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2013-14 Signal Sports Awards: And the nominees are...

Posted: July 9, 2014 10:38 p.m.
Updated: July 9, 2014 10:38 p.m.

We’ve spent the last two weeks bringing you up to speed on the high, lows, and everything in between of the 2013-2014 athletic year in the Santa Clarita Valley.

We’ve detailed the championships, heartbreaking defeats, tales of individual glory.

You’ve heard about stories that swept the nation, like Saugus swimmer Abbey Weitzeil or Trinity basketball player Beau Howell.

You’ve read about the renaissance of the Hart football program, and the staying power of the Saugus cross country program.

But what players, teams and coaches stood out as the best the Santa Clarita Valley had to offer this year?

Over the next seven days The Signal will examine the season’s top participants and hand out our 2014 Signal Sports Awards.

Things will kick off Friday when we hand out our Newcomer of the Year award, followed by our inaugural Most Exciting Athlete of the Year on Saturday, 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 Program of the Year on July 16.

This marks the first year The Signal will hand out an award for Most Exciting Athlete of the Year.

With so many incredible athletes this season, we couldn’t resist creating an award that goes beyond just the statistics, and gets to the heart of what makes sports great — emotion.

To be eligible for Newcomer of the Year an athlete must not have contributed on the varsity level in the sport in which they are judged on prior to the 2013-14 season.

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.

Without further ado, let’s look at the nominees:

Newcomer of the Year nominees

Noah Dent — SCCS baseball, freshman

The Santa Clarita Christian pitcher had a dominant year, going 9-0 on the season with an ERA of 0.52. In eight starts, the freshman went the distance four times and had five shutout performances. He also hit .441 at the plate with 13 RBIs and two doubles.

Jason Drees — West Ranch baseball, sophomore

Drees came on strong in his first season of varsity competition, compiling a 20-game hitting streak that didn’t end until the final day of the Wildcats’ season. He hit .408 on the season and had an on-base percentage of .477 and slugging percentage of .538.

Kayla Konrad — Valencia basketball, freshman

Even as a freshman, Konrad played like an experienced hoopster in her first foray at Foothill League competition. She averaged 9.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 2.9 assists per game and is one of the league’s top players to watch going forward.

Ashley Mayall — West Ranch golf, freshman

The top freshman girls golfer in the Foothill League nearly won its Most Valuable Player prize. She finished second overall, six strokes off first place and had a 39.0 stroke average.

Noah Morrow — West Ranch tennis, freshman

Morrow was a top singles player in 2014, but really made his mark when he teamed with Chris Gaw to make one of the top Foothill League doubles teams in 2014. The duo won the doubles crown at the Foothill League final tournament.

Tanner Olson — Saugus swim, freshman

One of Saugus’ top swimmers all year long, Olson edged Valencia veteran swimmer Kevin Dai for an impressive Foothill League championship win in the 100-yard breaststroke.

Nikol Popov — Valencia swim, freshman

Popov was easily the top freshman swimmer in the Foothill League, and in all likelihood one of the top overall swimmers the league had to offer. She won league and CIF titles in the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard breaststroke.

Most Exciting Athlete of the year nominees

Sophie Cortes — Hart soccer, senior

Cortes doesn’t land on the this list as a result of statistical evidence, though that exists in the form of 11 goals and a team-high 12 assists. She lands on this list because of an attitude — a sort of tenaciousness that was always exciting to watch. No one got under opponents’ skin like Cortes seemed to, and no one strategically kept their cool quite like she did, either.

Keston Hiura — Valencia baseball, senior

If you’re looking for a ball hit by Valencia’s Keston Hiura, might as well look over the outfield fence. The senior hit more home runs than anyone in the state (14) in 2014 and was tied for sixth in the nation. He struck fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers and it was hard to take your eye off the field when he was in the batter’s box.

Beau Howell — Trinity basketball, Trinity

It was without a doubt the most inspirational story of the 2013-14 school year, and one that was told not just around the Santa Clarita Valley, but across the country. Leading 77-52 in the CIF-Southern Section Division VI title game, Howell, who is autistic, entered the game. With the help of an assist from Desert Chapel senior Tanner Alvarez, he scored the game’s final basket and his first of the season. That day, an audience, many of whom were holding back tears, saw an unquestionable display of sportsmanship between two players on opposing teams.

