A Year in Review; the Valley News Top 20 local sports moments from 2019


Another busy sports year in southwest Riverside County has come to an end, making way for new adventures in 2020. From the PGA Tour to baseball champions, youth sports, skydiving and more, there were plenty of exciting headlines in 2019. As the end of the year comers to fruition, Valley News wanted to look at what we feel were the top 20 local sports stories from the past year.

Murrieta’s Rickie Fowler finishes with a 17-under 267 to beat Braden Grace at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in 2019. Valley News/David Canales photo

No. 1 – Murrieta’s Rickie Fowler wins Waste Management Phoenix PGA Open

Rickie Fowler, a longtime Murrieta resident and current professional golfer, won the Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale in February 2019. Fowler led by four to begin the final round and had no threat from his playing partners Matt Kuchar and Justin Thomas. As the players hit the 11th hole, Fowler led by five, but that’s when everything changed. Fowler hit one ball into the water and then was penalized another shot for a rare rules infraction, resulting in a triple bogey. Fowler, perhaps still rattled, bogeyed the 12th and, after two straight birdies from Braden Grace, trailed the South African by one. He birdied the par-5 15th to tie Grace and took the lead when Grace hit his tee shot into the water on the drivable par-4 17th and made bogey.

“I never want to go through anything like that again,” Fowler told the media in a news conference afterward. “That was not fun.”

The young pro from Murrieta improved his lead to two strokes with a birdie on the 17th hole and finished with a 17-under 267 to beat Braden Grace.

Temecula Valley’s co-head coach, Arnold Alpert, holds up the wrestling programs 19th title in the individual tournament format Saturday, Feb. 9, at a ceremony held at the school. Valley News/Courtesy photo

No. 2 – Temecula Valley Golden Bears wrestle their way to 36th straight section title

The Temecula Valley High School Golden Bears wrestling program won their 36th straight section title, and the 19th title in the individual tournament format. Temecula Valley finished their 2019 championship meet with 270 points, 33.5 more points than rival Northview High School and 89.5 more points than Rowland High School. It was an exciting day all around, especially for Temecula Valley’s co-head coach Arnold Alpert, who celebrated his 54th birthday by hoisting the CIF Southern Section’s Inland Division team championship plaque over his head, which is something he has gotten good at over the years.

Danielle Gibson, a former Murrieta Valley standout softball player, becomes one of two NCAA Division 1 player’s to ever hit for the home run cycle with the Arkansas Razorbacks in 2019. Valley News/Courtesy of University of Arkansas photo

No. 3 – Former Murrieta Valley softball standout, Danielle Gibson, belts HR cycle for Arkansas

Danielle Gibson, who was the 2017 All-Southwestern League Most Valuable Player, is now a standout at the University of Arkansas, where she made national headlines in 2019. Gibson became one of two NCAA Division 1 softball player’s to ever hit for the home run cycle – a solo, two-run and three-run home run and a grand slam – in four innings. Gibson’s hits were only four of the Razorback’s 15 hits against the Cougars of Southern Illinois Edwardsville.

A four-homer NCAA softball game is pretty rare but not unheard of. According to ESPN, five Division 1 women had done it, most recently Syracuse’s Sydney O’Hara in 2017. Gibson joined an exclusive club, and it wasn’t the number of homers but the way she did it that stands out. With a two-run homer in the first inning, a three-run shot in the second, a grand slam in the third and a solo homer in the fourth, Gibson became just the second Division I softball player to hit for the home run cycle, needing just the first four innings to pull it off. Georgetown University’s Alexandria Anttila hit hers in the first, second, fourth and seventh innings back in 2013.

Evan (3) and Isaiah Mobley (4), pictured here in a 2019 game with Rancho Christian, have recently earned two prestigious honors as national high school basketball players. Valley News/David Canales photo

No. 4 – Mobley brothers make headlines in national high school basketball community

Rancho Christian High School’s version of “The Twin Towers,” Evan and Isaiah Mobley earned two prestigious honors on the national high school basketball landscape.

