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Emotions run gamut at HOF

College athletics: College of the Canyons welcomes its 2013 Athletics Hall of Fame class at ceremony

Posted: January 25, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 25, 2013 2:00 a.m.

2013 College of the Canyons Athletics Hall of Fame inductees Chantal Pershing and her former coach Ray Whitten speak in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Thursday prior to the ceremony.

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Surprise. Honor. Tears.

Those were some of the immediate reactions that the College of the Canyons 2013 Athletic Hall of Fame inductees felt when they were first informed of their honor.

On Thursday, the reactions were results of appreciation as four former COC athletes, a coach and a team were inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Hyatt Regency Valencia.

“Finally, at my age, I’m starting to develop an awareness. This is special,” said former College of the Canyon cross country coach Monty Cartwright, whose 1975 men’s team was one of the inductees. “I couldn’t sleep last night. I was like a kid.”

Other inductees were former COC softball coach Ray Whitten (1984-2007), his former player Chantal Pershing (1999-2000), water polo player, swimmer and diver Christine Castellano Worby (2001-2003), basketball player Nick Sanderson (1989-1991) and  baseball player Robert Corrales (1973-1974).

Corrales died in 2009 after a battle with cancer.

He was a star shortstop under fellow COC Hall of Famer Mike Gillespie, who gave Corrales’ induction speech.

Corrales went on to play at Pepperdine and worked in law enforcement.

His family was there to accept the honor.

His son, Valencia High graduate and pitcher in the Seattle Mariners organization Josh Corrales, grew a mustache in honor of his father for the event.

It was one of his dad’s recognizable traits, he said.

“This means a lot to him,” Josh said. “Coming through this program and playing for coach Gillespie. I remember growing up he wanted me to come (to COC). He was very proud (of the program).”

Another former athlete, Nick Sanderson, said he still keeps close ties to the men’s basketball program.

Sanderson, a former Western State Conference Most Valuable Player, went on to play at Brigham Young University, in the Continental Basketball Association and overseas.

He now resides in Pasadena and is a private basketball coach, but said he returns to COC in the spring to workout with the team.

He was thankful to his former coach and fellow Hall of Famer Lee Smelser.

“He was a god to me. When things didn’t work out coming out of high school, I had signed with UC Santa Barbara, coach Smelser came to me and told me, ‘I’ll take care of you.’ ... He was like a second dad to me.”

Pershing did play at UC Santa Barbara after a stellar two-year run at COC in which she was a two-time All-State infielder.

Pershing, who now lives in Burbank, joked about her reaction when informed of the Hall of fame honor.

“Honestly, do I have to give a speech?” she joked was her reaction, though she used a little more colorful language.

Pershing said her former coach was so special because he always trusted his players.

Whitten, who now lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., was not only a fixture at COC, but at Hart High, where he was an assistant football coach and the public address announcer during basketball games.

But Whitten was also ultra-successful, winning eight conference titles and making the state postseason 16 times.

“I couldn’t have done it without some of the outstanding players and assistant coaches who helped me through the years,” Whitten said.

Worby was a star swimmer and was the team MVP of the COC swim and dive teams in 2002 and 2003.

She is currently an assistant swim coach at Hart.

This was the fifth biannual COC Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Proceeds from the event go toward the College of the Canyons Foundation.

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