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2011-12 COC Year in Review: Individuals in the spotlight

Posted: July 2, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 2, 2012 1:55 a.m.

College of the Canyons kicker Jeff Flores.

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The 2011-12 season was one of bittersweet opportunity for the College of the Canyons athletic program.

There were teams like softball and men’s golf, who nearly rose to the top of the state in their respective fields.

But the school saw some grand individual performances that provided a positive spin to the season.

Individually, Canyon High graduate Chris Low won his second consecutive state title in the 800-meter race when the sophomore won in a school-record 1 minute, 49.16 seconds — he became the first Cougar athlete to win two individual state titles in the same event in any sport.

Kris Grimes, a freshman, won the individual state title in women’s golf.

The baseball team saw current sophomore Cory Jones drafted in the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft — to the St. Louis Cardinals with the 180th pick.

And at the Western State Conference Championship Swim Meet in San Luis Obispo, six College of the Canyons swimmers broke school records.

Kevin Martinez swam the 1,650-yard freestyle race in 17:11.29 and also set a record in the 200 free in 1:48.85, and Kyle Burke broke the 100 breast record with a 1:01.79. The 400-yard medley relay team of Sean Nazar, Burke, David Lee and Martinez broke their own school record with a 3:48.59.

On the women’s side, Allison Harada set a new 50 breast record with a 29.86 time and the 200-yard free relay team of Harada, Grace Sexton, Tracy Harada and Madeline Sage swam it in 1:47.44.

The men’s golf team narrowly missed out on a state title, leading by eight strokes after the first round at the California Community College Athletic Association’s Men’s Golf State Championship, but ended up tied with an overall score of 729 with College of the Desert after the tournament.

A tie-breaking card-off pushed COC to second by one stroke.

The softball suffered a similarly bittersweet moment, achieving the No. 1 seed and hosting a Super Regional, but falling in the final game 5-3 to Riverside College to come one win shy of the four-team state tournament.

Even with the loss, though, COC softball achieved one of the best seasons in school history, ending the season 42-5-1 and having one of its players, Ruby Herrera, named an All-American, and its coach, John Wissmath, named co-Coach of the Year in the state.

It was an up-and-down season for the men’s basketball team, which finished 16-12 overall, 6-6 in Western State Conference, South Division play and fell in the first round of the playoffs to L.A Valley College on Feb. 22.

On the bright side, Rafael Love became the 11th player in the program’s history to be named All-State at the conclusion of the season.

The women’s team found more success during the season, ending conference play at 9-3 to take the Western State Conference, South Division title for the seventh year in a row.

But the women suffered a similar fate in the playoffs, falling in the first round to Cerritos.

The trend held for the women’s soccer team as well.

A stellar regular season propelled coach Justin Lundin’s team to its first Western State Conference, South Division title since 2004 — a championship clinched with a 1-0 victory over Santa Monica on the last day of the season.

Lundin was later named the Western State Conference, South Division Coach of the Year and Jessica Gerrero earned Player of the Year honors.

But the Cougars run ended in the second round of the playoffs, with a 2-1 loss at home to San Bernardino.

Women’s volleyball was able to overcome a rough start to conference play to end the season on a 5-1 run to enter the postseason as a No. 15 seed.

But that run ended quickly in the postseason, as the Cougars were defeated 3-0 by No. 5 seed Golden West to end a quality last month of play.

Some of the biggest struggles came on the gridiron.

There were certainly highlights for the Canyons football team in 2011 — a 3-1 start to the season, including a narrow 17-10 loss to highly ranked Mt. San Antonio College.

There was kicker Jeff Flores’ field goal at the end of regulation to push Canyons to a 36-34 win over Ventura College on Nov. 5, and lineman Will Latu signing with the University of Oklahoma.

Flores also became the only Canyons player to be named to the All-State team when the All-California Region IV first team offense was announced.

But there were more disappointments along the way than Canyons is accustomed to.

The 3-1 start faded into a 4-6 finish, as the Cougars went just 1-4 in conference play and missed out on the postseason.

For College of the Canyons, 2011-12 was a season that will be remembered more for its teams that just missed than anything else.

But there were accomplishments along the way that shouldn’t be downgraded.

The softball team, for example, put together a remarkable run.

And the women’s soccer program, in its third season under Lundin, appears to be built for sustained success.
The individual accomplishments of Grimes and Low will be etched into the Cougars’ record books.

But in the end, many of Canyons’ teams fell short of the ultimate goal.

There were plenty of successes, but also plenty of bittersweet moments along the way.



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