Isaiah Mobley, who is now a freshman playing at University of Southern California, was named a 2019 McDonald’s All-American in January, and Evan Mobley, now a senior, was named the 2018-2019 Gatorade California Boys Basketball Player of the Year by the Gatorade Company. Isaiah Mobley was the only Californian selected to play in last year’s McDonald’s All-American Game and is the first boys’ basketball player from the area to ever selected to play in the game. Isaiah Mobley averaged 22 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and two blocks per game and was ranked the No. 1 recruit in the state of California when he signed his letter of intent to play at University of Southern California.

This past summer, Isaiah Mobley was also named the MVP of the Pangos All-American Game, the Jumpman Best of the West Game, the JB Showcase, the BattleZONE and the NBPA Top 100 Camp, according to a press release issued by the university.

Evan Mobley, the 7-foot, 200-pound center that led the Eagles to a 26-6 record and the Open Division playoffs this past season was regarded highly by Gatorade for volunteering locally feeding the homeless and coaching youth sports teams and has donated his time on behalf of violence prevention programs while maintaining a 3.92 GPA.

Evan Mobley averaged 19.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.7 blocks and 3.3 assists per game, was named co-MVP of the Southeastern League and was a standout for the gold USA Basketball U17 Men’s World Cup team in 2018.

Other notable athletes who have won the player of the year award include Karl-Anthony Towns, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Paul Pierce, Chauncey Billups and Jason Kidd.

Devyn Kim, a junior at Murrieta Mesa High School, places fourth in the world at the 2019 Youth World Championships for Olympic Weightlifting Tuesday, March 12, in Las Vegas. Valley News/Courtesy photo

No. 5 – Murrieta teen lifts her way to greatness for Team USA

Devyn Kim, a junior student-athlete at Murrieta Mesa High School, placed fourth in the world at the 2019 Youth World Championships for Olympic Weightlifting held earlier in 2019 in Las Vegas. Kim was the only athlete chosen to represent Team USA in the 64kg female (141lbs) weight category.

Kim is already a proven elite athlete that consistently ranks among the best in the world every year at the CrossFit Games competitions. The games are worldwide competitions that challenge all different aspects of physical fitness, and now in just her fifth weightlifting event ever, she went 5-for-6 for successful lifts; including a perfect 3-for-3 in the snatch at the Youth World Championships. Her lifts were: Snatch (69kg, 72kg, 76kg (152lbs, 159lbs, 168lbs)), Clean & Jerk (93kg, 97kg, 101kg (205lbs, 214lbs, 223lbs)).

The Youth World Championship hosted over 200 athletes and teams from over 30 countries around the globe; with such countries represented from Japan, China, Egypt, Soviet Union, Greece, Syria, Australia, Germany, Ecuador, Mexico, Brazil, Uzbekistan and many others.

Lakeside High School’s Jazlen Green, pictured here with her University of California Berkeley Bear teammates in the white jersey, is awarded the 2019 John R. Wooden High School Player of the Year Award representing the CIF Southern Section for Division II. Valley News/Courtesy photo

No. 6 – Local high school girls’ basketball players named as John R. Wooden 2019 Players of the Year

The Los Angeles Athletic Club awarded Jazlen Green and Sydney Moran, two local outstanding Southern California high school girls’ basketball players, the 2019 John R. Wooden High School Player of the Year Award presented by Wells Fargo. Green represented Lakeside High School in the CIF Southern Section Division II rankings, and Moran was a standout from Linfield Christian High School, representing the CIF Southern Section Division V rankings. Previous winners include Larry Bird (’79), Michael Jordan (’84), Tim Duncan (’97), Kevin Durant (’07), Candace Parker (’07 & ’08), Maya Moore (’09 & ’11), Chiney Ogwumike (’14), and last year’s recipients, A’ja Wilson of South Carolina and Jalen Brunson of Villanova.

