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Dan Agnew's best of 2013

Posted: December 25, 2013 10:54 p.m.
Updated: December 25, 2013 10:54 p.m.
Saugus girls cross country runner Samantha Ortega had a successful campaign in 2013. Saugus girls cross country runner Samantha Ortega had a successful campaign in 2013.
Saugus girls cross country runner Samantha Ortega had a successful campaign in 2013.

Forget the Oscars and the Emmys. We at The Signal are going to provide you with the best year-end awards of them all with The Siggies, which will cover the best of Santa Clarita Valley sports in 2013.

Best athletes (male and female)

Nick Jones (Valencia High football) — Jones stands out because of his success and versatility in both the spring and fall seasons. The speedy senior was a Foothill League track and field champion in the 400-meter and ran a leg for Valencia’s 4x100-meter championship as well. In the fall, he continued to demonstrate his speed on the football field and became one of the best all-around players in the league.

Samantha Ortega (Saugus cross country/track and field) — No other female came close to accomplishing what Ortega did on a statewide and even nationwide level in 2013. She finished 11th place at the 3,200-meter state championship. She won seven total cross country meets this year, including the Foothill final. Ortega then finished third place at the state Division II finals and capped her year off with a 15th place finish at the Footlocker Cross Country National Championship in San Diego, where she earned All-American honors.

Best coach

Rene Paragas (Saugus cross country/track and field) — No matter the circumstances, Paragas finds a way. Even when the Saugus girls didn’t win a state title for the first time in eight years, the boys team did. And yet the girls team still took second place. He was also heavily involved with training the Santa Clarita Valley’s only three state track and field finalists. There were no jumpers hurdlers or throwers to make the state finals — only Paragas’ athletes.

Best game

Sept. 6, 2013: Hart 55, Chaminade 54 — This game had everything. First was the fact that Hart won in overtime against a Chaminade team that was ranked 10th in the state at the time. The two offensive juggernauts traded blows all evening long and the game wasn’t decided until Hart stopped Chaminade on a two-point attempt in the first overtime period. In the game, Hart quarterback Brady White broke a school record with 508 passing yards and tied another Hart record with seven touchdown passes.

Moment of the year

Dec. 6, 2013: Easy pick? Maybe. But this was truly the biggest sporting event in this valley in a long time and it felt that way at the game. When Connor Wingenroth picked off Valencia in the end zone at Valencia High School to clinch a CIF-Southern Section Northern Division championship, it erased 10 years of frustration and disappointment for the Hart High faithful. Hart hadn’t won a CIF title since 2003 and it was poetic that it did so with a 28-21 win over fierce cross-town rival Valencia, which had beaten Hart earlier in the season.

Athlete who made the valley proud

In his third year as a pro football player, Shane Vereen, a Valencia High graduate, has become a high-profile player for one of the NFL’s top teams. The New England Patriots running back is enjoying his most productive season with 199 rushing yards and 381 receiving yards. Here’s how you know he’s on the map. Expert NFL analysts have suggested picking up Vereen on the fantasy football waiver wire.

Best next level athlete

Max Homa (UC Berkeley golf through Valencia High) — For the first three years of Homa’s collegiate career, Homa couldn’t get over the hump. He settled second place multiple times at tournaments. Then, the flood gates suddenly opened at the best time as Homa picked up individual wins at the Pac-12 Championships and the NCAA Championships in back-to-back weeks to cap off his collegiate career.

Toughest goodbye

Drew Wolitarsky (Canyon High football) — I covered Santa Clarita Valley sports for the final three years of Wolitarsky’s four-year varsity football career at Canyon High. He’s the type of player that only comes along once in awhile. I watched him break the state career record for receiving yardage and receptions his senior year. He capped off his Canyon High career with a victory at the Foothill League 100-meter dash final in track and field.

Most exciting athlete

Ako Kaluna (West Ranch basketball) — It didn’t matter if Kaluna had 30 points or zero points in a game, you always felt like he was going to throw down a momentum-shifting dunk or shatter the backboard for West Ranch basketball. It wasn’t only his ability to dunk either. It was fun watching him fight off double and triple teams in the post and do anything he could to make plays.

Comic relief

Sometimes the small, lighter moments keep things in perspective. I’m walking to my car in the Valencia High parking lot after watching West Ranch girls volleyball lose a winner-take-all match against Valencia, which clinched a Foothill League title. I go to start my car, and no dice. The battery is dead. I know right away I’m going to need a jump. Who else but West Ranch head coach Gerrit Maxwell — who was parked right next to me — walks up to see me in distress. Minutes after his team’s crushing loss, he graciously helps me get my car started and we had a good laugh about it. That was definitely a first for me.


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