The victory lap that is “McFarland USA”

High praise for the 2015 Disney movie surrounding the sport of cross country.
Huddled together, the winning McFarland High sSchool cross country team celebrates their victory (Photo courtesy of Disney).
Huddled together, the winning McFarland High sSchool cross country team celebrates their victory (Photo courtesy of Disney).

 

 

McFarland High School and the people who lived within McFarland, California, needed a change. Poverty overtook the place, and when a former football coach lost his job and relocated there, the area was begging to be revitalized. The coach recruited seven boys to start a team, and one that would run their way to victory.

“McFarland USA” is a Disney film based on a true story about a former football coach, Jim White, who in his past verbally abused his football team, causing him to get fired. With a family to look after, he moves to Southern California until he can find a new job and earn enough money to return to the life he once had. White only wanted a life that was safe – with a good school and people for his daughters to grow up around. He becomes a gym teacher and is drawn in by the town of McFarland.

White finds that some kids in his gym class were strong runners, which motivates him to convince the school administration to approve a cross country team, even though cross country was seen as a “rich kid sport”. Runners Danny Diaz, Damacio Diaz, David Diaz, Victor Puentes, Jose Cardenas, and Thomas Valles are all recruited for the new cross country team, but not everyone agrees with the decision. They live in a place with little opportunity. The kids and parents believe they need the children to work with them in the fields after high school so they can survive and bring food to the table.

“McFarland USA” is relatable to many cross country runners because they know what it is like to truly run and discipline themselves. This diligence can be seen with the seventh runner, Jose Cardenas. See in cross country, rules say that only the top five runners count, and knowing the top runner, Thomas Valles, was dealing with family issues at the time, he was bound to fall behind. So, Jose, watching other runners passing Valles at the hill, starts to pick up the pace. Jose became a top five runner, moving the entire team up to state!

(Trailer courtesy of Disney).

Many cross country runners can and will rewatch this movie, because it is also motivational. One of the primary ways  the film appeals to other audiences as well, who many not be familiar with the sport. Even non-runners can understand the training it takes to run, or the commitment or discipline to stay in the sport. The movie is a great motivator for anyone who has a goal and wants to achieve it. Seeing the end credits, where there is a clip of the real runners in this movie and where they are today is an indication that hard work really does pay off.

The culture in the film is a draw as well. White’s daughter gets a chance to have a quinceanera, even though nobody in White’s family had no idea what was up until that point. The community gets together to make this surprise party a success, and the moment is sweet. Even though the parade his daughter was in ended up getting her hurt and how mad Jim thought, as he believed his daughter was not protected. He did not know the cross country team pushed her out of the way, causing her to get a scrape on the knee so that she could be protected.

Overall, “McFarland USA” is a well made film and should be recommended to everyone, not just athletes who run or do other sports. The film offers an inspirational view of families who grew up with closed minded on what could lie ahead and what they can do to open them. Plus, audiences will appreciate not only how kind the boys truly are, but also their culture.

 

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