The Bakersfield Californian’s 1996 in-depth series on McFarland cross country

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Former Bakersfield Californian reporter Marc Benjamin, now with the Fresno Bee, sent me this copy of The Bakersfield Californian’s November, 1996 in-depth profile of the McFarland High cross country program and it’s impact on the town and the lives of its young athletes. The series was written by Marc and Doug Church, two of the best reporters I ever worked with. It was photographed by Californian photographer Henry Barrios, and you just have to check out the photos of Coach Jim White riding along with the team, on his now very famous bicycle, thanks to the film. Henry is a quiet, shy and reserved photographer – the exact opposite of me! – and a phenomenal photographer. He’s probably going to be mad at me for bragging on him. The Californian’s series predates the Los Angeles Times profile by more than a year and the Sports Illustrated article by seven and one-half years.

You can click on this photo to view it at a higher resolution.
You can click on this photo to view it at a higher resolution.
You can click on this photo to view it at a larger resolution.
You can click on this photo to view it at a larger resolution.
You can click on this photo to view it at a higher resolution.
You can click on this photo to view it at a higher resolution.
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6 thoughts on “The Bakersfield Californian’s 1996 in-depth series on McFarland cross country

  1. The coverage is impressive and extensive–too bad I can’t read it because the print is so small. Maybe some techie person around here can suggest something. I saw the movie a couple weeks ago, despite my previous boycott of everything Disney. The underdog plot is major in movies, and yet most of the parts that might have been weep-into-a-hankie were handled deftly, plus the humor seemed spontaneous and not wrung out. The Diaz brothers’ mother was wonderful. One element so impossible to convey is the stupefying heat; to accomplish what those boys did is amazing when you factor in running, picking crops and trying to have a life. No air conditioning in the schools at that time because it was simply unaffordable. The one student I would like to know more about is Phillip Pedrosa. I know he died in 1982; I wonder if he was one of the cancer victims. I adored him, and, trust me, it wasn’t easy at first. He was the student I knew best, since we spent a great deal of time together after school trying to master the rather basic requirements for attending the graduation ceremony as opposed to simply being “passed on” to high school. As he insisted at the time, “I want to wear the hat.” Thanks for sending the reprint. Jennifer

  2. I really enjoyed this post and I believe it is important to showcase news articles written in the past especially for the significance of the pictures used. The story itself is interesting but also the other headlines such as “Emmitt Smith is Back” and how the “After Thanksgiving Sales” opened at 8 am on Friday instead of midnight like it is today. I also liked how the story profiled each runner and coach involved with photos included.

  3. Thank you for posting this! I have watched the movie probably about 20x, that’s how much I love it. This past Spring Break, I took my son to Yosemite and Sequoia Nat’l Parks and on the way home, I took a shortcut through the farming communities. I distinctly remember McFarland for some reason and I remember thinking, wow, what would it be like to live in this town? Shortly thereafter is when I first saw the movie. Now I want to drive back up there and visit the high school. I would LOVE to live in a farming community like that. The movie answered the question for me. Uno, dos, tres… McFarland!

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