Valley News -

By JP Raineri
Sports Editor 

A Year in Review; the Valley News Top 10 local high school sports moments and more

 

Last updated 1/4/2019 at 1:56am

David Canales photo

The Temecula Valley High School girls' varsity soccer team claimed three titles in 2018, including the CIF Division 2 Southern California State Regional championship, the CIF Southern Section Division 2 title and the Southwestern League title.

Another busy sports year in southwest Riverside County reflected a diverse enthusiasm for competition of all kinds. From boxing to basketball, youth sports, karate, skydiving and more, there were plenty of exciting subjects that made headlines in 2018. As we enter into 2019, we wanted to look at our Top 10 favorite high school sports stories from the past year. We also wanted to highlight local youth athletes that represented our country as well as a couple of local athletes that took their childhood dreams and made them realities by turning to the professional rankings of their perspective sport. So without further ado, here are the Top 10 high school sports stories.

No. 1 – Temecula Valley High School girls' soccer wins state title

The Temecula Valley High School girls' varsity soccer team, along with head coach Jennifer Guinn claimed three titles in 2018, after defeating Sunny Hills High School 1-0 to win the CIF Division 2 Southern California State Regional championship. The Lady Golden Bears also won the CIF Southern Section Division 2 title and took home the Southwestern League title.

Temecula Valley entered the final game of the regional state playoffs with a 26-6-2 record this season and kept their flawless home record intact as freshman Morgan Witz scored the lone goal of the game against Sunny Hills in the 15th minute off a deflected shot in front of the goal.

"I'm so proud of these girls. The goals they set and the way they faced them, battling through the adversity, they set the bar high and I'm so excited to see what the future holds for this young team," Guinn said. "These girls have created some life-long memories, and nobody can take anything away from them, especially after all the work they put in."

No. 2 – Great Oak High School boys' tennis goes undefeated for fifth straight year

The Great Oak High School boys' tennis team moved up to Division 2 in CIF and has been untouchable in Southwestern League play, earning their fifth straight undefeated league championship this year. Not only were they undefeated in league play for the fifth straight season, but no Southwestern League team was able to get more than 4 sets against them. The Wolfpack boys' tennis team beat a good second place Temecula Valley team 14-4 and 15-3 and dominated the rest of the league matches.

No. 3 – Baseball and softball teams win league titles

A handful of local high school baseball and softball teams will be looking forward to hanging new league championship banners up across the many campuses in southwest Riverside County.

In the ever so tough Southwestern League, the Temecula Valley Golden Bears (23-5) came out on top of the pack with their 12-3 league record, under new head coach and former TV baseball player Darric Merrell. On the softball side of things, it was Murrieta Mesa High School (21-7) winning their first ever league title after an exceptional season in 2017 where they won the CIF-SS Division 3 title. Great Oak put the pressure on, but the Lady Rams did not fold behind the powerful arms of senior Autumn Pease and freshman Lacy Ham, as well as a solid offense that lead the league in most categories.

In the Sunbelt league, it was the Heritage High School Patriots (18-7) that turned some heads as they clinched their league title with a 12-3 record as well. On the softball fields, Temescal Canyon High School (17-7) went undefeated in league to win their title, knocking out a Paloma Valley High School (18-8) team that was hot on their heels. Over in the Mountain Pass League, which consists of Hemet and San Jacinto area teams, the Hemet High School Bulldogs (20-8-1) captured the title with their 13-2 season, and in softball, it was Beaumont High School (18-7) that went undefeated to win their crown.

For the South Valley league teams, Rancho Christian High School's baseball team could not be beat during league play for the second straight year. Head coach Tony Nobiensky has not let the Eagles down since leaving Temecula Valley in 2015 to coach at the school, garnishing a 28-2 league record along the way. Nobiensky led the Golden Bears to multiple playoff appearances as well as back-to-back CIF Championship games during his reign as head coach, where they also won it all in 2014. In South Valley league softball action, it was Nuview Bridge Early College High School that captured their second straight league title with a 10-1 record.

