Another tough nonleague foe on the schedule for CSHM

Cantwell-Sacred Heart’s brutal preleague schedule will continue Saturday when it faces the third-ranked team in Arizona at the one-day Cavalier Classic at Cerritos College.
Sunnyslope, from Phoenix, is 14-1 this season, with its only loss coming to a USA Today Top 25 team. The Vikings have won five games in a row since they were edged 72-70 by St. Edward, Ohio’s No. 1 team, including a victory over California No. 32 Serra at the MaxPreps Holiday Classic.
“We’re excited,” said Cantwell coach George Zedan, “because they’re a team that represents a different challenge. We know they’re good, we know they have Division 1 players, but we haven’t seen them, and they haven’t seen us.”
Sunnyslope is paced by junior point guard Sammy Barnes-Thompkins, who leads the team in scoring (22.8), assists ( 3.4) and steals (2.1).
“(Barnes-Thompkins) is the engine that makes them go,” Zedan said. “He’s phenomenal. He’s definitely gonna be a match-up problem for us.”
The Vikings’ other star is 6-foot-9 senior forward Michael Humphrey, who has committed to Stanford. Humphrey averages a double-double with 15.2 points and 11.8 rebounds.
Cantwell is ranked No. 10 in California by and sports an 11-2 record. Senior guards Joey Covarrubias and E.J. Mejia are the Cardinals’ catalysts, providing confident, experienced leadership.
“As long as they can shoot it and pass it and handle it, we have a chance,” Zedan said of this three-year varsity starters.
Cantwell played its last game without 6-10 junior Balsa Dragovic, who was suffering from blisters on his feet. But he’ll be in the lineup Saturday with 6-10 Gligorije Rakopcivic.
“We feel we’re pretty competitive,” Zedan said. “They’re gonna have trouble with our bigs, so it should be a good match up.”
Cantwell opens Camino Real League play Jan. 15 at St. Paul.

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A winning record isn’t enough for Pioneer’s Gilmore

Yeah, his team is 8-3. But Pioneer boys basketball coach Greg Gilmore sees plenty of room for improvement as the Titans approach the beginning of Del Rio League play next week.
Gilmore’s team opened the season at 6-0, and won the El Rancho Blue Pride Classic in fine form. But Pioneer is 2-3 since, the result of what Gilmore feels is a lazy defensive effort. The Titans opened the Huntington Park Tournament with a loss to San Pedro on Monday, and they’ll face Fremont in pool play tonight. They’ll continue tournament play Friday and Saturday.
“I guess a coach is never satisfied,” Gilmore laughed Wednesday, “but we’re not playing really well. Even though (we have a winning record), we’re not playing good basketball. Our defense is not as sharp as it should be … and we’re not playing as hard as we should be.”
Senior wing O’Shae Williams has been Pioneer’s most consistent player, leading the team in scoring (16.7) and rebounding (7.1). Williams has two 29-point efforts to his credit this season, and junior forward Kyle Henderson is averaging nearly 15 points.
“We’ve got a talented team, and we’ve been winning because of our talent,” Gilmore said. “We’re one of the favorites in (the Del Rio League), and teams are gonna come after us. I’ve been telling the team that what we’ve been doing now is not gonna get it done. … I’m just waiting for us to put it all together.”
The Titans should be helped by the addition of transfers Teran Massengill (Mayfair) and Cesar Trujillo (La Serna), who were cleared to play Monday.
Pioneer opens Del Rio League play Jan. 15 at home against La Serna. Tip off is 6:30 p.m.

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Wan’s competitive spirit pushes her to improve

Christie Wan
Whittier Christian, Freshman

Christie Wan had herself quite a freshman season for Whittier Christian High’s girls tennis team.
Wan was clearly the best singles player in the Olympic League, proven by a 40-0 set record and the singles title at the league tournament. She was so dominant, in fact, she won all but one set 6-0, and was quite upset with herself when she allowed Maranatha’s Hailey McNall to take a game off her in the league final.
“She’s a little hard on herself,” said Heralds coach Nicole Nicolaides.
But that competitive nature pushed her further in the CIF Individual Tournament than any other area player, and Wan has been selected the Daily News All-Area Girls Tennis Player of the Year. Wan reached the third round of CIF, short of where she wanted to be but impressive nonetheless.
“She volleys well, she serves well, she moves so nicely,” said Nicolaides. “She’s really an all-court player.”
After another 6-0, 6-0 first-round triumph, Wan topped Hacienda Heights Wilson’s Vicky Limayo 6-2, 6-2 in the second. But her run came to an end against Peninsula sophomore Ena Shibahara, 6-2, 6-1. Shibahara is a highly ranked Southern California player and led Peninsula to the Division 1 team championship.
Wan finished her freshman season with an impressive 45-2 set record.
“I was (hoping) to do better at CIF,” she explained, “but (I did) OK.”
Wan is a fierce defender of the baseline, and she takes control of points from her first swing. A veteran of the junior tennis tournament circuit, Wan would like to improve her first-serve accuracy.
“That’s always been unstable for me,” Wan said. “The serve really determines how the point goes.”
Wan especially enjoyed being part of the close-knit Whittier Christian team, something that was new to her this year.
“It’s not only about you, even if you win 3-0,” Wan said. “It’s about everybody.”

