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2011-12 Signal Sports Awards: And the nominees are...

Posted: July 5, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 5, 2012 1:55 a.m.

We’ve detailed the 2011-12 athletics seasons of each and every school in the Santa Clarita Valley.

We have recognized the best athletes in each sport as the year has gone by.

Now, it’s time to wrap it all up in our annual Signal Sports Awards.

With all the statistics compiled and the details discussed, we’ve selected the best athletes, teams and programs for the 2011-12 school year in the SCV.

We voted on these nominees for Male and Female Athletes of the Year, Team of the Year, Coach of the Year and Newcomer of the Year, which is given to the athlete who made the biggest impact on his/her team while playing at the varsity level for the first time.

The athlete of the year awards are given based on accomplishments throughout the school year, which can often include multiple sports.

All our awards are decided based on staff voting other than Program of the Year, which is determined by a point system where each team and individual achievement is given an assigned value.

We only consider the six Foothill League schools for Program of the Year because the private schools compete in a limited number of sports.

We’ll kick off our awards with Coach of the Year on Friday, and then move on to Newcomer of the Year Saturday, Female Athlete of the Year Sunday, Male Athlete of the Year Monday, Team of the Year Tuesday and Program of the Year to wrap it up on Wednesday.

Here are this season’s nominees:

Male Athlete of the Year nominees

Coley Apsay — Canyon football/basketball, senior

Though basketball was his strong suit throughout high school, Apsay decided to add football for the first time this year as a senior. Not only was he a successful wide receiver for Canyon, but it didn’t impede his ability to excel on the hardwood. Apsay was the All-Santa Clarita Valley Player of the Year in boys basketball after running the point on the league-champion Canyon team. He averaged 18.1 points and three assists per game in basketball, while hauling in 39 catches for 497 yards in football.

J.C. Cloney — West Ranch baseball, senior

Cloney was easily the best overall baseball player in the Santa Clarita Valley this year. He was downright dominant on the mound, going 8-1 with a 1.84 ERA in 72 1/3 innings pitches this season. In Foothill League play, he was a perfect 5-0 with a 1.66 ERA. The senior Long Beach State commit was just as lethal as a hitter, batting .378 with 19 RBIs, three home runs and 17 runs. Cloney had as much to do with West Ranch’s league title and deep playoff run as anyone on the team.

Brandon Dooley — West Ranch soccer/golf, senior

In a less traditional combination of sports, Dooley shined as both a soccer player and a golfer at West Ranch. The senior scored nine goals for the Foothill League-champion soccer team to earn All-Santa Clarita Valley Player of the Year honors in the winter. Then, in spring he played a big part in helping the school win a boys golf Foothill title, finishing seventh in the league MVP race. He was one of three locals to make it to the CIF-Southern Section Boys Golf Individual Final.

Kristian Martinez — Golden Valley cross country/track and field, senior

Golden Valley’s storybook season in cross country wouldn’t have been possible without Martinez, who was virtually the face of the team. He was an individual Foothill League champion and CIF-Southern Section Division II champion while running through sickness to finish 15th at the state cross country finals. The University of California, Berkeley commit won track and field league titles in the 800-meter and 1,600-meter while also qualifying for the CIF-Southern Section Division II finals in both events.

Tim White — Hart football/track and field, senior
Both his football and track and field seasons were equally exciting. In football, White was one of the most versatile football players in the Foothill League as he collected 609 receiving yards and 302 rushing yards. He was also named an All-CIF player as a defensive back on the Southern Section Northern Division team. In track and field, the senior became the first Hart athlete to win two CIF titles in the same day, winning both the high jump and triple jump in Southern Section Division III. He then recorded one of the best high school marks in the nation at the CIF State Track and Field Championships to take second in the state triple jump finals.

Female Athlete of the Year nominees

Megan Dawe — Saugus basketball, senior

No one in the Foothill League had an answer for Dawe defensively. Her combination of height and skill made her an unstoppable scoring force in the low post, and it helped Saugus win a share of the league girls basketball title. New York University-bound Dawe finished her Saugus career as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,273 points, which was helped by a school-best 568 points this season. She averaged 19.7 points and 9.9 rebounds per game this year.

Karis Frankian — Saugus cross country/track and field, senior

The tradition of running excellence continued at Saugus High School this year thanks in large part to Frankian. The senior finished third individually at the CIF State Division II Championships in November to lead the team to its sixth straight state championship. No one came close to beating her in league meets, as Frankian won by an average of 27 seconds in Foothill competition. In the spring, she made her third career appearance in the 3,200-meter run at the state track and field finals, finishing 19th.

Tiffini Stone — Canyon basketball/track and field, senior

She was in the running to win All-Santa Clarita Valley Girls Basketball Player of the Year honors and she did win the All-SCV Track and Field Girls Athlete of the Year this spring. The senior, who will run track at UC Riverside next year, was the best player on a Canyon basketball team that won its third straight league title, averaging 14 points, five rebounds and three assists per game. In track and field, she won a CIF-Southern Section Division II title in the triple jump with a leap of 38 feet, 5 1/2 inches.

Abbey Weitzeil — Saugus swim, freshman
When she clocked back-to-back CIF-Southern Section Division I titles, Weitzeil already accomplished something no other female athlete did in Division I this year. Her winning times of 23.07 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle and 49.63 seconds in the 100 freestyle both stand as William S. Hart William S. Hart Union High School District records. In addition, last month, Weitzeil competed in the U.S. Olympic Swim Team Trials as well.

Newcomer of the Year nominees

Trent Irwin — Hart football, freshman

After gaining media attention before even arriving in high school, Irwin lived up to the hype as a freshman and established himself as one of the area’s top wide receivers. He led Hart with 785 receiving yards and caught 50 passes and eight touchdowns. He was the only freshman named to the All-Santa Clarita Valley first team.