No. 4 – Top local teams win track and field state titles

Two of the top local Southwestern League track and field teams took the California State Track and Field Championship Meet by storm over the weekend of June 1-2, at Buchanan High School in Clovis. The boys' team title was slated to be awarded to Great Oak or Murrieta Mesa, both schools were projected to win by 25 to 29 points by California Milesplit.com. Throughout the night of June 2, the title swung between the two schools, along with Clovis North High School taking the lead early on. However, Murrieta Mesa, who clinched a huge win in the 4x400 relay, took the top spot on the podium with 35 points, winning the California State Title. Great Oak was the runner-up in second with 30 points, while Clayton Valley High School, with 28 points, placed third.

The CIF Southern Section's dominance in track and field was demonstrated on the boys' teams, as Great Oak received the SS Division I crown, and Murrieta Mesa received the SS Division II crown. Both teams are also part of the Southwestern League, where this season Great Oak won the girls' title undefeated and became co-league champions with Vista Murrieta High School on the boys' side.

Christian Shakir-Ricks, a senior from Murrieta Mesa, made major contributions to the championship win, placing third in the 100 meters at 10.54 seconds, winning the state title in the 200 meters at 20.98 and anchoring for both the fifth place 4x100 relay team with 41.51, as well as the winning 4x400 team, 3:10:87. The winning 4x400 relay time was the third fastest time in Riverside County history and was also made up of Matthew Okonkwo who placed fourth in the 400-meter race with 47.52, junior Jermarcus Tate and senior Davonte Williams.

For Great Oak's runner-up boys' team, CJ Stevenson, a senior heading to Texas A&M University, was an important athlete in securing points. Winning the state title for the triple jump for the second consecutive year, with 49 feet, 11 and 3/4 inches, Stevenson also placed fifth in the long jump and was part of Great Oak's winning 4x100 team.

The Wolfpack began the meet strong by winning the 4x100 relay in 40.99, with Joel Collins, Mikel Barkley, CJ Stevenson and anchor Grant Gaskins. Harrison Gould was another Great Oak senior who scored points, taking third in shot put with 59-10 3/4 and ninth in discus with 178-9. Jaime Navarro placed 12th in discus prelims, 11th in finals and 14th in shot put prelims. Ernesto Collazo placed 14th in pole vault prelims with 14-9.  

On the distance side, four girls that were all part of Great Oak's Cross Country State Championship team competed in either the 1600-meter or the 3200-meter races. Sophomore Tori Gaitan placed fifth in the 3200 with 10:20, junior Fatima Cortes eighth in the 1600 with 4:51, senior Sandra Pflughoft 11th in the 3200 with 10:36 and 14th in the 1600 prelims at 4:55, as well as sophomore Arianna Griffiths placing 13th in the 1600 prelims with 4:53. Senior Carlos Carvajal, committed to attending University of Florida in the fall, placed 12th in the 3200 at 9:08.

Danae Dyer, a senior at Temecula Valley whose raced in the 100 hurdles the past two years at state, scored this weekend in the 100-meter hurdles at 13.67, taking second only to Upland High School's Jada Hicks at 13.24. Christian Gbla, another senior of Temecula Valley made it to the state prelims in the triple hump, placing 20th.

As Vista Murrieta beat both Great Oak and Murrieta Mesa's boys' team in league, it is only fitting they would have numerous athletes qualify for the state meet. Vista Murrieta senior Paris Samaniego, part of the 4x400 State Champion team in 2016, placed third in the 400 at 47.40. Edgard Villa, a Vista Murrieta senior going to California State University Fullerton, placed 15th in the 1600 prelims along with teammate Hunter Escoria who placed 17th in the 110 hurdle prelims.

Ismail Turner of West Valley High School also made it to CIF State Championship Prelims in the 400 meters with a time of 48.66 but was disqualified in finals.

