SBAA’s generosity helps local track programs flourish

Three special awards, nine checks to hand out and 21 teams to catch up on.

There wasn’t a partridge in a pear tree at Harry’s for Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon, but after missing a week due to Spring Break, it seemed like everything else was there.

The checks were doled out by Jim Sloan of the Santa Barbara Athletic Association, a longtime local running organization which puts on races and helps support local scholastic track programs. Dos Pueblos, Santa Barbara, San Marcos, Carpinteria, Santa Ynez, Bishop Diego, UCSB, SBCC and Westmont were all recipients of the SBAA’s generous donation this year.

Dos Pueblos coach Dave Kuderka said that the donation will go straight towards the Chargers’ efforts to get a new timing system, which can come at a hefty price of about $20,000. But if the equipment is supposed to match the athletes it needs to be top-notch, because Kuderka’s program is having a great season thanks to some big-time performers, four of which he brought with him to the Ranchero Room.

Sprinter Isaiha Brown is the fastest runner in the Channel League and may also be the tops in the county, according to Kuderka. He’s run the 100-meters with a wind-aided time of 11.05 seconds and will likely keep going lower as the season marches on into its second half.

Erin Campbell is only a sophomore but has already run the 800 in 2:21 — just four seconds off the school record set by Wanda Burke way back in 1977. Marina Plesons already shares the school’s pole vault record at 9’6″, but is primed to top that mark and also runs in the 400-meters and on DP’s relay teams.

Then there’s Patrick Smith, who’s hoping to capture the title at this weekend’s Arcadia Decathlon after finishing second last year. Kuderka talked about Smith’s character, citing a story from two weeks ago when the Chargers had lost a heartbreaker of a meet at Ventura that came down to the high jump. Although DP had already lost, Smith stayed focused and kept jumping.

“Honestly, I don’t know if I would have kept jumping,” said Kuderka. “To his credit, he went up and jumped and tried 6-4… He’s just about competing because you’re supposed to compete.”

The Charger boys also found out over the weekend that they won the CIF Southern Section Academic title — the sixth such award for a DP track or cross-country team in eight years.

San Marcos coach Marilyn Hantgin brought along four standouts of her own, and all will need big performances if the Royals are to maintain their spot atop the Grand Sweepstakes, which the rival Chargers will be vying for down the stretch.

Hantgin had two stellar high-jumpers to introduce. Bennie Kirkwood just picked up the sport this season, but cleared 6-4 to set the meet record at the 71st annual Easter Relays just over a week ago. Hannah McDaniel set the frosh/soph girls record by clearing 5-3.

Top girls sprinter Elysia Hodges has been steadily racking up points in the 100,200 and 400, while football player Derrick Dallmeyer has also been strong in the sprints on the boys side.

Santa Barbara High assistant coach Chad Bryant specializes in distance events, but brought along senior sprinters Freddy Maldonado and R.J. Bisquera to be recognized. Bryant also thanked San Marcos for allowing the Dons to use the track at Valley Stadium for Wednesday’s meet against Ventura.

Bishop Diego Athletic Director Dan Peeters also serves as the Cardinals’ track coach, and the girls squad is off to a stellar start after winning the first Frontier League meet. Freshman sensation Nicole Poindexter is a big part of the success, having won nine of the 10 events she’s entered in her young career. She won the 100, 200 and long jump while running on the winning 4×100 relay team in both the Frontier League Meet and the Malibu Invitational, then won the freshman 400 crown at Saturday’s DP Invitational.

Fellow freshman Christy Delgadillo has held her own for Bishop in the distance events and recorded a strong time of 13:26 in the two-mile recently, while junior captain Melissa Georgi, a 3-sport athlete, has anchored the 4×100 relay team in all of its victories thus far.

It’s been a re-building year for Carpinteria’s storied track program, but the Warriors have picked up some momentum since recently competing at the Citrus Relays in Fillmore.

“It was a small-scale meet, and we had quite a few medalists which was great. In terms of that, it will probably end up being our most successful meet of the year,” said coach Van Latham.

Carpinteria’s upcoming Russell Cup is by no means small-scale, as 46 teams are registered to invade Memorial Stadium on April 18th, including a squad from Houston.