Former Murrieta Valley High grad Tyler Wade is congratulated in the New York Yankees dugout after he scored a run for the Bronx Bombers in a game against the Angels in 2019. Valley News/Jerry Soifer photo

No. 7 – Murrieta Valley alum, Tyler Wade, makes moves for the New York Yankees

When the New York Yankees visited Southern California earlier in 2019, taking on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a four-game series, among the names in the Yankees starting lineup was that of former Murrieta Valley High School Nighthawk baseball player, Tyler Wade. Wade was selected by the New York Yankees in the fourth round of the 2013 Major League Baseball draft. He originally committed to play college baseball at San Diego State University but chose to forgo his commitment and sign with the Yankees, for a very healthy signing bonus.

Brigham Young University’s Sione Takitaki, who was also a standout fullback and linebacker for Heritage High School, is selected with the 80th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. Valley News/Courtesy of Brigham Young University photo

No. 8 – Former Heritage Patriots football player, Sione Takitaki, chosen by Browns in NFL draft

Former Heritage High School football standout and Brigham Young University linebacker Sione Takitaki was chosen by the Cleveland Browns with the 17th pick of the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2019. As a Cougar, Takitaki finished his collegiate career with 241 tackles, 33.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks. He was the university’s top tackler in 2018, ranking 31st in the nation with 118 tackles. Takitaki was invited after the season to participate in the Reese’s Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine game, where he turned a lot of heads.

A native of Fontana, Takitaki moved in with Heritage High School assistant coach Petelo Hifo before his sophomore year. His relationship with the Hifo family extended to Brigham Young University where he was reunited with former teammate and wide receiver Aleva Hifo. During his time at Heritage, Takitaki was named All-CIF Southern Section Central Division and Defensive Player of the Year while helping the Patriots to a 13-1 record as a senior. In his high school career, he totaled 193 tackles (162 solo tackles), 21.5 sacks and 42.5 tackles for loss. As a fullback, he averaged more than 7 yards per carry, running for 1,673 yards and 25 touchdowns.

The Great Oak High School Wolfpack baseball team wins its first ever CIF Southern Section Championship with a 7-0 win in the Division 3 finals over La Canada at Dodger Stadium in 2019. Valley News/Time Stood Still Photography photo

No. 9 – Great Oak claims first ever CIF Southern Section baseball championship

The Great Oak Wolfpack were 13-15 two seasons ago and finished in fourth place in the Southwestern League, while seeing two head coaches assume the role during long time coach Eric Morton’s single season absence. In 2019, while Great Oak took the No. 4 seed in Division 3, they battled through and through to get the playoffs where they made it the CIF Southern Section Finals. Senior right-hander Cameron Mabee, now playing at California State Polytechnic University Pomona, was phenomenal on both sides of the field, both offensively and defensively. Mabee took a perfect game into the sixth inning on the mound and then helped the Wolfpack bust the game open when he lined a shot into deep center for an inning-opening double in the fourth. That opened the door for Great Oak to bat around, score seven runs, and with strike throwing senior on the bump, Mabee would close the door on the Spartans in Great Oak’s 7-0 defeat of La Canada in the Division 3 baseball final at Dodger Stadium.

Great Oak High School’s Zach Arnold, who is currently playing at Louisiana State University, is drafted by the Orioles in the 34th round of the 2019 MLB first-year player draft. Valley News/Time Stood Still Photography photo
Former Temecula Valley High School standout, Connor Cannon, who set the University of California Riverside home run in 2019, is also drafted to the San Francisco Giants. Valley News/Courtesy photo

No. 10 – Local baseball players taken in 2019 Major League Baseball Draft

The MLB first-year player draft took place in June 2019. Also known as the amateur draft, this is Major League Baseball’s primary mechanism for assigning unsigned baseball players, from high schools, colleges and other amateur baseball clubs, to its teams. The draft took place June 3-5 at Studio 42 in New Jersey and changed the lives of quite a few players from our area.

