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2012-2013 Signal Sports Awards: And the nominees are ...

Posted: July 4, 2013 10:18 p.m.
Updated: July 4, 2013 10:18 p.m.

Now that we’ve given you an idea of how the 2012-2013 athletic seasons played out for each of the Santa Clarita Valley’s high school’s, it’s time to declare our annual Signal Sports Awards winners.

We’ve detailed the many accomplishments of local athletes, from the top teams to the top individuals.

We’ve discussed each school’s top moments, top victories and top athletic performances.

But which athletes, teams and coaches were the best this season?

Over the days ahead, we will award our Male and Female Athletes of the Year, Team of the Year, Coach of the Year and Newcomer of the Year, which is given to an athlete who contributed at the varsity level for the first time.

Our awards are based on a vote of the Signal Sports staff, with the exception of Program of the Year, which is determined by a point system where each team and individual achievement is given an assigned value.

Trinity Classical Academy and Santa Clarita Christian are not considered for Program of the Year because those schools participate in a limited number of sports.

We’ll get started with Newcomer of the Year on Saturday, followed by Coach of the Year on Sunday, Female Athlete of the Year on Monday, Male Athlete of the Year on Tuesday, Team of the Year on Wednesday and will conclude Thursday with Program of the Year.

Let’s take a look at the nominees ...

Newcomer of the Year nominees

Cade Apsay — Canyon football, junior

Taking over for Jonathan Jerozal, Apsay had his hands full in his first season under center for Canyon football. But Apsay came into his own and navigated an explosive Canyon offense with the poise of a veteran. He threw for 3,333 yards and 39 touchdowns to 14 interceptions and completed 59.5 percent of his throws to lead the Cowboys to a second place finish.

Kevin Dai — Valencia swim, freshman

The Santa Clarita Valley is rich with swimming tradition and Dai did his best to continue that during his freshman season. Dai was dominant in the water at Foothill League finals, winning league titles in the 200 individual medley, 100 backstroke and 200-free relay in his first trip to the event before finishing in eighth in the 200 IM and 14th in the 100 backstroke at CIF-Southern Section Division I finals.

Leon Jacobs — Golden Valley football, basketball, track and field, senior

One of the most versatile athletes the Santa Clarita Valley has seen in a long time, Jacobs arrived at Golden Valley for his senior season after three years at Bishop Montgomery in Torrance. At his previous high school he was a star basketball player, but hadn’t played football since his freshman year. No matter, Jacobs was the football team’s top player, rushing for 847 yards and five touchdowns. In limited action on the hardwood, Jacobs played in only nine games. His presence was always felt as he was named to the All-Foothill League first team. And on the track, he was one of the top sprinters, finishing second in the 100 meters at Foothill League finals.

Samantha Ortega — Saugus cross country/track and field, sophomore

The story of how Samantha Ortega came to be the Santa Clarita Valley’s top cross country athlete is as unique as they come. Plucked out of a P.E. class last year, Ortega burst onto the Foothill League scene, winning the Foothill League individual cross country title. And she was even more impressive in the postseason, finishing second in CIF-Southern Section Division II and in CIF State Division II, leading the Centurions to championships in both. Come track and field season, Ortega was one of just three SCV athletes to qualify for the state meet. At that meet, the sophomore finished 11th in the state 3,200-meter final.

Coach of the Year nominees

Chuck Johns — Canyon girls basketball

In his final season coaching four-year varsity players Alia McCoy and Jaya Schultz, Johns led a deep and experienced Cowboys team to its fourth straight league title, after the school previously had won only once, in 1973. Canyon finished the regular season at 22-4, before reaching the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS Division IIAA postseason.

Larry Muir — Valencia football

After losing key pieces off a defense that carried Valencia to a Foothill League title in 2012, Hart and Canyon were expected to challenge Valencia’s hold on the league this season. But Muir helped second-year quarterback Sean Murphy improve dramatically this season, and the Vikings won their fourth straight title after going 9-4 during the regular season. The Vikings also advanced to the CIF-SS Northern Division semifinals before losing to Palos Verdes.

Rene Paragas — Saugus girls cross country and track

Making his annual appearance on this list, Paragas once again led the Saugus girls cross country team to a CIF State title — its record seventh straight. The team also won the CIF-SS Division II title along the way. Perhaps even more impressive, though, Paragas paired that accomplishment by guiding the track and field teams’ distance runners to success. Rodrigo Ornelas, Sabrina Janes and Samantha Ortega all made it to the state track and field meet.

Adam Schulhofer — Canyon baseball

Canyon baseball has struggled in recent years, and while expected to be improved in 2013, a Foothill League title wasn’t exactly in the cards. Or so it looked. Shulhofer brought a talented and overachieving group to the top of the league, finishing 18-10 and sharing an unlikely Foothill League title with West Ranch.

Bob Shults — West Ranch softball

The Wildcats won their first league title in school history in 2012, but with a sophomore pitcher making her varsity debut in the circle in 2013, the title was expected to end up elsewhere this season. But Lexi Sorensen blossomed under Shults’ direction and was named the league’s top pitcher, as the Wildcats not only won the league, but did so by going 10-0. In the postseason, they continued their run, reaching the quarterfinals of CIF-SS Division I for the first time in school history.