Rancho Verde High School placed well in their boys' relays. The team of Jamar Simpson, Torre Smith, Carlton Johnson and Chandler Owens took third in the 4x100 with 41.27, and a few even made their way over and placed fourth in the 4x100 relay at 4:14.37 with Torre Smith, Jamar Simpson, Humberto Gonzalez and Carlton Johnson rounding out that squad.

Both Great Oak and Murrieta Mesa boys' teams, as well all competing athletes made significant strides and jumps to secure high placement in the state, reflecting well on local athletes.

No. 5 – Murrieta Valley High School boys' volleyball team takes the runner-up spot at state tournament

The Murrieta Valley High School boys volleyball program had a tremendously successful year under their new head coach, Jason Cantu. Not only did the program take second place in the Southwestern League behind Great Oak (26-8, 9-1), the team almost played just as many postseason games as they did league games. With a 21-12 overall record, and a 7-3 record in league, the Nighthawks flew through their Division 4 opponents in the playoffs and made their way to the CIF-SS Championships.

"I believe we competed so well because we have had the same roster for two full seasons. Last year was our first year being recognized as a CIF sport and my first year at MVHS so it was a season of new beginnings for everyone on the team last year, coaches included," Cantu said.

The Murrieta Valley squad had great momentum in their final match-up of the Southern Section finals, but they fell to San Gabriel Academy 3-0 and claimed the runner-up spot. The fun didn't stop there though, Murrieta Valley was given a berth to the state regional tournament, and they once again competed well, making it through the first two rounds of single elimination tournament unscathed, but ultimately would fall to Montgomery High School, 3-0, in the finals. All in all, the Nighthawks boys' volleyball program played 26 matches against eight different opponents in the postseason.

"The future of our program looks promising. With the exception of my few seniors, we are a very young team," Cantu said. "My players are very mature and hard working. They will remember the experiences of participating in the CIF Southern Section Finals and the CIF Southern California State Regional Final to learn from and better prepare themselves for next season."

Along with three of his players who were named as All-CIF selections, Cantu was recognized as the All-CIF Division 4 Coach of the Year. His players that were named as All-CIF were Troy Hess (OH), Levi Miller (S) and Andrew Ferrera (L), all who are now graduated seniors.

"Having three of our players selected is a testament to their hard work and to be named 'Coach of the Year' is an honor. I think that it is great to help grow the sport in this area," Cantu said.

No. 6 – Linfield QB returns to field after partial leg amputation

Senior Night for the Linfield Christian School football team took place in late October, and it was also the first game for Linfield senior Alex Ruiz since an injury in an October 2017 game led to the partial amputation of his right leg. Ruiz not only played in Linfield's home game against Desert Christian High School but also threw five passes, including three completions and two touchdown strikes, and he was the holder for both extra points.

"I was just thankful for the opportunity and grateful that I had the chance to get some closure with the game," Ruiz said. "Now my last memory won't be of me getting hurt."

The first five games of Ruiz's junior season were going well for him. He was leading the Ambassador League in pass completions, and the middle linebacker on defense was also leading the league in tackles.

"He was on his way to being an all-league guy," Linfield head coach DeChon Burns said.

The Lions' sixth game of 2017 was at Ontario Christian High School. Ruiz was tackled and dislocated a knee. His artery was also severed. Ruiz was transported to a hospital, but the surgery wasn't a success.

"Something wasn't right in the blood flow," Burns said. "They had to go another route."

The loss of all mobility and sensation in the leg gave Ruiz a choice between having the leg amputated below the knee or retaining the leg for cosmetic rather than functional purposes.

"He just couldn't fathom the idea of not being able to do daily activities," Burns said.

Ruiz chose amputation.

"He didn't waiver," Burns said. "He said, 'This is what I want to do.'"

Eventually Ruiz was fitted with a prosthetic leg, although he was in a wheelchair during the high school baseball season and did not play. Ruiz was a middle infielder and pitcher on the Lions' varsity team before his injury.

The 2018 high school football season was not in Ruiz's plans at the time of the amputation.

"I didn't think I'd get that opportunity," he said. "I was not thinking about football at all. I definitely thought football was out of the equation."

