From the Scouting Guru, AKA, James Escarcega
The 2015 high school sports season is over.
For people like Fred Robledo, Aram Tolegian, Steve Ramirez and others, when a season begins, you hope for storylines. The ones that keep you on the edge of your seats.
In 2014-2015, there were plenty of storylines that kept area fans on the edge of their seats.
Bishop Amat football fans can attest to that.
The November playoff drive will be talked about for ages. After losing to Crespi in October, the Lancers proceeded to make an improbable run that saw them win a share of the Mission League title and come within 2 yards of playing for a Pac-5 championship. While some questioned whether the Lancers belonged in the most competitive division in football in the United States, the Lancers didn’t “listen to the noise” and gave their fans memories that will be talked about for ages.
Speaking of subjects that will be talked about for ages, Damien High School basketball fans will smile and give that wink of an eye when you talk about the season. Their basketball team won the school’s first CIF-State championship. When you do stuff like that, people take notice. The people at St. John Bosco HS did, and basically made an offer that Damien head coach Matt Dunn couldn’t refuse. He went off into the sunset, trading in his green and gold of Damien for navy blue and gold of the Braves.
If that wasn’t enough to make you scratch your head, here’s another one. If there was a marriage of a coach that was the bedrock to a team and a program in the San Gabriel Valley, it was basketball coach Mike LeDuc and Glendora High School basketball. For 35 years, they were two to the hip. It was LeDuc, such a tall thrashing presence you had to make sure you were not looking at Tom Selleck, that helped launch the basketball careers of Tracy Murray and Casey Jacobson. You want to see the results of his work, just stop by the Glendora HS gym, his works of art are littered all over the gym with banners.
By Keith Lair
TRACK AND FIELD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Kayla Richardson, Walnut, junior
Kayla Richardson was injury-free and fast in 2015.
The Walnut High School junior won a pair of CIF Southern Section championships and advanced to the CIF State meet. The effort earned her Tribune track and field Athlete of the Year honors.
“I’m meant to compete at this level and I’m glad for how I did,” she said of her CIF-SS victories.
Richardson had the fastest times in the 100 meters (11.65), 200 (23.45) and 400 (56.53) in the San Gabriel Valley this season. She won CIF-SS Division 1 titles in the 100 and 200, running that season-best 11.65 in the 100 and a wind-aided 23.45 in the 200.
A key was fewer short races this season. Richardson ran only three 100 races until the Hacienda League finals. She won that meet in a wind-aided 11.86. She finished the high school season running eight 100s, but failed to compete in the CIF State finals despite having the preliminary meet’s No. 5 time, her fastest of the year. She also did not compete in the state 200 despite qualifying fourth in that event.
Richardson decided to compete in the Asian Southeast Games in Singapore and left Fresno after the Friday qualifying meet to catch a flight. She won the 100 and was second in the 200 while running for the Philippines.
Richardson also helped the Mustangs win the 4×100 relay and qualify for the state meet. They finished 14th and did not advance to the finals.
She broke her own school records in the 100 and 200 and the relay team also set a school record.
“The records we have at our school are pretty remarkable,” Walnut coach Keith Thompson said. “I’m excited for what she can do next year. It could be lights out.”
Staying away from the sprints earlier in the season helped Richardson avoid late-season injuries.
“Keeping my legs off the intensity of speed work helped me prepare to run later on,” Richardson said. “It was a hard time running those 4s.”
COACH OF THE YEAR
Keith Thompson, Walnut
Walnut High School had one of its biggest contingents in the CIF Southern Section Finals meet in recent seasons.
The Mustangs, who had a top team finish in the CIF-SS meet, did it with just four athletes: Kayla Richardson, Malia Avila and a 4×100 relay team that included both athletes. Thompson earned Tribune Coach of the Year honors as a result.
Richardson advanced to the CIF State meet in the 100 and 200 and the junior, Avila, Kyla Richardson and Victoria Sandoval competed on the relay team. Two Walnut boys also competed in the state meet in Clovis.
In the Hacienda League finals, the Mustang girls won every running event.
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.
Check it out as Maxpreps’ preseason high school football rankings counts down to No. 1. Bishop Amat, which is expected to compete for a CIF-SS Pac-5 Division title, is profiled at No. 24.
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.