Tracy High’s 2019 blanket award winners grew into their sports over the past four years and finished their senior year as the leading athletes on their teams.
Since 1946, Tracy High has presented the blanket award to the top male athlete in each senior class. Lina Longmire, who presented the awards on Monday at Tracy High’s Emma Baumgardner Theater, noted that the award was named for her late husband, Jake Longmire, in 1985 in honor of his lifetime of commitment to local sports, and Tracy High added the John C. Kimball Blanket Award, named for the longtime Tracy High team doctor, in 1994 for the top female athlete in each senior class.
Coaches nominate their top athletes, and all coaches vote on which athletes are most deserving of the award.
Madison Baker received this year’s Kimball award in recognition of her four years on the Bulldogs swim team and water polo team. She also spent the last two years as the Tracy High football team manager, managing equipment and water stations for the team during practices and games.
“I have been doing sports my entire life, so to receive something like this means a lot to me,” Baker said.
She has been a swimmer since she was young and joined the water polo team when she came to Tracy High.
“It turned out I liked water polo a little bit more than swimming, and being captain for both teams for three years, it makes me feel like I’m a part of this school and a part of the team,” she said.
Baker will go to California Baptist University in Riverside in the fall to major in nursing and possibly continue playing water polo. She said the sport has been a valuable part of her high school education.
“It’s taught me how to be a leader, how to be a team player, all of the basics,” she said, “but it’s also taught me lessons and what I want to be and how I want to be treated and how I want to treat people.”
Bryce Pasquale, recipient of the Jake Longmire Senior Blanket Award, has competed for four years on the track and field and cross-country teams. When he first tried distance running in his freshman year, he quickly learned how tough the sport could be.
“During cross-country freshman year, I only lasted two days and then I quit,” he said. “Freshman year for track I was going to do the same thing, but then my dad told me, just continue with it.”
He’s glad he did. In his sophomore year, he realized that competition on the trails and on the track gave him motivation to pursue and achieve athletic and academic goals.
“Something clicked a little bit and it made me really driven. I wanted to push myself and push others,” he said. “By the time junior and senior years hit, I was finally getting where I wanted to be.”
There would be late nights studying after practice and workouts, but he also learned leadership and how athletics builds respect and friendships among teammates.
“I’ve learned a lot of that from coaches and friends. Also, not to race against someone, but to compete with them,” he said, citing practices and races with junior teammate Mikel Concepcion as an example. “We’ve been competing together for the past year for cross-country and track, and he’s pushed me to another level, I’ve pushed him to another level.”
Pasquale will go to Modesto Junior College in the fall and plans to continue running cross-country. He expects to transfer to a four-year college, possibly the University of Oregon, and continue competing while studying business or sportscasting.