Female Athlete of of the Year nominees

Azaria Hill, Golden Valley track and field, freshman

Hill lived up to her family name in her first season at Golden Valley High. The Signal’s All-Santa Clarita Valley Girls Athlete of the Year won individual Foothill League titles in the 100 and 200 meter races and ran a leg in both league champion 4x100 and 4x400-meter relay teams. In just one season, Hill already owns Golden Valley records in the 100 at 11.87 seconds and 200 in 24.82 seconds. In the postseason, Hill finished fourth in the 100 Division II final in 11.95, just missing the state finals by seven-hundredths of a second. She was seventh in the 200 in Division II and helped the Grizzlies take sixth in the 4x100 relay.

Samantha Ortega, Saugus cross country/track and field, sophomore

We’ve already discussed why Ortega is one of the valley’s top newcomers, but she’s also simply one of the area’s top female athletes. The sophomore finished second individually in CIF-SS Division II and CIF State in cross country, and advanced to the state final in track and field. She also continued on to Nike Cross Nationals, where Ortega finished 25th in the prestigious nationwide cross country event.

Angie Weiner, Saugus football/soccer, senior

The senior was a mainstay on the soccer field over the years, winning Foothill League titles in her first three seasons with the Centurions. The team struggled this season, but Weiner was named an All-Foothill League and All-SCV first teamer for her efforts. During her junior and senior seasons she picked up another sport, as well, suiting up as the football team’s kicker.

Abbey Weitzeil, Saugus swim, sophomore

With the exception of Canyon wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky, Weitzeil is the only athlete in the valley whose accomplishments can be viewed on state and national all-time top 10 lists. For the second year in a row, Weitzeil went 2-for-2 at both the Foothill League and CIF-SS Division I meets in individual events. But it was how she won her CIF titles that was most noteworthy. The sophomore won the 50 free in 22.25 seconds, .01 seconds off the state’s all-time best mark and good for fourth-best nationally all-time. In the 100 free, she swam the 12th fastest high school split in the nation when she led off the 400-yard relay with a 100-yard split of 48.83 seconds — less than 30 minutes after winning the 100 free title with a 49.01.

Male Athlete of of the Year nominees

Leon Jacobs, Golden Valley football/basketball/track and field, senior

The senior transfer student immediately became the Grizzlies’ top all-around athlete in his first year at the school. His impact was undeniable on the football team, as he gave the Grizzlies a strong presence in the backfield from his running back position. In his first and only season at Golden Valley, he earned All-Santa Clarita Valley honors in three sports: football, basketball and track and field.

Rodrigo Ornelas, Saugus cross country/track and field, senior

This season, Ornelas emerged from a face in the crowd the previous year to become the area’s top high school boys distance runner. He beat out teammate A.J. Yarnall for the Foothill League individual cross country title in the fall, then went on to help Saugus finish second in the CIF Division II State Cross Country Championship. In track and field, Ornelas won the league 3,200-meter title, then went on to finish third in the 3,200 at the CIF-Southern Section Division II finals and he took 17th at the CIF state final in the same event.

Griffin Scott, Hart football/swim, senior

The Hart senior participated in perhaps the most unique combination of sports of any SCV athlete this season. Griffin was an All-SCV first team linebacker for the Hart football team and was instrumental in the Hart boys swim team’s Foothill League title. Griffin won the league championship in the 400-free relay after winning the race with a come-from-behind performance on the anchor leg. He also won a title in the 100-yard butterfly.

Drew Wolitarsky, Canyon football/track and field, senior

Wolitarsky knew he was closing in on former Taft of Woodland Hills wide receiver Steve Smith on the California all-time receiving list for yards and touchdown receptions. Defenses knew it too. But that didn’t stop Wolitarsky from becoming an All-CIF wide receiver, finishing the season with 89 catches for 1,275 yards. He also went on to excel in track, winning the 100-meter Foothill League title.

Team of the Year nominees

Canyon baseball

Arguably the most unexpected Foothill League title winner of all, Canyon went from a fifth place squad in 2012 to a co-champion in 2013. Canyon got off to a hot start at the beginning of Foothill League play, starting league with a 13-4 win over defending champion West Ranch, and never cooled off. Canyon finished the season 18-10 overall, 10-5 in league before losing in the first round of the CIF-SS Division I playoffs to Loyola, 8-5.

Saugus boys cross country

Somewhat overshadowed by the girls cross country team, the boys made school history with a second place finish at the CIF State Division II meet. The team was led by senior A.J. Yarnall’s second place finish at the meet, which came on the heels of the Centurions’ runner-up finish at the CIF-SS Division II meet.

Saugus girls cross country

In terms of accomplishments, no team in the Santa Clarita Valley accomplished more than the Saugus girls cross country team this year. The Centurions added to their already-record run with a seventh straight CIF State cross country championship. The team also won the CIF-SS Division II title after taking second place last season.

Trinity boys basketball

As the only SCV team to advance to a CIF title game in bracket play, the Trinity boys basketball team finished as runners-up in CIF-SS Division VI. Trinity boys basketball became the first team in school history to make a championship game and, subsequently, advance to the state tournament. The Knights fell in the divisional title game to Rio Hondo Prep, but went on to win a first-round state playoff game in Division V.


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