Burns recognized Ruiz's value to the team even if Ruiz wasn't on the field.

"I wanted him to be around the team. I wanted him to be with our football team," Burns said. "We talked about him coaching. He's got a good football mind."

That would allow Ruiz to be around his teammates.

"He wouldn't feel out," Burns said.

Ruiz adjusted to his second prosthesis, and he was also medically cleared to participate in a game.

"He just found a way. He just battled," Burns said.

The week of practice leading up to the Oct. 26 game included Ruiz's return to the field.

"It felt really good. It felt normal," he said. "It felt familiar. It was a good memory."

Burns put in Ruiz during the first quarter.

"I didn't really care if I threw the ball or not," Ruiz said. "I was just happy to be on the field whether it was throwing it or handing it off."

Ruiz admitted to some nervousness and excitement, but he was confident.

"I felt like I was physically capable of throwing it if I had to," he said.

The support of his teammates and the crowd when Ruiz entered the game had the biggest impact.

Ruiz's first completion was to wide receiver Travion Brown.

"I was really hard on myself. It wasn't a pretty type spiral like I hope it would have been," Ruiz said.

The pass was still a completion.

"It got there, and I did my job," Ruiz said.

The possession ended with Ruiz throwing a 37-yard touchdown pass to Brown.

"The second one meant a lot," Ruiz said. "I knew I wanted that play to be a touchdown. As soon as I threw it, I knew it was a touchdown."

The touchdown pass gave Linfield a 13-0 lead while giving Ruiz a more positive memory than his previous game left.

"It was just a huge burden off my shoulders and out of my way," he said. "I could focus on the game at that point."

Anthony Santoro was sent in to kick the extra point. Ruiz held the football while Santoro kicked. The ball went through the uprights for a 14-0 Linfield lead.

"He did a good job," Burns said.

Holding for the extra point required bending with the artificial leg.

"It didn't bother him at all," Burns said.

"I knew I was able to. I tried it a few times in practice," Ruiz said.

"Just a fitting end," Burns said.

"It worked out just as planned," Ruiz said. "I was just that much more grateful."

Ruiz took the field one more time, securing the Lions' 78-0 victory by kneeling to run out the clock.

"It wasn't even about the game," Burns said. "It was about him being on the field one more time and being able to watch him play the game he loves, which I think was huge for him."

No. 7 – Lady Golden Bear volleyball team has historic season

The Temecula Valley Lady Golden Bears stunned Foothill High School Tuesday, Nov. 13, in a dramatic five-game series during their CIF State Division 1 regional final match-up, then turned around a week later to capture a state title.

With the win over Foothill High School, Temecula Valley became one of two local teams to advance to the state finals, joining Linfield Christian High School, who went in 1982.

The main goal of the postseason was accomplished right out of the gate for the Lady Golden Bears. They brought home the program's first playoff win in more than a decade when the Golden Bears swept Rancho Cucamonga High School in a first-round match of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs, which also qualified Temecula Valley for the state playoffs.

Temecula Valley was the region's top seed, and Foothill was No. 2 going into the CIF State Division 1 regional final. The Lady Golden Bears became the first team from the area to ever to win a state championship when they defeated Bishop O'Dowd High School of Oakland, 3-1, at Santiago Canyon College in Orange Saturday, Nov. 17.

No. 8 – Linfield girls' win fist volleyball title in 36 years

It's been 36 years in the making, but Saturday, Nov. 3, Linfield Christian High School won their first section championship in volleyball in over three decades. The Lady Lions overpowered host Nordhoff High School 31-29, 23-25, 25-19, 25-21 in the CIF Southern Section Division 7 championship. Linfield Christian had a well-balanced attack as senior outside hitter Kelly Rausch led the way with 16 kills and 19 digs. Junior setter Devin Sivertson was accurate all over the court with 49 assists, notching 21 digs. Junior middle hitter Paige Williams added 12 kills and seven blocks, and Camdyn Meehan drilled home three aces.

