Denners earn Athlete of the Year awardsBy: Matt Long, Sports Editor
The Denner sisters have been two of the top female distance runners in the Sacramento Area since they were freshmen at Oak Ridge.
For their efforts in 2017, the identical twins, now seniors, were named “Athletes of the Year” from the Sacramento Running Association. Maddy Denner, who will run at the University of Michigan next year, earned the award for the girls’ high school track athlete for winning the CIF state track and field championship in the 1,600 meters in June, while Elena, a Notre Dame recruit, was the girls’ high school cross country athlete of the year by placing third in the CIF cross country Division I championship race in November.
Maddy’s time in the 1,600 of 4 minutes, 44.89 seconds was six seconds faster than the runner-up.
“I’m really happy to win the award,” Maddy said. “It was fun to go and see the older runners who have so much experience. It was fun that Elena got it for cross country, and Coach John Mansoor got it as a high school track coach. The best part of the whole thing was doing it together.”
Maddy said she is tempering her goals for the upcoming track and field season after recovering from a foot/ankle injury late in the cross country season. She admitted that she does want to make it back to the state championships, however.
Elena’s time in the Division I race at the CIF cross country championship of 17:27.6 placed her third in the 5,000-meter race.
“I didn’t know anything about his award until I won it,” Elena said. “I was excited to get to see and meet so many people who have made the Sacramento area such a strong running community. It’s rewarding and I’m honored to have won the award with so many competitive runners in the area.”
While Elena’s award was for cross country, she’s also an accomplished runner on the track, as she won the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters title in the 3,200 meters last year, winning in 10:14.9. Like her sister, she’s not setting any specific goals for the track season.
“I’m not setting any time or place goals,” Elena said. “I just want to run and train and be pain free. I want to develop and grow as a better athlete.”
Oak Ridge assistant track coach John Mansoor also won an award from the SRA for his coaching, as did Vista del Lago’s Robert Grove for leading Vista del Lago’s girls’ cross country team to a Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title.
“The Sacramento Running Association and the entire Sacramento community were so proud of Elena and Maddy Denner and the accomplishments that they both had in 2017 for Oak Ridge High School under the tutelage of Hall of Famer and Coach of the Year recipient John Mansoor,” said Scott Abbott, executive director of the Sacramento Running Association. “The Denners represented our community on the highest stage in most impressive fashion -- from Maddy becoming the first girl from our area to ever win a California State Championship in the 1600 meters in track and field to Elena's amazing third-place finish at the State Cross Country Championship, in addition to numerous other dominant performances every time the two of them laced up a pair of shoes. We are thrilled to have honored them at our annual achievement awards event, and look forward to following their continued progress, as they etch themselves in stone as two of the best high school distance runners ever from the Sacramento area.”