Warriors run with confidence at GSAC Championships

Members of the Dos Pueblos swimming teams, including Athlete of the Week Alex Valente, far left, at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon. (Presidio Sports Photo)

Westmont track and field coach Russell Smelley was in a perfect spot to witness a breakthrough for one his runners at last Saturday’s GSAC Championships.

Speaking at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon, Smelley said he was about 200 meters from the finish of the women’s 800 final when Theresa Nealon was coming up on the shoulder of the second-place runner. Based on past performances, he figured she’d play it safe and try to out-kick her on the straightaway.

But Smelley had other ideas.

“Go now, go now, go now,” he shouted at Nealon. “And she did. She hadn’t always done that.”

Nealon wound up finishing second behind teammate Kate Stuart, ran a personal best by 2.5 seconds, achieved a provisional qualifying mark for the NAIA Nationals and would have broken the school record except Stuart broke it two seconds ahead of her.

After the race Nealon told Smelley that when he yelled go now, her response was, “ ‘OK, coach, whatever you say.’ That’s what you want to hear, but it takes a long time to develop (that trust),” the coach explained. “It’s nice to have that trust and see her have the confidence to do it for herself, and see her come up to me excited about what she did, not needing me to say, ‘You did good.’ ”

It was a big weekend for local track teams.

SBCC coach Scott Fickerson said 19 of his athletes (10 men, 9 women) qualified for the Southern California Prelims in San Diego at last weekend’s WSC Championships.

“That’s the most I’ve had in my tenure,” said Fickerson, who is in his fourth year. “Each year we’ve gotten more and more athletes qualified, so we’re moving in the right direction. Seventeen of the 19 qualified with season or lifetime bests, which is nice.”

Fickerson added that many of the qualifiers are from the local high schools.

“The program historically has had a lot of athletes from the Bay Area, down in Orange County, and quite a few international students as well. It’s pretty cool to have a really big group of local athletes, particularly local athletes that have been very successful.”

At UCSB, assistant coach Robert Beamer said the Gauchos swept Cal Poly for the first time in five years. He singled out multi-event standout Barbara Nwaba, who won the 100 hurdles, high jump and javelin.

“We’re lucky to have her on the roster,” he said. “We look forward to her scoring at the Big West Championships.”

High school track teams are preparing for their league championship meets this week.

Nicole Poindexter of Bishop Diego will going for three-peats in the 100, 200 and long jump at the Frontier League meet, reported Athletic Director Dan Peeters.

Joe Salcedo also will be a strong contender in the discus and shot put. Peeters said the sophomore as set personal bests in every meet.

Marilyn Hantgin of San Marcos introduced high jumper Charlotte Garratt of the girls track team and middle distance runner Cameron Cruikshank, throwers Reggie Gruber and Michael Orosco of the boys team.

Leslie Wiggins Roth of Dos Pueblos said sprinters Zach Briones and Marshall Moua and hurdler Kyle Cordes have been keys to the success of the Charger boys squad.

The Royals and Chargers will be at the Channel League Championships at Buena on Friday.

Carpinteria athletic director Pat Cooney brought thrower Juan Jimenez and Kailinda Moreno, both of whom have improved their PRs in the shot put in recent meets. The Warriors will host the Tri-Valley League Championships this week and the CIF Division 4 Prelims next week.

Dos Pueblos swim coach Kevin Kuga said the Chargers were gearing up for the Channel League Finals. He introduced Nick Lum, Vincent Dodero and Alex Valente of the boys swim team. Valente, who swam the fastest 100 butterfly in the nation for a 14 year old in a dual meet against Buena, also swam the fastest 100-meter fly and second fast 200m fly for his age group at a long distance meet.

From his girls team, Kuga brought Shannon Cleary and Hailey Goodner. Goodner has been sidelined with an elbow injury but she should be back for the league finals, said Kuga.

UCSB softball assistant Christine Ramos introduced senior pitcher Krista Cobb, who will be honored at Senior Day this weekend when the Gauchos host Cal Poly. Ramos noted that Cobb suffered a career-ending arm injury but she’s continued to help her teammates, especially freshman pitcher Shelby Wisdom.

“We wouldn’t have the success we’ve had without the help of Krista,” said Ramos.

Dos Pueblos softball coach Lee Harris singled out two key players for the Chargers: shortstop Chloe Madill and catcher Haley Peterson. Madill scored on a squeeze bunt by Peterson for the winning run against defending CIF Division 2 champion Camarillo last week.

“With those two players, our future his bright,” Harris said.

He also brought his daughter and standout pitcher Hannah Harris. She has the lowest ERA in the CIF-Southern Section at 0.36, which ranks second in the state and 17th in the nation, according to MaxPreps.

San Marcos softball coach Jeff Swann introduced Sandra Lopez, Stephanie Swann and Emily Dietz. He said Swann and Dietz supply most of the offense for the Royals, who have a huge game against Ventura on Wednesday. They’re in a battle for third place in the league.

Carpinteria High School Athletic Director Pat Cooney brought six student-athletes from the baseball team, the softball team, and track & field.

Lissette Jaramillo and Alicia Juarez are new to the Carpinteria softball team, and Cooney, speaking for coach Henry Gonzales, said both have worked extremely hard to improve. Both girls will be the first members of their families to attend college.

The Warriors are 6-0 in the Frontier League.

SBCC won five in a row and 11 of their last 13 to earn a spot in the Southern California Regionals for the second straight year, sports information specialist Dave Loveton reported. The Vaqueros will play at top-seeded Canyons on Saturday.

In baseball, Westmont and City College earned postseason berths. The Warriors travel to face top-seeded Azusa Pacific in the double-elimination GSAC Tournament, while the Vaqueros host Canyons in a So Cal Regional game at Pershing Park on Tuesday.

SBCC won its last five games to capture its second straight WSC championship.

Mitch Crocker was huge for Westmont in its final regular-season series with Vanguard. He earned two wins in relief and pitched a complete game victory in the playoff-clinching finale.

“He told the coach he wanted the ball,” said sports information director Ron Smith about Crocker’s demand to pitch the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader.

UCSB assistant Zach Etheredge reported that Brett Vertigan was named Big West Player of the Week for the second time this season and he has reached base safely in every game this season. Also, freshman pitcher Andrew Vasquez has been named to the national pitcher of the year watch list. He has a Big West-leading 1.79 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 60 innings.

Santa Barbara High assistant George Rempe said the Dons play two must-win games with Ventura this week. “If we can win both, then our hopes of making CIF for the 14th straight year would still be alive.” said Rempe, who added that they also need a little help. “At this point, it’s a longshot, but it’s still within our grasp.”

Rempe introduced Evan Smith, Jack Kaiser, Alex Churchill and Peter Chacones.

Cooney said his team is still splitting with its opponents. The Warriors are 9-9 and 4-4 in the Tri-Valley League.

“We’re looking to continue that against Oaks Christian in a David vs. Goliath battle,” he said. “We need to split to keep our playoff hopes alive.”

Cooney brought Jacob Barbere and Max Damron to the press luncheon.

Dos Pueblos assistant Jon Ramsdell introduced Dane Short, Anthony Sassola and Michael McCann.

The Chargers play a crucial series against second-place Buena this week.

“We’re in first place in league going into the final stretch,” Ramsdell said. “We’re in the driver’s seat and that’s all we can ask for at this point.”