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Cary Osborne's best of 2013

Posted: December 25, 2013 10:50 p.m.
Updated: December 25, 2013 10:50 p.m.
The West Ranch student section was a fearsome prospect for all opposing teams to deal with in 2013. The West Ranch student section was a fearsome prospect for all opposing teams to deal with in 2013.
The West Ranch student section was a fearsome prospect for all opposing teams to deal with in 2013.

This coming year will mark my 10th year covering sports for The Signal so I’ve seen a lot of history.

I think by now it’s OK to let out some personal opinions, and what better way to do it then to reflect on what I thought the best of 2013 has been?

Here are my choices for the best of the year, or as our staff writer Dan Agnew is calling it — “The Siggies.”

Best athletes (male and female)

Max Weinstein (Canyon High baseball) — When I learned the Canyon pitcher/shortstop was playing the latter half of the season with a dead arm, I knew then and there that this kid was one of the gutsiest performers I’ve seen in my decade here. Weinstein lifted Canyon baseball from an also ran to a Foothill League champion — and no one outside of Canyon Country (except for me and it’s on record) saw that coming. He wasn’t an elite pitcher or elite shortstop, but heck, Mick Jagger isn’t the best technical singer and Keith Richards isn’t on best guitarists list, but the Rolling Stones are pretty damn good. Collectively as a shortstop and pitcher, Max was Maximus in the Santa Clarita Valley and out pick for 2013 All-Santa Clarita Valley Baseball Player of the Year.

Samantha Ortega (Saugus High cross country and track and field) — My respect for cross country runners stems from my trip to the 2008 CIF state championships. The toll that these athletes take on their body and their sheer will is beyond that of nearly every sport. Samantha Ortega is the best at it in the SCV. She was a state finalist in the 3,200 in track and field and in cross country, where she was also an All-American in 2013.

Best coach

Larry Muir (Valencia football) — Out of any coach in the SCV, I’ve probably spent the most time watching Valencia football head coach Larry Muir. The fact that he wins league championships every year, without being the most talented team in the valley, says enough. But the way he works with his kids is beyond everyone I’ve seen. One can see that he puts his heart into every word he says and every action he makes. It’s why his kids respond so well to him and why they come back to acknowledge the impact he’s had.

Best place to watch a game

West Ranch High Gym — This is a no brainer for me. West Ranch’s gymnasium during boys basketball games was easily the most ear-splitting, ground-shaking house of creativity that I have seen in years. The West Ranch student section carried out themes that regularly made me laugh and always made me notice. It helped that the boys basketball team had the best combo I’ve ever seen in the Foothill League — Ako Kaluna and Kevin Harris. There were times I wanted to get up there with the students and root for these guys.

Best game

Oct. 25, 2013: Valencia 35, Canyon 28 — The headline called Valencia “The incredibles.” There have been some crazy football games through the years, but this one may have been the craziest. Canyon was stomping Valencia 28-6 in the third quarter before the Vikings scored 22 unanswered points and eventually won the game. I remember watching Canyon and feeling bad for it at the time. It was a constant, stunning onslaught by the Vikings against a team that I thought was better at the time. I was wrong. Valencia clearly showed its character.

Moment of the year

I remember watching Golden Valley sophomore golfer Elisa Pierre skip off the 18th green at TPC Valencia on Oct. 23. She was met by her teammates with a collective hug to celebrate Pierre’s Newhall Land Cup/Foothill League MVP victory. But the individual victory was secondary to the team one as Golden Valley — a school that hasn’t had much success of any kind in sports — won the Foothill League team title. It was sweeter, I think, that the Grizzlies won in a sport that is known for being for the well-to-do, when the school has had to deal with a reputation of not having much. It proved that Golden Valley can win in anything.

Athlete who best represented the valley  

When Hart High graduate James Shields was traded to the Kansas City Royals by the Tampa Bay Rays, it came at a cost. The Royals gave up eventual American League Rookie of the Year Wil Myers in the deal. But Shields was specifically brought to Kansas City to help it get to its first postseason since 1985. Shields had a stellar season, winning his 100th career game and being the ace of the Royals pitching staff. They were in the playoff race until the last week of the Major League Baseball season. Shields is known as one of baseball’s most dependable pitchers and that is big time. And he is an SCV guy.

Best next level athlete

Pat Valaika (UCLA baseball through Hart High) — The Valaika family has had tons of highs from its shortstop-playing boys, but Pat’s was different. The 2010 Hart High graduate helped lead UCLA to a baseball national championship. He was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Then he was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the ninth round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. That’s pretty special.

Toughest goodbye

Alia McCoy (Canyon basketball) — It was 2011 when I took over the girls basketball beat and I was reluctant. I was one of those dumb males who thought basketball only exists in a man’s world. Alia McCoy convinced me otherwise. As a sophomore, she had this silky midrange shot, a desire to play defense bigger than most boys I had ever seen and a team-first attitude that was infectious. On top of that, she was a great kid. Two years later, as a senior, she was the same great kid and even better basketball player. I loved covering Canyon girls basketball because of her teammates, her coach and most importantly because of her. What a talent.

Most exciting athlete

Ako Kaluna (West Ranch basketball) — I can’t remember anticipating things with a player like I did with West Ranch senior Ako Kaluna. Here was this massive Polynesian kid (I kind of gravitated to him because I used to live in Hawaii) with long hair who could handle the ball, shoot from distance and defend. But there was nothing more impressive than his backboard rocking dunks. His 6-foot-7-inch, 265-pound frame helped make his dunks nailbiting adventures because of the potential of destruction. During the season, he shattered one backboard and cracked a rim. I remember telling him at our annual SCV Hoops Finale all-star basketball game not to break the backboard. He smiled and said something to the effect that he wanted to. It worried me, but eventually the backboard and rim survived.

Athlete who gets it

Leon Jacobs (Golden Valley basketball/football/track and field) This is a category you won’t see in the other Signal guys writeups but something I had to acknowledge. Leon Jacobs was as exciting, well-spoken and interesting as any athlete I’ve covered over the years. It’s a shame he was at Golden Valley for just his senior year because he would have been a leader at that school. But the thing that struck me is after he graduated, he called The Signal office to thank us for covering him. I had never had an athlete do that before. I told him he didn’t need to thank us. He deserved the coverage for his talent, personality and performances. I also told him we’d follow his journey at the next level — which is at the University of Wisconsin. And the possibilities after that are endless.

Comic relief

It was halftime of the Hart-West Ranch boys basketball matchup on Jan. 25 at West Ranch High. A kid in a Hart High shirt approached me and said “Just wait here. We’ve got something for you.” In a season long game of one-upsmanship with the student sections, Hart then took it to a new level. Aaron Hamilton, a Hart baseball player, walked into the gym with a beard, wig and white robe on. He held a staff. He walked to the hart student section then raised his staff. The Hart students, all dressed in red, parted the aisle for him to walk up. Moses parted the Red Sea and it was the most creative thing I have ever seen from a group of fans.


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