No. 9 – Great Oak dominates at State Cross Country Championships

The Wolfpack cross country program continued its dominance Saturday, Nov. 24, at the CIF State Cross Country Championships, where the girls' team brought back their seventh consecutive title and the boys' team ran their way onto the top of the podium by winning their fifth in a row.

For the girls, Great Oak held off Vista Murrieta for a 79-83 victory in Division 1 and for the boys, they took out West Ranch High School 61-72 to claim their Division 1 crown. Great Oak now has 13 combined state championships, which is a record for any California program. Both teams from Great Oak automatically advanced to the Nike Cross Nationals meet as the No. 1 seeds from California. Vista Murrieta received an at-large berth, as did Claremont High School, who advanced from D-II. It means three of California's berths were from the Inland Empire, with two coming from the Southwestern League. The 15th annual Nike Cross Nationals, one of the ultimate cross country experiences for any top-ranked team, took place Saturday, Dec. 1. Individual and club qualifiers from eight regional championships laced it up in order to compete to be crowned a national champion.

No. 10 – Linfield Christian football goes the distance, win CIF title

They got off to a slow start, but when the dust cleared, Linfield Christian handed Artesia High School a 70-32 loss in the CIF Division 12 championship Saturday, Nov. 24. The game, which resulted in the program's second ever CIF championship title, was played at Murrieta Mesa, which handled the huge numbers of fans from each school, during the final game of the Southern Section playoffs.

Linfield Christian (13-1), which was chasing from behind early in the game, put up some big numbers on the scoreboard with contributions coming from quite a few of their starters, as well as several backups. Senior RB Kenric Jameison, who got the Lions on the board with a 71-yard touchdown run early in the game, had 229 yards on 18 carries with three touchdowns. Senior quarterback Kaleb Maresh was 11 of 14 for 140 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Travion Brown, who had four catches for 64 yards. Backup tailback Crispin Wong answered the call scoring four times with 134 yards on just 10 carries. Jameison, who went over the 2,000-yard mark on the season, now has 29 touchdowns that he will take into the California State Bowl Championships.

The Lions were one of six Inland Empire teams that captured CIF Southern Section 11-man football titles, but the only team from southwest Riverside County to advance to the CIF State playoffs, for the first time ever. The two other teams inside the Valley News coverage area included San Jacinto High School, who fell to Culver City High School and Rancho Verde High School, who could not get past Upland High School. With the win the Lions traveled to San Diego High School for the Division 5-A regional final Saturday, Dec. 1, but fell to the San Diego Section's Division 4 champions.

*The full versions of the Top 10 high school sports stories can be found online at http://www.myvalleynews.com.

There were so many good, memorable and heart-wrenching non-high school stories that filled 2018 and the Valley News Sports Department did a great job capturing them. We were especially proud to cover the many local athletes that represented our great country for their perspective sport under the name "Team USA" as well as those that began their journey as professional athletes, including the following stories:

Team USA

This past summer four local players represented Team USA, three on the baseball field and one on the basketball court.

Founded in 1978, USA Baseball, the governing body for amateur baseball in the United States and a member of the U.S Olympic Committee, organizes the United States national baseball teams every year, and a number of those teams competed over the past summer. Three of those teams took notice of many players from the area, including Kelsie Whitmore, Rheego McIntosh and Brady Strohm, all three are Temecula natives.

Whitmore, 20, was among the top women chosen to represent the United States for the second time in her young career. She not only plays softball at California State University Fullerton, but she also played professionally for the Sonoma Stompers and was selected this year along with 19 other women. She played previously in the IBAF Women's Baseball World Cup in 2015 where Team USA took second place. Whitmore was just 16 years old when she competed internationally for the first time for the United States and rejoined past USA teammates Jade Gortarez and Stacy Piagno, who were Sonoma Stompers teammates.

