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2010-11 Signal Sports Awards: And the nominees are...

Posted: July 3, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 3, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

This is The Signal's official annual closing of the book on the sports season.

We call it The Signal Sports Awards.

Over the next six days, we will announce the best of the best in Santa Clarita prep sports for the 2010-11 year.

Someone will be selected Newcomer of the Year - the athlete whom we felt made the biggest impact in his or her first varsity season.

That person will be given the torch from last year's winner, Steven Manfro, the Valencia football running back who in his second varsity season had one of the greatest years in Santa Clarita football history.

It just so happens that Manfro is a nominee in the Male Athlete of the Year category.

Six of the seven winners all-time in the category have had football on their resume, yet each winner has been a multi-sport athlete - including last year's winner and 2010-11 nominee, Valencia's Alex Bishop.

Keeping with the Viking theme, the last three times a Female Athlete of the Year award has been handed out, it's been given to a Valencia High female.

Yet, as you will find out, there was no vote closer in this year's Signal Sports Awards than that particular category.

Keeping with a consistency theme, each of the last two years, Saugus head cross country coach and track and field coach Rene Paragas has been voted as Coach of the Year, Saugus girls cross country has won team of the year and Saugus High has won Program of the Year.

Program of the Year is awarded through a point system (all other categories are voted by The Signal's sports staff), so Saugus has challengers this year.

And if you think Coach of the Year and Team of the Year are shoe-ins, you'll see that they're not slam dunks. (Only Foothill League teams are eligible for Team of the Year because the other local prep schools play fewer sports.)
Without further ado, here are the nominees ...

Coach of the Year nominees
Chuck Johns - Canyon girls basketball

Some would argue that no coach had more influence on his or her team than Johns did in 2010-11 with Canyon girls basketball. His calm demeanor, his willingness to trust his players and his basketball smarts helped Canyon attain heights it had never seen before. Canyon won its second straight Foothill League title, it made the CIF-SS Division IIAA semifinals, won its first ever state tournament game and finished the season 27-6.

Mark Knudsen - Valencia volleyball
An experienced Valencia boys volleyball team once again showed its dominance over the Foothill League under Knudsen's tutelage. The team went 10-0 to extend its record-breaking league winning streak to at state-record 102 matches and played the CIF-Southern Section Division II quarterfinals. It marked the Vikings' 11th straight appearance in a CIF quarterfinal match.

Rene Paragas - Saugus cross country and track and field
The headlines for Paragas have come with the Saugus girls cross country team, but his work with the boys hit its peak in 2010, when the Centurions finished as CIF-Southern Section Division II champions and state runners-up. And the girls? They broke their own record for team time in winning an unprecedented fifth straight state title, and Paragas helped mold two of them into Southern Section champions during track and field season.

Eric Spiecker - West Ranch tennis
He led the girls tennis team to a split Foothill League title and its deepest postseason run in school history by advancing to the CIF-Southern Section Division III semifinals only to wind up a set short of making the finals in the fall. He followed that up with another impressive season in boys tennis in the spring, finishing second in league and making it to the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division II playoffs.

Chris Varner - Canyon football
In his fourth season as Canyon football head coach, Varner finally achieved the success expected of a Cowboys football coach. But that was the issue. Varner has regularly been under arguably the most pressure of any coach in the Santa Clarita Valley since he took over for the legendary Harry Welch in 2007. Varner led the Cowboys to a 10-2 finish and a CIF-Southern Section Northern Division first-round victory over Palmdale. It was the program's best record since 2006 as well as its first playoff victory since that year. Canyon also finished in second place in the Foothill League. Varner resigned after the season to spend more time with family.

Newcomer of the Year nominees
A.J. Balta - Valencia baseball, sophomore
There were only two first-year varsity athletes in the Santa Clarita Valley who were Foothill League and All-Santa Clarita Valley players of the year - boys tennis player Joey Fernicola and A.J. Balta. Balta was a power-hitting and patient batter for the Vikings baseball team. He led all Foothill Leaguers with 11 home runs and batted .425. He was on base 52 percent of the time. What made the sophomore so special was that he came into the season as a supporting player on a talent-laden team and by season's end was its best player.