Latham introduced thrower Cameron Gonzales, pole-vaulter/hurdler Travis Doop and thrower Lani Evans-Gonda.

Pole-vaulter Scott Finley of UCSB owes a lot to the SBAA — the donation will go towards buying Finley two new poles, considering he recently cleared 16-6 and will need an equipment upgrade to continue his progression. The poles cost $500 each.

Gaucho coach Pete Dolan has his team doing well heading into “the meat of the season,” as he calls it. He brought along two meaty fifth-year seniors — discus thrower Nick Sherman and shot-putter Scott Anderson.

First-year SBCC coach Scott Fickerson is a Ventura native and remembers running in SBAA races as a youngster. He’s now in charge of a whole heap of youngsters, and he said he is very happy with how things are going with the Vaqueros. The recent collegiate Easter Relays went very smoothly, he said.

Westmont coach Russell Smelley said his Warriors are gearing up for the Golden State Athletic Conference meet, but his time at the podium was spent less on the competition itself and more on some more meaningful things presently happening in the community.

Smelley’s assistant coach, John Larralde, was set to be released from the hospital Monday after a staff infection had him close to death two weeks ago. Larralde, a Santa Barbara native, received well-wishes from many of the other track coaches who spoke at the luncheon.

Monday was also a big day for the Westmont Homeowner’s Association, which Smelley is the president of. The longtime coach is one of 14 faculty members who lost their homes in November’s Tea Fire, and he happily reported that construction began Monday in the neighborhood’s re-building efforts.

On a sad note, Smelley reported that former UCSB track coach Sam “The Rock” Adams continues to decline in health due to Alzheimer’s. He said he hopes the community can find a way to do something for Adams and his wife, Sue, during this tough time.

“The lessons are that what we’re learning on the field and on the track is how to persevere…That’s key because there are more important things coming,” he said.

Like Smelley, UCSB baseball coach Bob Brontsema didn’t spend much time in discussing his team, which is 17-9 with high hopes for the postseason.

He began by extending his best wishes to Smelley, saying “My hope is that your house is the first one done when those houses are done up there.”

He then spoke about the two things that help him stay even-keeled after a tough loss, which are his family and Phil Womble.

Womble, a legend in the local sports community for his many achievements despite being born with cerebral palsy, was in attendance for the first time in some weeks. Brontsema thanked the Gaucho Hall of Fame’s namesake for always providing inspirational words in tough times.

“I can always count on Phil to call with positive words for me,” he said. “He knows I love him and appreciate him, but I wanted to say it publicly.”

SBCC baseball coach Teddy Warrecker was the first coach of the day to address the crowd, as he had to rush to practice. After a roller-coaster start to the season, his Vaqueros are 17-16 overall and 6-11 in conference play, winning five of their last seven.

Male Athlete of the Week Blake McFarland is a big reason for the team’s recent success. The 6-foot-6 pitcher tossed a 4-hitter in Tuesday’s 10-0 win at Ventura, allowing just seven base-runners total and no hits after the third inning. It was the first shutout and the first complete game of the year for an SBCC pitcher. The San Jose State-bound hurler, now 6-2 on the year with a 2.72 ERA, also pitched the 10th inning of Saturday’s 4-3 win over Hancock.

Warrecker pointed out that he’s also a standout in the classroom, carrying a 3.5 GPA.

The San Marcos baseball team is off to a great start under first-year head coach Rob Crawford, as the Royals recently beat Dos Pueblos for the first time in six seasons. The team returned from a five-game Spring Break trip to Arizona in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday.

“We had a great time and played exceptionally well with the exception of a stomach virus that hit us on the last night of the trip. We sent seven guys home early,” he said. “It was a great trip other than that.”

The coach said that the team’s defense has been a big factor in the strong start. Second baseman Nicky Villegas has been a big part of that defense, helping San Marcos turn 15 double plays already on the year while only hitting into four. Catcher Riley Moore has also been outstanding, throwing out nine of the 11 runners who have attempted to steal on him.