Lewis Stallworth — Hart basketball, senior

Anything could happen with the ball in Stallworth’s hands. We knew it, opposing coaches and players knew it, and most entertainingly — Stallworth new it. What made Stallworth exciting to watch was not just the pure athletic ability he possessed, but the joy in which The Signal’s All-SCV Boys Basketball Player of the Year exhibited on the court.

Abbey Weitzeil — Saugus swim, junior

Swim meets have plenty of down time through the course of the two-plus hour long event. But one thing that makes everyone on the pool deck sit up and pay close attention is the announcement of Weitzeil on deck. Anytime she enters the water, excitement ensues and records are likely to fall. This season she broke two national high school records in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events, and no one would be surprised if more are to follow.

Jay Jay Wilson — Valencia football, junior

Wilson was involved in one of the most notorious SCV events of the sports year when he was ejected for targeting in a CIF-SS Northern Division semifinal against Saugus, which caused him to be banned from the ensuing title game against Hart. But when he was on the field, he was an exciting, intimidating presence, on both sides of the ball.

Connor Wingenroth — Hart football, senior

It doesn’t get much simpler than this: when Wingenroth wasn’t on the field, the Hart offense was significantly less interesting. That may be hard to believe with all the weapons the Indians had this season, but when Wingenroth, or “Wings,” as they call him, touched the ball, there was no telling what might happen.

Coach of the Year nominees

Jason Bornn — Saugus football

Despite settling for fourth place in a deep and talented Foothill League, Bornn’s Saugus team rallied to win two straight playoff games in upset fashion, advancing all the way to the CIF-SS Northern Division semifinals.

Mike Herrington — Hart football

Herrington kept the Indians from collapsing after a disappointing end to the regular season saw them finish third in the Foothill League when many thought them shoo-ins for a league title. The Indians managed to regroup in a hurry, winning the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division title and making a Southern California regional semifinal appearance.

Chuck Johns — Canyon girls basketball

Johns, who stepped down after the 2014 season, went out on top. He led the Cowboys to their fifth straight Foothill League title, splitting it this year with Valencia. The Cowboys advanced to the third round of the CIF-Southern Section Division IA postseason.

Mike Killinger — Valencia baseball

Killinger took over a Valencia team after former coach Jared Snyder suddenly left the program, and no one would have blamed him if the Vikings struggled under the turmoil. Killinger held things together, though, going 11-4 in league play for a second-place finish, one game behind Hart. The Vikings won their first round playoff game in CIF-Southern Section Division I 11-2 over Thousand Oaks before falling to JSerra.

Guilherme Mitrovich — Hart girls soccer

Mitrovich inherited a strong Hart team that had underachieved in recent years after two new coaches in the previous two years. Under Mitrovich, though, the team came together both offensively and defensively. Mitrovich’s Indians won a league title this season, winning its final three games. Hart ended up as the CIF-Southern Section Division II runners-up and So Cal regional participants.

James Mosley — SCCS boys basketball

The stars aligned for SCCS this season, which reached its first CIF championship game in school history when Mosley took a talented squad to the CIF-SS Division VA title game. The team also won the Heritage League title.

Larry Muir — Valencia football

This was supposed to be the season that the Valencia streak ended. And yet, the Vikings won their fifth straight title, defeating Hart and Canyon along the way and advanced all the way to the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division title game for the first time under Muir.

Rene Paragas — Saugus cross country

It wouldn’t be a coach of the year list without Paragas. Once again, Paragas won a CIF State Division II title, his eighth in a row. But unlike the previous seven, this one came with the boys program, which had never before accomplished the feat. The girls mark of seven straight championships came to an end this season, but the girls still managed a second-place finish.

Female Athlete of the Year nominees

Nicole Joseph — Valencia soccer/softball, junior

Joseph was a talented, multi-sport athlete. One of the league’s top goalkeepers in soccer, she allowed just 14 goals in 26 games. In softball, she was an All-Foothill League second team selection at catcher.

Mari Kneisel — Canyon soccer/track and field, senior

Kneisel was strong in two sports this season, earning All-SCV first team honors in soccer with her team-high 11 goals to go along with 11 assists. In track, Kneisel was multifaceted, competing in the 4x100 relay, placing third in the high jump in league and second in the long jump.

