Valley Champ receives her ring


Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

Madera Coyotes cross country runner Unique Ford shows off her new Valley Championship ring, left, to go with her 2018 championship ring, which she received at a ceremony on Thursday at Madera High School.

It took a little longer than usual, but Madera Coyotes Central Section cross country champion Unique Ford received her second Valley Championship ring during a subdued ceremony at Madera High School.


Because of a pandemic and some extras added to the ring, the ceremony was delayed a little, but Ford was all smiles when she added her 2019 Valley Championship ring to her 2018 Valley Championship ring Thursday afternoon.


“It feels amazing because I feel my hard work is paying off and I’m being rewarded for it,” she said. “It feels better I got it now. I know I worked super hard to get here. It’s amazing.”


Ford was so dominant in the 2019 Div. II Central Section Championship race that she set a personal record and beat the field by 12 seconds after turning her ankle.


Ford’s coach Russ Stanford was beaming like a proud father giving Ford her second Valley Championship ring.


“Coaches only get that once or twice in their entire career,” he said. “I got to see it twice with her. I miss her, that’s for sure. She challenges me and I challenge her and I think that’s what it’s all about. It’s fun to see our kids succeed. It was as exciting as it was the last time we gave it to her. She’s a two time Valley Champion, placed sixth in the state and set the fastest time for any girl in the district. That’s amazing stuff.”


Usually, Madera tries to give out Valley Championship rings during the football season when there are a bunch of eyes to watch it. However, because of the pandemic, things had to change. However, Madera Athletics Director John Fernandez was more than happy to present Ford her ring, albeit a little later than usual.


“Any time that we are able to recognize and provide a meaningful experience for our athletes, we look forward to doing those things,” Fernandez said. “Unique is a very special athlete. She had a lot of growth as an individual. We couldn’t be more proud of her. We are appreciative we were able to do certain things that they know that their accomplishments are meaningful to our school and our town.”


Stanford is proud of Ford and her accomplishments and is also happy about her getting recognized for it.


“This is the one sport when nobody sees it,” Stanford said. “They don’t see us running at 6 in the morning running in the rain or running races at a God-awful place. She ran a race almost barefooted because she lost a shoe. She lost to the San Joaquin section champion. She stopped twice, once to pull stickers out of her sock.”


Ford received a scholarship to run at CSU Fullerton, but was still home for the ring ceremony. She plans on starting her collegiate career next week.


“I’m staying down here a little bit,” she said. “I’m headed down there on the 17th because we have a meet coming up.”


She also said it was harder to keep her workouts going because she was by herself, but is ready for the collegiate season.


“It’s hard (to work out) because you don’t want to get up and run on your own,” she said. “It’s like a mental game. I push myself mentally and get it done.”

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