Nicole Nicolaides
Whittier Christian

Abby Burdick and Klarissa Flores had never played competitive tennis before their junior year in high school. But with the help of Daily News All-Area Girls Tennis Coach of the Year Nicole Nicolaides, they were Olympic League doubles champions as seniors. “It’s very rewarding (to see their success),” Nicolaides said. “They’ve put in a lot of hard work.” And so did Nicolaides. Freshman Christie Wan added the league singles crown, and the Heralds finished second and advanced to the CIF-SS Division 5 playoffs.

Celeste Chavez
Cal, Junior

Chavez teamed with senior Jessica Diaz for make a terrific doubles combination for the Condors. With consistent ground strokes and a strong serve, Chavez and the rest of the doubles players became the strength of this year’s Cal team. Chavez and Diaz had a 55-3 overall record and claimed the Del Rio League doubles championship.

Jessica Diaz
Cal, Senior

Diaz was one of three seniors in the doubles rotation for the Condors, and she provided important leadership for the team during Del Rio League play. After claiming the league’s doubles title, Diaz and Chavez reached the second round of the CIF Individual Tournament, earning a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Tiffant Tran and Taymar Quezada of Rosemead.

Sayra Escobar
Montebello, Junior

Escobar and doubles partner Amanali Rodriguez were consistent winners for the Oilers in Almont League play, and they claimed the league’s No. 1 seed for the CIF Individual Tournament. Once there, they beat a team from Windward in three sets in the opening round before a 6-0, 6-0 loss to Tracy and Tammy Van of Garden Grove.

Adriana Guzman
Whittier, Senior

Guzman had a 27-3 record through the Del Rio League season, then put together a terrific run in the league tournament and beat teammate Sarah Medina to claim the Del Rio League singles crown. More of a defensive player, Guzman was effective at waiting for opponents to make a mistake before pouncing. Guzman finished the season with a 53-4 overall record.

Sarah Medina
Whittier, Senior

Medina had a terrific Del Rio League campaign in the regular season, going 29-1 in singles play to lead the Cardinals to the team championship. At the league tournament, she reached the final before losing to teammate Adriana Guzman in three sets. Medina was eliminated in the first round of the CIF Individual Tournament, completing the season with an impressive 54-3 mark.

Sarah Morrill
La Serna, Senior

Morrill was the Lancers’ No. 1 singles player and the leader of a very strong singles lineup that took La Serna to a second-place finish in the Del Rio League. Morrill used an aggressive style to put her opponents on their heels, and was a strong finisher. After a strong run in the Del Rio League tournament, Morrill finished in third place.

Amanali Rodriguez
Montebello, Senior

Rodriguez and doubles partner Sayra Escobar were the strength of an Oilers squad that finished fifth in the six-team Almont League. At the league tournament, they went unbeaten and claimed the Almont League crown, finishing league play with a 21-4 record. At the CIF Individual Tournament, they rallied from a one-set deficit to win their first-round match.

Marriah Amador, Cal, Senior
Abby Burdick, Whittier Christian, Senior
Klarissa Flores, Whittier Christian, Senior
Luisa Garcia, Whittier, Senior
Monserrat Gonzalez, Cal, Senior
Kyori Lee, La Mirada, Senior
Kallysta Lopez, La Serna, Freshman
America Montejano, El Rancho, Senior
Natasha Nerenberg, Whittier, Junior
Melissa Perez, Montebello, Junior
Jacqueline Rubio, Montebello, Junior
Natalia Sanchez, El Rancho, Senior
Roxanne Sierra, El Rancho, Senior
Veronica Torres, El Rancho, Senior
Michelle Villarino, La Serna, Junior

Leah Gonzalez
La Serna, Freshman

Gonzalez emerged as the singles player to watch in the Del Rio League in the coming years with a strong freshman campaign. She’s an aggressive, intelligent player, and she nearly always had a better second effort after seeing an opponent once. “She’s a great player with the right technique,” said La Serna coach Jaime Ruiz. “She’s a very well-rounded player.” Gonzalez finished fourth in the Del Rio League tournament.

