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Jon Stein's best of 2013

Posted: December 25, 2013 11:02 p.m.
Updated: December 25, 2013 11:02 p.m.

Hart High's Connor Wingenroth was one of Santa Clarita's most dynamic athletes in 2013.

 

After multiple years working at various positions at The Signal, I officially left the paper in October. Still, the excitement and passion I have for Santa Clarita Valley sports remains, and I have continued to work for the paper on a freelance basis

I started working for The Signal as an intern when I was in high school, and I’ve seen plenty of amazing moments along the way. But this year may have meant the most, partially because it was my last as a full-time sports writer, and partly because it provided some of the best moments I’ve seen in a community I love being a part of.

Best athletes (male and female)

Connor Wingenroth (Hart High football) — He was without a doubt the most dynamic athlete in the Santa Clarita Valley this season, carving up defenses with his power and shiftiness on the ground, and terrifying offenses with his skill as a defensive back. Hart struggled mightily when Wingenroth missed three Foothill League games, and even with him back at less than 100 percent. But as soon as the playoffs hit, Wingenroth went off, setting a school rushing record in round one and nearly doing it again in round two. Wingenroth is the No. 1 reason Hart can call itself the 2013 CIF-Southern Section Northern Division champions.

 Abbey Weizteil (Saugus swim) — It’s rare for an athlete from the Santa Clarita Valley to make an impact so large he or she is recognized as one of the best in the state. Being recognized as one of the best in the state’s, or even nation’s, history? Relatively unheard of. But that’s just what Weitzeil did this season, winning league and section titles, and placing her name alongside some of the best high school swimmers to ever jump in the pool. And the best part? There’s plenty more to come in her junior and senior years.

 Best coach

Larry Muir (Valencia football) — Five years and counting. Valencia, once again supposed to be knocked off its Foothill League championship perch, won its fifth straight title in dramatic fashion. What made it clear that Muir is the Santa Clarita Valley’s best coach wasn’t just that the Vikings won, but how. On Oct. 25, Muir kept his team calm and composed down 22 points to Canyon late in the third quarter, and dramatically changed his offense to implement a power pitch that Hart just couldn’t stop in order to win the Foothill League title.

 Best game

Feb. 8, 2013: Canyon 62, Hart 61 — Down 17 points and nearing the end of a disappointing Foothill League campaign, the Canyon Cowboys stormed from behind in the fourth quarter to defeat the Indians 62-61 and deny Hart a split of the league title with West Ranch, a title that would have been Hart’s first since 2007. Canyon trailed from the tip until the 2:41 mark of the fourth quarter, but Park MacKenzie and Ben Taufahema led a charge in the one of the best games the Santa Clarita Valley saw in 2013.

 Moment of the year

Nov. 29, 2013: Call me a pessimist, but the defining moment of 2013 was a yellow piece of cloth lying on the field at Canyon High School. When Valencia’s Jay Jay Wilson was ejected from the CIF-SS semifinal against Saugus (rightly or wrongly) and suspended from what should have been the moment of the year (rivals Valencia and Hart playing for a title) the course of history may have changed. I didn’t think Wilson would have altered the title game result until I saw how little Hart could do to stop Chaminade’s power pitch in the state regional. Could the Indians have stopped a Wilson-led Valencia power pitch offense? Unfortunately, we’ll never know.

 Athlete who best represented the valley

Valencia High graduate Shane Vereen exploded onto the national scene on Sept. 8, 2013, rushing for 101 yards on 14 carries in the Patriots season opening victory over the Bills. Unfortunately, Vereen suffered an injury in the game, but was nonetheless the talk of the Santa Clarita Valley. He’s since returned to the Patriots and continues to be an impact player.

 Best next level athlete

Jessica Shults (Oklahoma softball through Hart High) — There are plenty of great SCV athletes who played at the college level this year, but few have the four-year track record of Shults. The University of Oklahoma catcher was named to the 2013 Women’s College World Series All-Tournament Team, was a three-time NFCA All American, a 2012 Diamond Sports Catcher of the Year, a national champion, and now, can add professional softball player to that list after being drafted by the USSSA Pride.

 Toughest goodbye

Kylie Sorenson (West Ranch softball) — She’s one of the few players who come along that truly encapsulate what it means to be a student athlete. A team-first player who volunteered to teach the game to young kids, focused on academics first and foremost and constantly strived to get better. Her softball-IQ was unrivaled in the Foothill League, and she’ll continue her career at Stanford University.

 Most exciting athlete

Leon Jacobs (Golden Valley football, track and field) — This being a 2013 list, Jacobs is here for his contributions on the track and on the basketball court. Despite his limited time playing hoops at Golden Valley, Jacobs made an immediate impact each and every time he hit the floor. There was an added buzz when he came off the bench, and it usually didn’t take him long to prove the buzz was with good reason. On the track, he was equally entertaining, winning a Foothill League title in the long jump and always providing an exciting show.

 Comic relief

West Ranch girls softball team was about to embark on its most important game in school history in a CIF-Southern Section Division I quarterfinal contest against Santiago on May 23. But if there was any stress prior to the game, it was quickly disolved with an impromptu dance party that took place in front of the Wildcats’ dugout. Players and parents alike joined in the hilarious dance-off.

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