Lexi Lotito — Canyon softball, freshman

In a Foothill League full of talented junior and senior softball players, Lotito fit right in as a freshman. She wasn’t just a good hitter for a freshman. She doesn’t need a qualifier. She was a good hitter, period. The center fielder batted .482 and led the team with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs, and she had an impressive .988 slugging percentage.

Jagger Rusconi — West Ranch baseball, freshman

In a Foothill League replete with talented hitters, Rusconi was one of the best. He was without question the best freshman in the league, and was dubbed the state freshman baseball player of the year by Cal-Hi Sports. The All-Santa Clarita Valley first teamer batted .415 this year with a team-high 27 RBIs along with three home runs, 34 runs and 19 stolen bases.

Julie Ward — West Ranch golf, freshman
Ward not only led West Ranch to its first Foothill League girls golf title in program history, the freshman became the school’s first girls golfer to advance to the WSCGA Foundation Southern California Girls Golf Championship, which is one step away from the individual state championship. Ward finished third in the league MVP standings with 196 total strokes, four behind the winner.

Abbey Weitzeil — Saugus swim, freshman

As a freshman, Weitzeil recorded one of the best swim seasons on record in the Santa Clarita Valley. She broke William S. Hart Union High School District records in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races, winning individual CIF-Southern Section Division I titles in both events. She set nine Saugus High records and four Foothill marks, and she was named The Signal’s All-Santa Clarita Valley Girls Swimmer of the Year.

Connor Wingenroth — Hart football, sophomore
An injury to Hart’s original starting quarterback gave Wingenroth an early chance to display his talents on the football field. His athleticism and ability as both a passer and runner set him apart later in the season to the point where the sophomore secured his spot as the team’s full-time starter. He ended up with 1,739 passing yards and threw 14 touchdowns to balance out 637 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing.

Team of the Year nominees

Golden Valley boys cross country

It just kept getting better for Golden Valley as the season went on. First it was a Foothill League title — the school’s first in boys cross country. From there, it was a CIF-Southern Section Division II championship — the first CIF title of any kind at Golden Valley. But the apex came on Nov. 26, when the group of seven runners claimed a CIF Division II state title to cap off the most successful season by any sport in school history.

Saugus girls cross country

Even when they weren’t supposed to, Saugus still stood atop the podium at the cross country state finals. For the sixth season in a row, Saugus can call itself the state champions after winning the CIF State Division II title in November. The latest one came despite the graduation losses of some of its top runners in previous years, including Stephanie Bulder and Kaylin Mahoney. And it came despite the fact that Saugus finished runner-up at the CIF-Southern Section Division II finals, ending its five-year winning streak. But it all came together for the Centurions at the state meet.

West Ranch baseball

In a challenging Foothill League and an even tougher playoff bracket, West Ranch just found ways to keep winning. The result was a record-breaking run to a program-first league title and into the semifinal round of the CIF-Southern Section Division I postseason. West Ranch had two good starting pitchers and enough timely hitting to advance further than any other Foothill team before it in the Division I bracket. West Ranch ended up 21-9-1, which included a 5-4 victory in the quarterfinals over Orange Lutheran, the top-ranked team in the nation at the time.

Coach of the Year nominees

Shant Bicakci — West Ranch boys basketball

There were skeptics coming into the season when the 23-year-old Bicakci was hired to replace previous coach Sean Legaux. Bicakci quickly silenced those skeptics and helped West Ranch race off to take a share of its first Foothill League boys basketball title. Then, West Ranch made it as far as the CIF-Southern Section Division IA quarterfinals, narrowly losing 81-77 in overtime to top-seeded Mission Viejo.

Casey and Brady Burrill — West Ranch baseball

It was a historic year for West Ranch in many different sports, but the baseball team’s run was perhaps the most surprising and exciting. Not only did the Burrill brothers coach a team to its first Foothill League baseball title in school history — dethroning three-time defending champion Valencia — but West Ranch made it all the way to the CIF-Southern Section Division I semifinals. They had to knock off Orange Lutheran, one of the nation’s top-ranked teams, to get there.

Rob and Chris Evans — Golden Valley cross country/track and field

Rob and Chris Evans will forever be etched into Golden Valley’s athletic history after guiding the cross country program to the level they did this season. Through years of building the team around relentless hard work and discipline, the Evans brothers’ influence culminated in a CIF-Southern Section Division II championship followed by a CIF State Division II title by the boys cross country team. Prior to this year, the school hadn’t won a CIF title in any sport.

Chuck Johns — Canyon girls basketball

Suddenly, Canyon girls basketball has become a powerhouse. It’s no coincidence that Canyon — after not winning a Foothill League title since 1973 — has now won three straight under Johns, who took over in 2008-09. Not only that, but for the second year in a row, the Cowboys went to a CIF-Southern Section IIAA quarterfinal game.

John Maggiora — Saugus baseball

Coming off a last-place finish in the Foothill League a year before, not much was expected of this year’s Saugus baseball team. But Maggiora worked his magic, put the right people in the right place and led a scrappy group of players to a second-place finish in league and a CIF-Southern Section Division I quarterfinal appearance. It was the school’s first CIF quarterfinal since 1991.

Rene Paragas — Saugus cross country

Paragas is becoming a very familiar name on this list — winning Coach of the Year in each of the past three seasons. Still, this was supposed to be the end of his reign, and the end of Saugus’ dominance over the state of California in girls cross country. But for the sixth year in a row, they won a CIF Division II state title. And here Paragas is again.


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