The real “McFarland USA” beach scene, from the album of Silvia Diaz

In this photo provided by Flora Diaz, the niece of Sylvia Diaz, one of the two runners killed in the 1986 practice accident, the 1985 McFarland boys and girls team enjoy the beach at Cayucos.
In this photo shot with Raul Diaz’s camera and provided by Flora Diaz, the brother and younger sister of Silvia Diaz, one of the two runners killed in the 1986 practice accident, the 1985 McFarland boys and girls team enjoy the beach north of Morro Bay. The pictures are from Silvia’s album. Sylvia is on the left, #3.

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.

Clip courtesy of Norma Takahashi.
Clip courtesy of Norma Takahashi, Herlinda Gonzales and Slivia Diaz’s teammate.

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.

In this photo from the album of Sylvia Diaz and shot by her brother, Raul Diaz, the McFarland boys and girls cross country team plays on the beach at Cayucos after coach Jim White took them there in 1985.
In this photo from the album of Silvia Diaz and photographed by her brother, Raul Diaz, the McFarland boys and girls cross country team plays on the beach north of Morro Bay after coach Jim White took them there in 1985.
At Morro Bay, Herlinda Gonzalez (6) wrote "MHS #1" in the sand. Silvia Diaz is #3, her brother Raul is at right. (Working to get name of runner at left.) Picture was taken with Raul's camera by a team member.
At Morro Bay, Herlinda Gonzalez (left) wrote “MHS #1” in the sand. Silvia Diaz is #3, her brother Raul is at right. Delfina Herrera is between Silvia and Herlinda. Picture was taken with Raul’s camera by a team member.
At left, Silvia Diaz and Alicia Herrera. Center from left, Tammy Carter, Gabby Perez, Norma Lopez and Dolores Plata. Top, standing on rock is Albert Torrez. Photo is by Raul Diaz and is from the personal album of Silvia Diaz.
At left, Silvia Diaz and Alicia Herrera. Center from left, Tammy Carter, Dolores Plata, Norma Lopez and Gabby Perez. Top, standing on rock is Albert Torrez. Photo is by Raul Diaz and is from the personal album of Silvia Diaz.

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!

The McFarland boys and girls teams in Atascadero, the day coach Jim White took them to the beach.
The McFarland boys and girls teams in Atascadero, the day coach Jim White took them to the beach. From the album of Silvia Diaz, photographed by her brother, Raul, and provided by her sister, Flora. Silvia Diaz is seated, second from left, and Herlinda Gonzalez is seated to Silvia’s right.
The McFarland girls in Atascadero. They would later be taken to the beach, with the boys team. For many, if not all, it was the first time they would see the ocean. This photo is from the album of Sylvia Diaz, was shot by her brother, Raul, and provided by her sister, Flora.
The McFarland girls in Atascadero. They would later be taken to the beach, with the boys team. For many, if not all, it was the first time they would see the ocean. This photo is from the album of Silvia Diaz, was photographed by her brother, Raul, and provided by her sister, Flora. Silvia is in the center, in the pink shirt. Herlinda is on the right, and Dolores Plata is standing in white hat..
The teams on the day of the beach trip, fall of 1985.
Coach Jim White with the teams on the day of the beach trip following a meet in Atascadero, fall of 1985. From the album of Silvia Diaz, photographed by her brother, Raul Diaz and provided by her sister, Flora. Silvia is at far right, in pink shirt.
The McFarland boys and girls teams the day of their meet in Atascadero, when coach Jim White took them to the beach.
The McFarland boys and girls teams the day of their meet in Atascadero, when coach Jim White took them to the beach. From the album of Silvia Diaz, photographed by her brother, Raul and provided by her sister, Flora. Silvia is at the far right, #3.

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:

The real McFarland USA kids and coach Jim White

McFarland’s never-ending heartache

Prom night, a crash and six teens lost

Show the world what has happened to my son

Pictures from the Bakersfield sneak peek of “McFarland USA”

 

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