Southern California has always been slated as one of the top spots in the nation for baseball talent and that was evident once again during the 2019 MLB Draft. More than 170 players with ties to California were selected during the three-day draft and 38 of those players were high school seniors. From our area only one high school player found himself on the draft board, Great Oak’s Zach Arnold, was also drafted by the Orioles (34th round). Arnold turned down his draft selection and is currently playing at Louisiana State University.

Other local players selected this year included University of California Santa Barbara right-hander Chris Lincoln of Rancho Verde High School, who was picked in the fifth round, 143rd overall, by the San Diego Padres; University of California Riverside’s Connor Cannon, a graduate of Temecula Valley High School, went in the 17th round to the San Francisco Giants, the 506th player picked; shortstop Aaron Shackelford (The Master’s/Murrieta Valley), 14th round to Pittsburgh; pitcher Shaine McNeely (Hope International/Vista Murrieta), 16th round to the Yankees; pitcher Travis Kuhn (San Diego/Norco), 19th round to Seattle; shortstop Andrew Navigato (Oklahoma State/Riverside Poly), 20th round to Detroit and catcher Michael Carpentier (Yucaipa), 30th round to Tampa Bay. The Angels picked Yucaipa right-hander Tyson Heaton in the 40th round, but Heaton, the IE Varsity Pitcher of the Year this season, committed to Brigham Young University his sophomore year and has no plans to turn pro just yet. The area’s other 40th-round pick, left-hander Garrett Irvin from Riverside City College and Norco High, was taken by Boston with the draft’s 1,217th and final pick.

Justin Simon, who was a standout basketball player at Temecula Valley High School, signs a contract in 2019 with the Chicago Bulls. Valley News/Courtesy of RZA Sports photo

No. 11 – Former Golden Bear signs Exhibit 10 contract with Chicago Bulls

Former Temecula Valley High School standout Justin Simon signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Chicago Bulls after a solid season in the 2019-2020 NBA Summer League. Playing for the Bulls, Simon averaged 6.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 0.6 blocks per game. His defensive abilities, coupled with his size (6’5”) and wingspan (6’11”) he showed enough upside to convince the Bulls to bring him in.

According to NBC Sports Chicago, the NBA’s Exhibit 10 contract is new and facilitated during the NBA’s last Collective Bargaining Agreement. Simon announced he was leaving St. John’s University after two years at the Big East school. Last season he led the team in rebounding, assists and steals and was the only player to rank in the top five of the Big East in each of those categories. He topped the conference and ranked eighth nationally in steals while finishing second in the league in assists.

Simon led the Johnnies with nine double-doubles, including an 11-point, 11-rebound and nine-assist outing against St. Joseph’s University at Mohegan Sun Arena. He averaged 10.4 points per game, 5.1 rebounds and had 108 assists this season. The Red Storm reached the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament before losing to Marquette, and the team was bounced from the NCAA tournament after a loss to Arizona State in the first round.

During his junior year at Temecula Valley in 2014, Simon led the Golden Bears to the best season in school history, the most wins in school history, an undefeated league season and championship and took the Bears to the CIF-Southern Section divisional semifinal. That year he averaged 17.5 points and was named MVP of the Southwestern League and made the all-CIF First Team.

Temecula’s Kelsie Whitmore helped the 2019 Women’s USA National Team win gold at the COPABE Women’s Pan-American Championships. Valley News/Courtesy photo
In the summer, Menifee’s Mikey Romero wins gold with the USA 15U National Team at the 2019 COPABE U-15 Pan-American Championships in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Valley News/Courtesy photo
Brooks Pounders, a 2009 graduate from Temecula Valley High School and current MLB pitcher, is one of six Team USA alumni named to the 2019 Premier 12 USA team. Valley News/Courtesy photo

No. 12 – Local baseball players take the stage for USA Baseball

Thousands of baseball players, ranging from ages 11 and up, embarked on a number of nationwide USA Baseball tryouts over this past summer. Their hopes were that of donning a red, white and blue uniform for the 2019 International games, as well as this year’s National Player Development program. The Temecula Valley has had great representation in the past, especially at an International level, as quite a few local players have actually stepped foot on the world stage for Team USA. This year, even more local players answered the call after getting the opportunity.