Joey Fernicola - Valencia boys tennis, freshman
Prior to Foothill League play, Fernicola, a freshman, had to play his way into the No. 1 doubles spot where he partnered up with senior Anders Jansson. Together, the two were perfect in league sets. With Jansson and other partners, Fernicola went 30-0 in doubles play against Foothill competition. The freshman also made it to the Foothill League Individual doubles final at the end of the season.

Daniel Green - SCCS football, senior
Green had played at tiny Bethel Christian in Lancaster until the program disbanded in 2009. He came to a Santa Clarita Christian team in need of someone to carry the load of its greatest player ever, Collin Keoshian, who had graduated in 2010. Green was a do-it-all performer - a bruising runner and powerful linebacker. He amassed 1,718 rushing yards, 268 passing yards and 288 receiving yards and scored 38 touchdowns. His 344 rushing yards on Oct. 6 are a school record. On defense, he made 108 tackles, four sacks, intercepted a pass and caused three fumbles.

Maddy Jelenicki - Valencia softball, freshman
The freshman softball player may have been the most heralded athlete to have never faced a varsity pitch. Prior to the season, Jelenicki had already verbally committed to UCLA, which at the time was the reigning national champion. During the season, she was an everyday starter and put up stellar numbers. Jelenicki batted .500 with eight home runs, 32 RBIs and 23 runs scored. She was also the MVP of the Tournament of Champions in Bullhead City, Ariz.

Glen Lee - Valencia boys golf, freshman
There was some hype behind the freshman coming into the season and he lived up to it with a seventh-place overall finish in Foothill League play. He exceeded those expectations, though, becoming the last local standing in the CIF postseason. Lee made it all the way to the CIF/SCGA Tournament - the precursor to the state championship and third round of individual play. At the CIF-SS final, he tied for the lowest score among the 108 best golfers in the section. He ended up in second place after a playoff.

Female Athlete of the Year nominees
Nicole Antoniuk - Hart swimming, junior
The junior was the most successful girls swimmer in the Foothill League this year. She won individual league titles in the 200-yard individual medley and 500-yard freestyle, breaking a 25-year old Foothill record in the 500 freestyle at the league finals with a time of 4 minutes, 54.93 seconds. She was also a part of two winning relay teams and recorded the highest finish of any local girls swimmer at the CIF-Southern Section Division I finals, when she took fourth in the 500 freestyle (4:55.98).

Faith Anumba - Valencia girls basketball, track and field, senior
The breakout star of the track and field season, Anumba was a state finalist in both the long jump and the triple jump, setting Foothill League records in both events over the course of the season. She drew some of her leaping ability from basketball, where she averaged 10.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game as Valencia's biggest post threat.

Bree Braucher - West Ranch volleyball, track and field, senior
A versatile athlete, Braucher began her senior year as the middle hitter for the girls volleyball team. She finished second on the team with 224 kills, and the Wildcats made the playoffs after a second-place league finish. Braucher ended her senior year by dominating the throws in track and field, winning league titles in both the shot put and the discus and advancing to the CIF-Southern Section Masters Meet in the shot put.

Stephanie Bulder - Saugus cross country, track and field, senior
This year, Bulder established herself among Saugus' all-time running greats. During cross country season, she finished second individually at the CIF-Southern Section Division II finals and third at the CIF State Division II Championships as Saugus won both titles for the fifth straight year. In the spring, she was the Southern Section Division II champion in the 1,600-meter run and qualified for the state meet in that event and the 3,200.

Janelle Lindvall - West Ranch softball, junior
By the end of the season, the junior catcher was receiving very few opportunities to swing the bat. Given her Foothill League-high .582 average and 14 home runs, as well as her 35 RBIs and 18 runs scored, an intentional walk was the common strategy for opposing teams. Lindvall helped the Wildcats to their best finish in league play - second place - and their first postseason victory. She has also already verbally committed to the University of Oregon.