La Serna vs. Cal
Oct. 17

La Serna won eight singles sets, Cal won eight double sets, and the Del Rio League rivals completed their match with nine sets apiece. The difference came down to games won, and for the second time in weeks, La Serna had the edge, 74-67 this time. The Lancers won seven of its sets by scores of 6-0, 6-1 or 6-2, giving them a decided advantage in games.

Almont League

Mark Keppel

Del Rio League

Freeway League

Olympic League

Suburban League

TOP 10
1. Whittier Christian
2. Whittier
3. La Serna
4. Cal
5. La Mirada
6. El Rancho
7. Santa Fe
8. Montebello
9. Pioneer
10. Schurr

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Sarco not slowed by midseason setbacks

Gefry Sarco
El Rancho, Senior

Known for finishing with a flourish, Whittier Daily News All-Area Boys Cross Country Athlete of the Year Gefry Sarco saved his best kick for the end of his senior season.
Sapped of strength and endurance by a midseason illness, the El Rancho senior sat out the Whittier Narrows Invitational. And that lost training time probably cost him a chance at winning the Del Rio League final, where he finished a distant third.
“It was a tough period,” Sarco admitted, “but you know whatever happens, you have to go through training to help the team. … It wasn’t easy, but fortunately I had my team there to help me out.”
Once CIF-SS competition began, however, Sarco found his groove. Finally back in shape, he was 10th in his heat at the Division 1 preliminaries and qualified for the final. And with a chance to both medal and advance to the state meet, Sarco turned in his best performance of the year. He ran a personal-best of 15:15 on the 2.92-mile course at Mt. SAC, finishing in 15th place.
That meant both a CIF medal for Sarco and one of five state meet berths reserved for runners from non-qualifying teams.
“That course is amazing,” Sarco remembered. “I didn’t think. I just ran with my heart, and everything else just followed through, fortunately.”
As the only area athlete to qualify for the state meet, Sarco finished 35th on the 5K course and set another personal-best for that distance, 15:52. He missed his goal of qualifying for the national meet, but thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
“I knew going in it wasn’t gonna be easy,” Sarco said. “I was nervous … but I had fun running against the best California has to offer. I’m not disappointed with the way things turned out.”
“You can’t complain,” El Rancho coach Ty Wynn agreed. “You know you gave it your best if it’s the best you’ve ever done.”
Sarco has drawn some interest from four-year colleges, but hasn’t landed a scholarship offer yet. He’d like to stay in Southern California, and would love a chance to attend USC or UCLA.

Angelica De La Rosa

The challenges were many for Cal’s cross country team this season – the early season suspension of Tony DiMarco, who’d led the Condors to a second-place finish at the state meet just a season before, as well as a rash of injuries to key runners.
But Whittier Daily News All-Area Boys Cross Country Coach of the Year Angelica De La Rosa did a wonderful job keeping things headed in the right direction. With the help of assistant coach David Rojas and a strong group of seniors, Cal runners went 1-2 at the Del Rio League final and were 12th at the CIF-SS finals.
“The kids had a choice to quit or fight,” De La Rosa said, “and they chose to fight.”

Jorge Anzaldo
Schurr, Senior

Under Anzaldo’s guidance, the Spartans won their third consecutive Almont League championship and finished eighth at the ultra-competitive CIF-SS Division 1 preliminaries. After finishing third as a junior at the league final, Anzaldo ran 15:54 to claim the Almont League crown. “He worked his butt off over the summer,” Schurr coach Manuel Quintero said of Anzaldo’s improvement.

Samuel Bautista
Cal, Junior

Bautista was part of a corp group of experienced runners that overcame hurdles all season long for the Condors. He was consistently one of Cal’s top performers and displayed a strong work ethic in training. Bautista had impressive efforts in both Del Rio League cluster meets as well as the Mt. SAC Invitational, and he led the team at the CIF Preliminaries. At the Del Rio League final, Bautista finished in second place.

Thomas Browning
Schurr, Junior

Browning was the two-time Almont League frosh-soph champion, and he steadily improved for the varsity team as the season progressed. His third-place finish at the Almont League final (16:01) helped the Spartans claim the team championship. At the CIF-SS Division 1 preliminaries, Browning ran the Mt. SAC course in 16:34.