The various teams, composed of youth players, middle and high school aged players as well as college and professional baseball players, have been competing nationally and internationally for years with the objective of competing in the Olympics. The game was last played in the Olympics and in front of the world in 2008, but was voted out before 2012, under the claim that the American-born sport was not as competitive around the world. A new resurrection is expected to come in 2020.

Local players from in and around the Temecula Valley that made it through quite a few of the ranks included Zachary Aleman (Murrieta), Sean Downs (Temecula), Estevan Rodriguez (Temecula), Landon Scott (Temecula), Gavin Fien (Temecula), Bryan Martinez (Menifee), Christopher Paciolla (Temecula) and Mikey Romero (Menifee), Tyler Gough (Perris) and David Horn (Murrieta), Kelsie Whitmore (Temecula) and Brooks Pounders (Temecula). Fien, Romero, Whitmore and pounders all made the final National Team rosters and went on to compete for world championship titles.

For Gavin Fein, who competed at the 2019 World Baseball Softball Confederation U-12 Baseball World Cup in Tainan, Taiwan, he and the 12U team lost a crucial game early, which took them out of contention. They concluded the 2019 WBSC Baseball World Cup with a 6-2 overall record.

For Mikey Romero and the 2019 15U National Team, they competed in the 2019 COPABE U-15 Pan-American Championships from Sept. 13-22 in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico and won gold with a 3-1 victory over Panama. Team USA finished the tournament with an 8-1 record, outscoring their opponents 66-33. The win marks the fourth consecutive U-15 Baseball World Cup Qualifier gold medal for the red, white and blue (2013, ‘15, ‘17, ‘19), and the third straight international title after they won their first-ever world championship at the 2018 WBSC U-15 Baseball World Cup.

Whitmore traveled to Aguascalientes, Mexico, to compete with her team in the COPABE Women’s Pan-American Championships Aug. 18-25. The event served as a qualifier for the 2020 WBSC Women’s Baseball World Cup, with each of the top four finishers at the Pan-American Championships earning a bid to next year’s world championship tournament. This year’s U.S Team won gold with an 8-5 victory over Venezuela at Estadio de Beisbol Alberto Romo Chavez in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Team USA will be joined by Canada, Mexico and Venezuela at the 2020 World Baseball Softball Confederation Women’s Baseball World Cup. The U.S. outscored its opponents 124-20 during tournament action. This is their fifth overall gold medal and the first since defeating Canada in the Toronto 2015 Pan-Am Games.

Pounders was named to the World Baseball Softball Confederation Premier12 team. The 28-man roster is made up of 15 pitchers and 13 position players, six of whom are former national team alumni with seven highly regarded MLB Pipeline top-100 prospects. As a 2009 graduate from Temecula Valley High School, Brooks was one of six Team USA alumni on the roster and is the lone returning member from the inaugural Premier12 roster that won the silver medal in 2015. As a junior in high school, Pounders committed to play college baseball for the University of Southern California Trojans, but the Pittsburgh Pirates selected him in the second round of the 2009 MLB draft and the former Golden Bear has been in the pros ever since. Born Sept. 26, 1990, Pounders, who is currently a free agent, has played for the Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, Colorado Rockies and New York Mets.