Kaylin Mahoney - Saugus cross country, track and field, senior
Mahoney capped one of the greatest prep careers of any athlete in Santa Clarita Valley history, finishing as the CIF State Division II runner-up in cross country while helping Saugus to its fifth straight state championship. She also roared back onto the scene in track and field after taking a year off, winning the CIF-Southern Section Division II title in the 3,200-meter run and finishing 12th in the state.

Male Athlete of the Year nominees
Alex Bishop - Valencia football, baseball, senior
The defending Signal Male Athlete of the Year continued to shine on the football field and be a consistent presence in the Valencia baseball lineup. Bishop threw for 3,377 yards and 33 touchdowns for the Foothill League champion football team. He also rushed for 358 yards, scoring four touchdowns. The veteran catcher batted .326 with three home runs and 21 RBIs and helped lead that program to a Foothill title.

Steven Manfro - Valencia football, senior
Manfro had arguably the greatest season of any running back in Santa Clarita Valley history. He broke two very prestigious local records - the valley's single-season rushing record (2,553 yards) and single-game record (420 yards on Oct. 15). Manfro was an all-purpose performer who was even the difference defensively in the team's biggest Foothill League game - a 52-31 win over Canyon. He was the Foothill League and Signal's All-SCV Player of the Year and was also an All-CIF performer.

Kristian Martinez - Golden Valley cross country, track and field, junior
Golden Valley needed a runner to step up and keep the young program's momentum going, and Martinez accepted the responsibility. His third-place individual finish at the CIF-Southern Section Division III cross country finals was the highest in program history, and he led the Grizzlies to their third straight state meet. During track season, he was a Division III finalist in both the 800 and as a member of the 4x400-meter relay team.

Robert Pion - Saugus cross country, track and field, senior
The Saugus boys had arguably their best cross country season ever, and Pion led the way. Individually, he finished as the league runner-up, fifth at the CIF-Southern Section Division II finals, and seventh at the CIF State Division II Championships. Pion carried his distance prowess into track and field, where he won the league title in the 3,200-meter race.

Darius Rudolph - Canyon football, track and field, senior
Canyon's football team surged back to the forefront of the Foothill League in 2010, and Rudolph was a big part. He rushed for 1,430 yards, 13 touchdowns, and eclipsing the 100-yard mark seven times. Rudolph also put his speed on display during track and field season, when his contributions as a sprinter helped the Cowboys to their second straight league title, and his anchor leg of the 4x100-meter relay helped the team finish sixth in the state.

Kenny Stone - Canyon football, track and field, senior
As the last line of defense for the football team, Stone recorded a team-high 66 tackles from his safety position and also forced a fumble. As the most versatile sprinter for the track and field team, Stone won four total league titles and was a CIF-Southern Section Division II finalist in the 200-meter dash, the 400, the 4x100 and the 4x400. Stone ran the second leg of the 4x100 team and helped it finish sixth in the state.

Team of the Year nominees
Canyon girls hoops

The Canyon girls basketball team became one of the valley's greatest girls basketball squads ever. The team finished 27-6 - the 27 wins being a school record. Canyon also won its second consecutive Foothill title. Then the Cowboys went on a run to the CIF-SS Division IIAA semifinals. On March 8, Canyon won its first-ever state tournament game, a 72-59 road victory over Monache. They then gave state finalist Rialto a run for its money - losing by just two points in the second round. Canyon had the league and Signal's Player of the Year, Shorty Dent, and a cast of superb supporters including future star Alia McCoy.

Saugus boys cross country
The Centurions stepped out of the shadow cast by the girls cross country program by finishing as CIF State Division II runners-up, the highest state finish in program history. The team also scored a program-low 90 points at the state meet. Saugus also won the CIF-Southern Section Division II title for the first time since 1997 and the Foothill League title for the fifth straight year.

Saugus girls cross country
Every year, it seems the Saugus girls cross country team raises the bar for excellence. Then, the Centurions seem to blow right past it. This fall, Saugus broke its own record for fastest team time at the state meet, with its five scoring runners crossing the finish line in a combined 89 minutes, 25 seconds. It led to a fifth straight state championship, and the Saugus girls also won Foothill League and CIF-Southern Section titles for the fifth straight year as well. They ended the season by finishing third at Nike Cross Nationals, recording their lowest score in four trips.

 

 

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