This year's Women's National Team competed in the World Baseball Softball Confederation's Women's Baseball World Cup in Viera, Florida, Aug. 22-31, which marked the first time the event was held in the United States. Whitmore and her squad ended their run with a heartbreaking 8-5 loss to Canada in the bronze medal game Friday, Aug. 31, at the USSSA Space Coast Complex in Viera, Florida. Despite getting out to an early lead and forcing extra innings with a late rally, the U.S. couldn't hang on as Canada's bats caught fire in the 10th inning. Team USA finished the World Cup 6-3 with a 1.98 team ERA and a collective .288 average.

The two other local standouts that competed at the international level for Team USA, Rheego McIntosh, 15, from Chaparral High School and Brady Strohm, 12, who attends middle school in Temecula, returned home as gold medal champions.

For McIntosh, he and his teammates claimed Team USA's first 15U World Cup Championship Sunday, Aug. 19, downing host country Panama 7-1 in front of a sold-out crowd in the final game of the World Baseball Softball Confederation's U15 Baseball World Cup.

For Strohm, his Team USA crew scored seven runs over the first three innings of the championship game Sunday, Sept. 2, which led to a 10-2 victory over Mexico to claim gold and win the 2018 COPABE U12 Pan American Championships with a perfect 9-0 record. It marks the first time the USA has won the tournament after finishing runner-up in 2014 and 2016.

On the basketball courts, it was Rancho Christian's Evan Mobley, along with a star-studded lineup of Under-17 USA Basketball's biggest names, pulled away from fellow finalist, France, to secure the gold medal at the FIBA Under-17 Basketball World Cup in Argentina this past July.

Team USA got out to a quick start, but France closed the gap to just 5 points with six minutes left in the first half. But a 20-5 run to close the half put the Americans safely in the lead at 45-25 heading into the locker room. At the end of three quarters, the score was 77-38, leaving no room for drama in the fourth.

When the final buzzer sounded, Team USA U-17 were crowned world champions for the fifth consecutive time and extended their world championships winning streak to 37 games, dating back to the inaugural event in 2010.

In the final, Mobley scored 8 points, 2 rebounds and blocked shots to wrap up a solid tournament. His 18 total blocked shots ranked him first among forwards for the entire tournament. He played an average of more than 18 minutes a game, averaged more than 5 rebounds and 9.3 points a game and shot a solid 67.5 percent from the field.

The tournament was held June 30-July 8 in Rosario and Santa Fe, Argentina, and featured the best 15 teams in the world. FIBA is the world governing body for basketball – formed by 213 National Basketball Federations throughout the world and is recognized as the only authority in basketball by the International Olympic Committee.

Going Pro

The first-year player draft, which is Major League Baseball's primary mechanism for assigning amateur baseball players, from high schools, colleges, and other amateur baseball clubs, to its teams, took place June 4-6 in New Jersey and the Inland Empire had great representation.

With the tie for the worst record in the 2017 MLB season (64–98), the Detroit Tigers received the first overall pick ahead of the San Francisco Giants via a tiebreaker, and chose Auburn pitcher, Casey Mize. There are 40 rounds in the draft, with 1,024 players selected.

Southern California is among the nation's hotbeds for baseball talent and that was evident once again during the 2018 MLB Draft. More than 140 players with ties to California were selected during the three-day draft and from our area alone, six players that grew up playing the game in their Temecula Valley backyards, all found themselves on the draft board. Three of the six are recent high school graduates and the other three climbed the ladder with successful college careers. Two of those three college players even played on the same high school team together.

Brhet Bewley, who was taken in the 32nd round by the Kansas City Royals, and Justin Toerner, who was taken in the 28th round by the St. Louis Cardinals, both played at Chaparral High School and graduated in 2014. Bewley went on to play the last three years at the University of San Diego for the Toreros, and Turner has been with the California State University Northridge Matadors for the same amount of time. Bewley was one of the hottest hitters down the stretch for the Toreros as he started 53 of 55 games he appeared in, batted .291 (59-for-203) and chipped in with 31 runs, 59 hits, eight doubles, two triples, eight home runs and 44 RBI. Toerner, who was recruited by California State University Northridge as a pitcher out of high school, paved the way for an incredible career in the outfield when he was given a shot with his bat during his freshman year. This year he was tied for eighth all time with 93 career walks and was also second in school history in sacrifice flies (12) and fifth in triples (12).

