on this trip to a meet in Santa Maria and the beachs, and these photos are from Silvia’s album, which her family had saved. Silvia was 16 and Herlinda was 14. Raul was also a runner on the team when his sister was killed.
Dolores Plata – now Cesar Chavez High School in Delano assistant principal Dolores Rodriguez – was on the 1985 team and here’s what she said about that day: “This was actually our 1985 fall season. Those beach pictures are from the first time (Coach) White took us after the Atascadero race. It was the first time all of us ever stepped foot on a beach. That was a great day!”
These photographs are the property of the Diaz family and are published here with their permission. Thank you to Cesar Chavez High assistant principal Dolores Rodriguez for facilitating the use of these photos. To learn more about the story of McFarland, the hardships it encountered, Silvia Diaz and Herlinda Gonzalez and the role the cross country teams played in bringing some sunshine to a town enduring unspeakable tragedy and heartache, please visit these links on this blog: