By Keith Lair
Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year
Zach Shinnick, Damien, sophomore
There is a stigma with being a sophomore athlete. The knowledge is there, but the performances don’t always match that knowledge. Damien High School’s Zach Shinnick defied that stigma on the track this past season. The sophomore was beyond consistent. He was more like a master clock. Enough to earn Athlete of the Year honors.
Seven times this season Shinnick ran a 400-meter race faster than 48 seconds. Although his last victory was in the Baseline League finals, Shinnick had a huge postseason. He finished second in the CIF State 200 finals and third in the 400 finals.
“My goal was to just to make it to the state meet,” he said. “Anything after that was a blessing.”
Shinnick finished third in the 200 and 400 CIF Southern Section finals, getting a personal-record time of 21.09 in the 200, although he had a 2.3 meters-per-second tailwind.
His times in both events kept improving. He finished second in the state meet in a wind-legal time of 21.10. He was third in state in the 400 in a personal-record 47.19. Those performances earned him Athlete of the Year honors.
For almost all of the season, Shinnick anchored the school’s 4×100 relay team. That squad finished third in the CIF-SS divisional finals in a season-best 41.73 and qualified for state. But senior sprinter Thaddeus Smith, who ran the team’s second leg and was entered in the state 100 and 200, was injured in the relay race. The team still made it to the finals and finished eighth with Shinnick running the second leg.
He also ran the anchor leg in the 4×400 relay, which finished third in the CIF-SS finals in 3:20.21.
“Coming into this year, I wanted to make to the finals,” he said. “I have a good coach and my times were dropping. I went out with a bang. There was not a high chance I’d get first, so I just ran for second (in the 200) and I got it.”
Although Shinnick ran 13 400 races this season, coach Mike Williams said he tried to keep his sophomore from running so many. So he put him in some 100-meter races. Shinnick had a best wind-aided time of 10.55 at the Mt. SAC Relays. He had a best wind-legal time of 10.70.
He finished ninth in the CIF-SS finals as a freshman in the 400.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “I have two more years to challenge for that top spot. I will be working really hard top achieve that.”
Coach of the Year
Michael Williams, Damien
Having two of the best sprinters in Southern California is good start to having a successful season. Throw in a middle-distance runner and a few field athletes and a track coach can take a team a long way in postseason competition.
Williams was able to put together a solid supporting cast for standouts Zach Shinnick and Thaddeus Smith to help earn Williams Coach of the Year honors. The pair advanced to the CIF State Championships and they helped lead the Spartans’ 4×100 relay team to the state meet, too. Damien finished second in the CIF Southern Section Division 3 team competition and eighth in state. They lost Smith for the state finals to injury and still managed to put together a big finish with a quick replacement team.
ALL AREA GIRLS SWIMMING
Swimmer of the year
Catherine Sanchez, Glendora, Junior
Sanchez was the anchor on a Tartans team that won the Palomares league title and finished second at the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 swim finals.
Sanchez earned team MVP honors and was the Tartans’ highest point earner in the Division 2 finals by competing in four events.
Sanchez’s best performance came in the 100 butterfly, just missing out on a title by finishing second in 54.56. Earlier in the day, Sanchez had earned a third-place medal in the 200 freestyle with a quick race in 1:50.04.
Sanchez picked up two more medals in relays. She was part of Glendora’s second-place team in the 200 freestyle relay in 1:36.92, and on the Tartans’ third-place team in the 400 freestyle relay that finished in 3:31.43.
For her efforts, Sanchez has been selected the San Gabriel Valley Tribune girls swimmer of the year.
“She has always been dedicated, hard working and motivated, both in swim and academics,” Glendora coach Janet Mobley-Pollard said. “She has always been fast too, so it’s nice to see her hard working paying off.”
Sanchez’s big day the Division 2 finals was the result of a solid year all the way around, and for an individual sport, she made sacrifices that benefited the team.
“She’s a team player,” Mobley-Pollard said., “She was willing to swim wherever I needed her to score points for the team, even though some of those events weren’t necessarily her best events. She’s a leader.”
Coach of the year
Janet Mobley-Pollard, Glendora
The area’s winningest active swim coach led the Palomares league girls swimming champions to a second-place finish at the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 finals, earning Mobley-Pollard her fifth Tribune girls coach of the year award.
Mobley-Pollard was hoping to lead the Tartans to back-to-back championships having won the Division 2 title last year while also earning Division 2 and area coach of the year honors. But her teams always at or near the top and that was true in 2015.
Crean Lutheran won the Division 2 title with 319.50 points with Glendora in second with 296 points.
“I am very proud of these girls,” Mobley-Pollard said. “Their success this year in winning both of the Mt. SAC invitationals as well as another league championship was very exciting. A second place finish at CIF was nothing to be disappointed about. Coming within just 20- points behind Crean Lutheran was quite an accomplishment.”
Mobley-Pollard has been on an impressive run during her tenure. She’s been part of 16 league championships, two CIF titles (2011, 2012) and three runner-ups (2005, 2010, 2015).
Needless to say, expect more of the same from the Tartans’ team next season.
“We will have a strong team returning,” Mobley-Pollard said. “None of our (top) point earner will be graduating and the girls are more determined than ever to return next year to take on the challenge for a CIF title.
BOYS SWIMMING ALL-AREA
Swimmer of the year
Michael Wang, Rowland, Senior
Wang finished his senior year in style, setting a CIF-Southern Section Division 4 record in the 100 freestyle with a lighting time of 45.58 in the finals race. He nearly doubled, finishing second in the 200 freestyle in 1:40.77.
In the inaugural CIF-State championships in Clovis, Wang finished fifth in the 100 free, and has been named the San Gabriel Valley Tribune boys swimmer of the year
“Michael is an incredibly hard working athlete who has inspired his teammates and coaches,” Rowland coach Mike Cody said. “He is extremely coachable and focused on achieving his goals. Michael set some ambitious goals this season and achieved most of them.”
In 2014, Wang set the Division 4 meet record in the 50 free (20.95), so he will graduate with two records in the speed events.
Wang leaves with six Valle Vista league records on his resume.
In the league finals, Wang set league records in the 200 individual medley (1:53.1) and the 100 backstroke (51.96). He led off both the 200 and 400 freestyle relays and got records in each (21.10 in the 50 and 45.73 in the 100).
Wang earned a full swimming scholarship to the University of Santa Barbara.
“Michael has the necessary skills and determination to excel at the next level both academically and athletically,” Cody said. “Michael will do very well competing for UC Santa Barbara and will have an immediate impact on their program.”
Coach of the year
Mike Cody, Rowland
The Rowland High School boys swimming team won the Valle Vista League title and finished fourth at the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 final to help Cody earn Tribune boys coach of the year honors, but the work needed to earn this accomplishment was a long process.
In his 10th year at Rowland, it was Cody’s first league title. The Raiders’ last league championship came when Cody was an assistant in 2003 helping the girls win the San Antonio League title.
“Earning coach of the year is a culminating accolade that I feel not only recognizes this years successful season, but also recognizes the incredible amount of hard work and hours our student-athletes have put into their training the last few years to achieve that success,” Cody said.
What helped turn things around was Rowland finally getting its own aquatics center.
“For me personally, this was a memorable and fun-filled season for our program with so many exciting accomplishments,” Cody said. “In addition, we were able to enjoy training and competing in our brand new aquatic center after spending several years without a pool. This was a bittersweet year for our program.”
I’m asking this question, first, because there’s a lot of chatter and buzz over the most tradition-rich sports school in the San Gabriel Valley, and second, there has been some recent turnover with coaches at key positions. One of the questions I’m constantly getting whether on Twitter, on the blog or from parents when I’m covering games is the feeling that the focus on sports at the school isn’t what it once was. Now, football, that’s a different story. Coach Steve Hagerty’s 2015 team could be the best since Amat won it’s last championship in 1995, 20 years ago. But is Bishop Amat starting to take steps back everywhere else and why is that?