Ricardo Cano
Schurr, Junior

Cano consistently finished near the front for the Spartans after making the move from the frosh-soph team to the varsity this season. At about 5-foot-5, Cano’s path to success began with “heard work and dedication,” according to Quintero. “He put in the time over the summer.” Cano finished second at the Almont League final – part of a 1-2-3 Spartan sweep – in 15:56, and ran 16:50 at the CIF-SS Division 1 prelims.

Brian Ochoa
Whittier, Junior

Ochoa continued to improve over the course of his second varsity season, and his excellent endurance is a byproduct of an extremely competitive streak. “He sets big goals,” said Whittier coach Dan Whittington, “and he’s a hard worker.” Ochoa finished in fourth place at the Del Rio League final in 15:26, and he was 12th in his heat at the CIF-SS Division 2 preliminaries in 15:49.

Matlazomatli Rojas
Cal, Senior

Rojas placed third at the first Del Rio League cluster meet and second in the next, and he was ninth in his division at the Mt. SAC Invitational. But his best run of the season came at the Del Rio final, where he finished first in 15:12, over six seconds faster than the second-place runner. Rojas was sixth in his heat at the Division 1 preliminaries, and he placed 43rd at the final in 15:38.

Donald Brown
El Rancho, Freshman

Brown was a varsity youngster on a senior-heavy team, but more than held his own with the Del Rio League champions. Brown improved dramatically over the course of the season, eventually breaking 16:00 on the Mt. SAC course, and he was among the fastest freshman in the CIF-SS Division 1 final. At the Del Rio League final, Brown finished seventh in 15:47.

Brian Ault, Whittier Christian, Senior
Gustavo Diaz, Montebello, Freshman
Aleksie Dominguez, St. Paul, Junior
Christian Duran, La Serna, Junior
Andres Falcon, St. Paul, Sophomore
Daniel Garcia, Whittier, Senior
Rudy Gonzalez, Cal, Senior
Efren Hernandez, Montebello, Senior
Ben Lyzenga, La Habra, Junior
Jose Pacheco, Cal, Senior
Elias Powell, El Rancho, Senior
Rafael Ramirez, Whittier, Senior
Nathan Rangel, Montebello, Senior
Javier Rosas, Schurr, Senior
Salvador Salas, El Rancho, Senior
Brian Valencia, La Habra, Senior

Meet of the Year
CIF-SS Division 1 Final
Nov. 23, 2013

It wasn’t just a personal best that helped El Rancho’s Gefry Sarco qualify for the CIF State Meet in his final chance. It was a personal best of 27 seconds on Mt. SAC’s hilly 2.92-mile course. Sarco ran 15:10 and finished 15th overall, claiming one of five State Meet berths for runners not on a qualifying team. With his strong kick, he became the first El Rancho runner to qualify for state since 2006 and led the Dons to an 11th-place finish, one spot ahead of Del Rio League champion and rival Cal.

Top 10
1. El Rancho
2. Cal
3. Schurr
4. Whittier
5. La Habra
6. La Mirada
7. St. Paul
8. Santa Fe
9. La Serna
10. Montebello

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Tobias at her happiest while on the run

Julissa Tobias
Santa Fe, Senior

Julissa Tobias was completely in her element at the CIF-SS cross country preliminaries.
“I couldn’t stop smiling during the race,” said the Whittier Daily News All-Area Athlete of the Year. “I was just living in the moment. I was happy to be running with girls who love the same thing I do.”
Tobias runs for the simple joy of running, and has worked hard to improve by leaps and bounds since taking up cross country as a freshman.
“Ever since I was little,’” Tobias remembered, “I’ve loved running.”
She puts in between 40 and 45 miles a week – down from closer to 60 during the summer – and spends most Saturday mornings training in the hills around Whittier when she could be sleeping in.
“She’s a very dedicated, committed person,” said Santa Fe coach Phil Torres. “She has a good work ethic, and I think that’s the bottom line (to her success).
“… (Running) is what she enjoys.”
Tobias claimed this year’s Del Rio League championship after a third-place finish as a junior. Her performance last year boosted her confidence, and countless hours training with Santa Fe’s boys pushed Tobias to improve even more.
“That was a real eye-opener,” Torres said. “She realized she could run with those (elite) girls, she could run at the front of the pack.”
Pushed by a strong contingent from Whittier at the league final, Tobias completed the three-mile Legg Lake course in 18:35 to earn the championship, although she wasn’t completely pleased with her time or performance. She followed that by finishing 26th in her heat at the Division 1 prelims in 18:54, a personal-best on the difficult Mt. SAC course that may have also played a part in the smile on her face.
Tobias hasn’t received any scholarship offers yet, but some schools have shown early interest. Torres thinks she’ll become an excellent distance runner once she reaches college.
“The longer the distance,” he said, “the better.”