Mariah Lopez — Saugus softball, sophomore

Lopez was without a doubt the Foothill League’s top pitcher this season, leading Saugus to a co-Foothill League championship in 2014. Lopez had an ERA of 0.52 and went 9-1 in league play.

Samantha Ortega — Saugus XC/track and field, junior

Ortega was The Signal’s All-SCV Cross Country Girls Runner of the Year. She became the third SCV athlete in history to earn All-American honors at the Foot Locker Cross Country National Championships when she finished 15th in the 5,000-meter race. She also posted impressive times during the track and field season before injuries cut her year short.

Natalie Rodriguez — Canyon XC/track and field, senior

Rodriguez will go down as one of the top distance runners in Canyon history. She finished second in all three league cross country meets and was the team’s top finisher at CIF finals. In track, she was an All-CIF runner in the 3,200-meter event, placing third in the CIF-SS Division II final at CIF to advance to the CIF-SS Master’s Meet.

Abbey Weitzeil — Saugus swim, junior

Weitzeil continued an unprecedented run through the Foothill League and CIF-Southern Section Division I in her third season of high school swim. She upped her total to six individual league titles and six CIF individual titles, this time setting national records in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events.

Male Athlete of the Year nominees

Cole Cogswell — Hart boys swim, junior

Cogswell literally rewrote the record books this season, erasing some of the valley’s oldest records in the process. He won a CIF-Southern Section Division I title in the 100-yard freestyle and a second in the 400-yard freestyle relay. His 20.20 second 50-free and 43.97 100-free swims at league finals erased Olympic Gold medalist Anthony Ervin’s 1999 records.

Keston Hiura — Valencia baseball, senior

Hiura was Valencia’s top offensive threat this season and one of the most feared hitters in the nation. He led the state of California with 14 home runs and was tied for sixth nationally.

Nick Jones — Valencia football/track and field, senior

Valencia’s No. 1 receiving target, Jones made 56 catches for a team-high 1,276 yards and 16 touchdowns. On the track, Jones won the 400-meter league championship and was one of the top sprinters in the valley.

Spencer Klehn — Trinity football/basketball, senior

Klehn has been an athletic mainstay at Trinity over the last four years, and he made sure to go out on top, helping the Knights win CIF-Southern Section titles in both football and basketball — the first two such titles in school history.

Davis Koppenhaver — Hart football/basketball, senior

Koppenhaver was not only one of the league’s top offensive threats this season, but he was also the league’s top sixth man during basketball season. A player who likely would have started on most other teams, he scored 10 points per game off the bench with six rebounds per contest. In football, the Duke University commit had 84 catches for 976 with five touchdowns.

Brian Zabilski — Saugus XC/track and field, junior

Zabilski was the top finisher for Saugus’ CIF State Division II cross country championship, crossing the line at fourth place. In track and field, he advanced to the state 3,200-meter final, taking 12th place.

Team of the Year nominees

Hart football

The Indians struggled during league play, sputtering to a third place finish behind Valencia and Canyon. But come playoff time, Hart changed gears, defeating Valencia in a rematch for the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division title, before falling to Chaminade in the CIF State Division II regional semifinal.

Hart girls soccer

The Indians returned to the top of the league this season, winning a Foothill League title and turning things on in the postseason. The Indians advanced all the way to the CIF-Southern Section Division II title game, where they found themselves tied with Chino Hills before falling late. The Indians also advanced to the CIF State So Cal Regional where they fell in the first round.

Saugus boys cross country

The Saugus boys completed the trifecta this season, winning the league title, CIF-Southern Section Division II title and CIF State Division II title, the first state title in program history.

Trinity boys basketball

The Knights lost in the CIF-Southern Section Division VI final in 2013, but they weren’t going to let history repeat itself this season. The Knights easily dispatched Desert Chapel for their first CIF title in program history.

Trinity football

The Knights had never advanced further than the semifinals in CIF-Southern Section 8-man Division II competition. But this season, the stars aligned, as Trinity not only advanced to the final, but ran away with the school’s first CIF title in a 47-0 victory over rival Joshua Springs.


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