Chaparral High School has put out the most draft picks in the area and has a former World Series Champion, Allen Craig, who can call their fields "home." Craig currently plays first base and is an outfielder in the San Diego Padres organization, but he also played for the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox. The Cardinals drafted him from the University of California Berkeley in 2006, and he made his Major League debut with the Cardinals in 2010. Craig has appeared in two World Series and in both made history. In the 2011 World Series, he tied a record by collecting three hits that drove in the game-winning run. In 2013, he became the first player to score a game-winning run on an obstruction call.

The third of the former players from the valley that got drafted as a college player was Eli Lingos of the Arizona State University Sun Devils. The senior left-handed pitcher that just graduated was picked by the Cleveland Indians in the 22nd round. Lingos was one of Arizona State University's most consistent pitchers through back-to-back losing seasons. The Temecula native, who graduated from Great Oak High School in 2014, finished his career going 17-18 with a 4.21 ERA. In his senior year, Lingos went 7-5 with a 3.83 ERA, throwing a team-high 91 2/3 innings.

This year there were three local high school players that went in the late rounds included Linfield Christian's Tyler Baca, who was selected in the 34th round, as was Vista Murrieta's Jake Moberg, and Great Oak's Alec Valenzuela. Baca went to the Washington Nationals, but will forego that process for the time being and attend Biola University to further his career and education. Moberg, who has been committed to play at University of California Los Angeles since his sophomore year, was drafted by the Colorado Rockies and Valenzuela went to the Chicago White Sox.

Over 80 percent of players drafted in the first round make it to the major leagues. After that, the odds are less than 50 percent. Players selected in the draft will receive a signing bonus. For most players, this is the only significant amount of compensation that they will receive for a few years, so the signing bonus is important to drafted players.

It is also hard to believe that just two short years ago Vista Murrieta's Michael Norman was named Gatorade's National Player of the Year in Track and Field for the second consecutive year, graduated from high school and then went on his way to contend for the U.S. Olympic team, barely missing the cut.

Norman, who is currently competing in the 2018 USATF Outdoor Championships, is also the newly crowned collegiate record holder in the 400-meters for University of Southern California and announced Saturday, June 23, that he was going to be turning professional. 

"Thank you, SC for all the opportunities you gave me #gonebutneverforgotten" Norman posted on his Instagram page. In a separate Instagram post earlier in the week, HSI, the Los Angeles based sports agency, announced that Norman signed with the group. HSI's current list of clients includes Christian Coleman, the world indoor record holder for the 60-meter dash; English Gardner, an Olympic gold medalist in 2016, and Dawn Harper-Nelson, a gold medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. 

Norman had a record-breaking sophomore year at University of Southern California, racking up four national titles and set the world record indoors earlier this year. He broke the 400 indoor record this past March and has taken 0.99 of a second off his outdoor 400-meter personal best, winning the NCAA title in 43.61. That's the fastest time in the world since Wayde van Niekerk's world record 43.03 at the Rio Olympics. Norman is now the sixth-fastest 400 runner ever. 

The 20-year-old Trojan, at the time, saved his best for the outdoor championships where he ran 43.61 in the 400, besting Fred Kerley's collegiate record and recording the 11th fastest mark of all-time. Only five men have run faster. Later in the meet, Norman anchored the Trojans 4x400m to a collegiate record of 2:59.00. Norman's split was recorded at 43.62, the fastest of the championships.

*The full versions of these sports stories can also be found online at http://www.myvalleynews.com.

We had so many contributing writers this year, including many of our own readers, who helped with not only the stories in this issue, but so many more. As the sports editor, I want to send a heartfelt thank you out to Joe Naiman, Jeff Pack, Kim Harris and the many others who contributed to the sports section, I can't wait to see what stories are shared with us in 2019.

If you have a sports tip, JP Raineri can be reached by email at [email protected]

 

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