Crawford also reported that Riley’s brother, JV pitcher Peyton, received a diagnosis for the illness that has caused him to shed 30 pounds and is hopeful that he will be able to return to playing baseball again in the future — excellent news considering the illness was a mystery and it was thought that he’d never play again just two weeks ago.

Santa Barbara High assistant coach George Rempe said that the Dons are in very unfamiliar territory at 5-4, a record which the traditionally dominant program has not started with for many years. The Dons have been starting six sophomores as of late, and Rempe said that they are steadily learning important things about playing the game. They’ve learned how to win at home and they’ve learned what it takes to win on the road, but with match-ups against San Marcos and DP on tap for this week, another important lesson awaits — how do you face your two main rivals back-to-back?

“We’re definitely the underdogs in those games for the first time in many years,” he said.

Peeters pinch-hit for coach Brian Moulton in discussing Bishop Diego baseball, which is coming off of a tough week after dropping a pair of one-run losses to Tri-Valley League foe Malibu. Cody Yokubaitis has been a bright spot, however, as he came in with the bases juiced and no one out in the first inning of Saturday’s game and got out of the jam before going the rest of the way in the close loss. Hard-working Teddy Sleep was also at the luncheon and was praised for always giving 100-percent effort at practice.

The Female Athlete of the Week award went out to a senior who has been a star athlete at Bishop Diego for four years. After nearly winning the award during basketball season, Jennifer Jimenez got the nod for her monster stat line in the Cardinals’ two softball wins on the week over Cate and Cornerstone Christian. The senior captain went 7-for-10 with two homers, 12 RBIs and six runs scored while picking up both wins pitching. Coach Tom Beamer also introduced co-captain Taylor DeVries and sophomore sensation Annette Gonzalez, who is hitting a whopping .530 on the young season. The Cardinals play at San Marcos on Wednesday.

Jarrod Bradley was the lone tennis coach at the luncheon, and he spoke about his team’s 4-5, 1-2 start. The two league losses have come against mighty crosstown rivals Santa Barbara and Dos Pueblos, and a rematch against the Chargers is on tap for Tuesday. He was accompanied by two sophomores — Jackson Foster, whom Bradley says has a “hilarious” monotone voice, and straight-A student Garrett Timmons.

Raise those tennis nets up a few feet and you’ve got volleyball, and there’s plenty of it in the weeks ahead after the Spring Break hiatus.

Chad Arneson’s 8-3 Santa Barbara High team has league matches against Buena and San Marcos before hosting the power-packed Karch Kiraly Tournament of Champions. He brought along senior libero Will Boucher and outside hitter Tyler Worley.

Roger Kuntz’s San Marcos squad has big matches against DP and the Dons ahead before playing Ventura. If height was the only factor in volleyball, the Royals would be a lock to win ’em all. Kuntz introduced three of his big guys in 6-7 senior Kevin Davis, 6-4 junior Ian McFarland and 6-2 Chris Baird.

It hasn’t been a dream season by any means for first-year UCSB men’s volleyball coach Rick McLaughlin, as the Gauchos are 8-16 overall and 4-15 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. To put the MPSF’s strength into perspective, however, he pointed out that the Gauchos are still ranked No. 12 in the country despite the dismal record. The team has played nine 5-set matches so far this season. He brought along two seniors who have been invaluable as leaders on the team — Mike Runkle and Matt Thobe.

SBCC Sports Information Specialist Dave Loveton was on hand as always to give a run-down of other Vaquero teams. The men’s tennis team, led by Santa Barbara High graduate Elliot Markowitz, is 8-4 overall and is headed towards the WSC Individual Championships on April 17th and 18th. The softball team went 2-2 this past week including a big win over first-place Moorpark, and the men’s volleyball team is pressing on at 5-10, 1-7 after losing both setters for the year due to injury.

PHIL WOMBLE ETHICS AWARD: Rebecca Neilsen-Robbins is much more than the star pitcher on Santa Barbara High’s softball team. The junior is also a member of the Junior Statesmen of America and is a board member for the Youth Making Change organization. She serves as the editor of the school newspaper, The Forge, and carries a jaw dropping GPA of 4.76. She’s hoping to attend either Stanford or Cal after graduating, and both schools would be lucky to have her.