Dan Whittington

Three measly points. That’s all that kept Whittier High from reaching the CIF-SS Division 2 final, a goal the team had set for itself at the beginning of the season.
“There definitely were some tears at the end of the season,” said Whittier Daily News All-Area Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year Dan Whittington, “but this was probably the hardet-working group I’ve coached. Their hard work paid off.”
With juniors Arianna Perez and Sophia Rodriguez, senior Wendy Dorantes and sophomore Brenda Dorantes leading the way, Whittington guided the Cardinals to a dominant performance in the Del Rio League. Next season, five of his top runners will return.

Alma Colindres
El Rancho, Sophomore

Colindres helped the Dons take second place in the Del Rio League with an excellent sophomore season. She finished in seventh place at the league final, covering the Legg Lake course in 19:04. At the CIF-SS Division 1 preliminaries at Mt. SAC, Colindres finished 35th in her heat with a time of 19:34 over the 2.92-mile course.

Brenda Dorantes
Whittier, Sophomore

The younger Dorantes sibling is already a two-year varsity performer, and is “super talented,” according to Cardinals coach Dan Whittington. She overcame several injuries through the course of the season to finish fifth at the Del Rio League final. “She’s tough as nails,” Whittington said. Dorantes was 16th in her heat at the Division 2 preliminaries, completing the course in 18:59.

Wendy Dorantes
Whittier, Senior

The older Dorantes sister was a trusted leader for Whittington on a relatively young team. “She’s someone I can always count on,” he said. “She’s very consistent, and she never complains.” Dorantes took fourth place at the Del Rio League final in 18:40, and was 25th in her heat at the Division 2 preliminaries in 19:23.

Justice Navarro
Cal, Senior

Navarro provided a calming and experienced presence for the Condors during a sometimes tumultuous season. She ran a personal-best at the Mt. SAC Invitational, and she was the first Cal runner to cross the finish at the Del Rio League final, placing eighth in 19:18. At the Division 1 preliminaries, Navarro posted a heat time of 19:22.

Arianna Perez
Whittier, Junior

Perez possesses a combination of strength and speed, and she runs with a burning desire to win. “She loves to compete,” marveled Whittington. Perez was topped only by league champion and Athlete of the Year Julissa Tobias at the Del Rio League final, finishing the course in 18:37, 2 seconds back. At the Division 2 preliminaries, Perez finished 28th in her heat in 19:34.

Sophia Rodriguez
Whittier, Junior

Rodriguez was Whittier’s most consistent runner over the course of the season, and its most skilled when running hilly courses. She was also what Whittington called a “quiet leader” for the Cardinals. Rodriguez was third at the Del Rio League final in 18:38, and she ran 19:06 in the Division 2 preliminaries to finish 18th in her heat.

Cynthia Carabes, Whittier, Senior
Stephanie Cortez, Cal, Junior
Melegin Flores, Montebello, Sophomore
Sabrina Gomez, Cantwell-Sacred Heart, Junior
Christina Gonzalez, Cantwell-Sacred Heart, Senior
Melissa Gutierrez, El Rancho, Junior
Samantha Huerta, La Mirada, Junior
Corey Luna, La Habra, Senior
Dana Navarette, Schurr, Sophomore
Marlysha Nicolaides, Schurr, Junior
Sabrina Padilla, Montebello, Sophomore
Fatima Patino, Schurr, Junior
Krystal Serna, Cantwell-Sacred Heart, Senior

Amy Baray
Whittier Christian, Freshman

Baray put together a solid debut season for the Heralds, including victory in the freshman division at the Whittier Narrows Invitational. Baray took fourth place at the Olympic League final and completed her season with a top-25 finish in her heat at the CIF-SS Division 4 preliminaries. Baray completed the Mt. SAC course in 20:21.

Del Rio League final
Nov. 7, 2013

If you blinked, you may have missed it. Whittier High proved its dominance of the Del Rio League in a span that lasted less than 5 seconds, when Cardinal runners finished 2-3-4-5 and essentially clinched the league crown. Junior Arianna Perez (18:37) was runner-up to Santa Fe’s Julissa Tobias, and she was followed by Sophia Rodriguez (18:38), Wendy Dorantes (18:40) and Brenda Dorantes (18:42). Whittier’s first five runners totaled only 23 points, less than half of second-place El Rancho.

TOP 10
1. Whittier
2. El Rancho
3. Cal
4. Schurr
5. Santa Fe
6. La Serna
7. St. Paul
8. Cantwell-Sacred Heart
9. La Mirada
10. Montebello

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