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2011-12 Golden Valley Year in Review: Champions, not just contenders

Posted: June 26, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 26, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Golden Valley girls basketball player Janae Dean.

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In many ways, Golden Valley High School has faced an uphill climb in athletics.

Over its first eight years of existence, the struggles of its teams have been well-documented.

Well, this past year, one of its teams finally climbed up that hill and reached the top — both literally and figuratively.

The boys cross country team won the first state championship in school history this past season, ripping off several other impressive, if not groundbreaking accomplishments along the way.

While no other program at the school has reached those heights yet, several of them gave parents and supporters reasons to believe the future is bright.

But in this instance, it all starts with the boys cross country squad.

The Grizzlies cruised through the Foothill League undefeated, and Kristian Martinez won the second individual league cross country title in program history on Nov. 3 at Central Park.

A little more than two weeks later, the Grizzlies won the first CIF-Southern Section team title of any kind in school history at Mt. San Antonio College, winning the Division III crown with a score of 28 points, beating runner-up and defending state champion Loyola by 33. Martinez traversed the course in 14 minutes, 54 seconds to clinch the school’s first individual CIF-SS championship.

The crowning achievement came the following Saturday, when the Golden Valley boys hoisted the Division II
trophy at the CIF State Cross Country Championships on Nov. 26 at Woodward Park in Fresno. Led by Juan David Garcia’s seventh-place individual time of 15:32, the Grizzlies beat Loyola by 25 points and ran a team time of 1 hour, 19 minutes and five seconds.

Golden Valley capped its season by finishing 11th at Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Ore. In the spring, the Grizzlies would take even more steps forward in track and field.

The boys team clinched a share of its first Foothill League title after defeating Canyon 68-67 on the final day of the regular season, forcing a three-way split between Golden Valley, Canyon and Hart.

Martinez and Garcia carried their cross country momentum into track season, with both qualifying for the CIF-SS Div. II finals. Martinez finished fifth in the 800-meter race and ninth in the 1,600, while Garcia was ninth in the 3,200.

Although the Golden Valley girls didn’t win a league title in track and field, they probably made even more strides than the boys. The Grizzlies opened league season by shocking six-time defending Foothill League champion Saugus 74-62 on March 22, and they went into the meet of the regular season on April 26 with a chance to win their first league title.

The Golden Valley girls lost to Canyon 85-51 that day, but they sent four athletes to the CIF-SS Div. II finals, with Chelsey Totten finishing seventh in the 1,600 and the 4x400 relay team finishing third in 3 minutes, 57.60 seconds.

Totten also competed at the CIF-SS Div. II finals in cross country for the second straight season, finishing 34th individually on Nov. 19 at Mt. San Antonio College in 18:27.

Golden Valley did struggle, however, in the three marquee high school sports. The football, boys basketball and baseball teams all finished last in the Foothill League, with only one league win between the three of them.

The football team beat Channel Islands 17-10 on Sept. 23 to win its first game in nearly a year, but the Grizzlies finished 1-9 under first-year head coach Robert Fisher. Fisher took over for former head coach Andy Campbell after he resigned a month before the 2011 regular season, citing family reasons.

But there were improvements in other sports, especially on the girls’ side. The girls basketball team lost its head coach on Jan. 10, just one game into league play, but rallied to reach the CIF-SS Div. IIIAAA playoffs.

When Daniel Veluzat resigned as head coach and cited a lack of respect from his players, the Grizzlies had just lost to Valencia by 39 points in the league opener. But in just the third game of the league season, they snapped a 29-game league losing streak by beating Hart 47-35 under interim head coach Scott Sivley.

Golden Valley went on to finish 13-14 overall and 3-7 in league, earning a playoff berth and falling to Arroyo Grande 55-35 in the first round on Feb. 16.

In the fall, Rebecca Ho became the first individual league champion in girls tennis in program history, going 27-0 against league competition and beating West Ranch’s Ana Cecilia Fuentes to win the league title on Nov. 3 at Paseo Club.

Ho’s season ended in the second round of the CIF-SS Individual Singles playoffs — where she went up against eventual champion Maegan Manasse of Mira Costa.

In girls golf, Amanda Hobbs led the Grizzlies to a fourth-place finish in league, which is their highest ever. Hobbs also became just the second individual golfer in program history to reach the postseason, shooting a round of 79 and finishing tied for 48th at the CIF-SS Northern Individual Regional on Oct. 31. Hobbs also finished third individually at the Newhall Land Cup/Foothill League finals.

The girls volleyball team didn’t reach the postseason, but it did sweep a Foothill opponent for the first time ever, beating Canyon 3-2 on Nov. 1 and 3-0 on Oct. 13 to snap a three-year winless drought in league.

The boys volleyball team dealt with youth and inexperience, and consequently didn’t return to the postseason. But senior Alec Schlossman, who will play for Harvard starting next season, had a dominant season.

Diver Drake Nelson also turned in a strong spring, finishing third at the CIF-SS Div. I Swim and Dive finals with a score of 467.95.

Nelson is just further evidence that while the big sports at Golden Valley may still be building, the others are showing them the way.

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