Sixty-eight-year-old Temecula resident, Greta Pontarelli, wins her ninth World Pole Sport and Fitness Title in Belfast, Ireland representing the USA in 2019. Valley News/Courtesy photo

No. 13 – Temecula senior wins ninth World Championship Pole Sport and Fitness Title

Sixty-eight-year-old Greta Pontarelli of Temecula traveled to Belfast, Ireland, representing the USA in a quest for her ninth World Pole Sport and Fitness Title, which she brought home with tremendous success Saturday, Oct. 26. Pontarelli competes in Pole Art and Pole Sport, which are on the path to one day be included as Olympic events. She has been training for nine years and competed on America Ninja Warrior twice where she was the oldest person to ever attempt the course. Pontarelli has also been featured on numerous TV shows, on Miley Cyrus videos and has graced the covers of international magazines. Her most notable appearances are “Inside Edition,” Elle Magazine, “The Steve Harvey Show,” AARP and NBC where she shared her mission to inspire others to go after their dreams.

The USA speedball team, based out of Murrieta, takes fifth place for junior level events and sixth place for senior level at the Speedball World Championships in late October in France. Valley News/Courtesy photo

No. 14 – Murrieta-based USA Speedball team places fifth for juniors, sixth for seniors

The United States competed for the first time in the Speedball World Championships in late October. The event, which is in its 31st year, was held in France. The USA team, based out of Murrieta, consists of mostly players from Murrieta Mesa High School and placed fifth for junior level events and sixth for senior level events.

The team consisted of 8 players: Erin Shaffer, Emily Phillips, Emma Lee, Victor Porras, Giovanni Hanna, and Matthew Munoz of Murrieta Mesa, Jolie Hanna, from Temecula Valley Charter School, and Moheb Beshay, from San Diego State University. The president of the American Federation of Speedball, Waleid Hanna, selected the team to compete as the first ever American delegation. Hanna said his goal is to spread the excitement of this sport all over the United States. Murrieta Mesa High School will send another team to the upcoming 32nd World Championship.

The Temecula Pop Warner 10U Fighting Kodiaks wins the 2019 Palomar Conference after going undefeated through the regular season and the post season. Valley News/Courtesy photo

No. 15 – Temecula Pop Warner team wins Wescon Region Division 1 title

The 10U Fighting Kodiaks, a Temecula Pop Warner team that was nothing but unstoppable this year in their undefeated season had a quest to get to Florida for the national championship game. The team started their local playoff run Saturday, Oct. 26, as the No. 1 seed and ripped right through the playoffs without looking back, winning the Palomar Conference Championship. From there they focused on the Wescon Regional championships, which took place Saturday, Nov. 16, and consisted of the best of best from Arizona, Hawaii, Southern California and Southern Nevada.

Without flinching, Temecula’s Fighting Kodiaks took the field at Torrey Pines High School against the Arizona Pop Warner State Champions and won, 37-19.  The squad from Temecula, who are led by Head Coach Jahmal Kelly and his staff, are now the Wescon Region 10U Division 1 Champions and qualified for the Pop Warner National Championships in Orlando, Florida. Even though they went 0-2 at the event held at Walt Disney World ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex of Sports Dec. 7-14, they still had a great 2019, the coaches said.

No. 16 – Riders get pumped at opening of new bike track in Temecula

The long-anticipated wait is finally over as the city of Temecula recently finished construction on a pump track at the Ronald Reagan Sports Park. A pump track is a continuous loop of rolling whoop-de-do’s with banked turns, called berms, designed to be ridden completely by riders without having to pedal. Located next to the Temecula Skate Park, the new 12,000-square-foot pump track has an asphalt surface to help reduce maintenance and came with a price tag of around $450,000. The new attraction was unveiled Tuesday, Nov. 19, with a ceremony and pro rider demonstration.

The Temecula Valley High School Golden Bears beat Cypress High School, 28-21, for the 2019 CIF Southern Section Division 7 football title at Anaheim Western High School. Valley News/Courtesy photo

No. 17 – Temecula Valley knocks off Cypress to claim first CIF Southern Section football title in 28 years

There was no shortage of excitement this season for the Temecula Valley High School Golden Bears football program. They have gone from having two back-to-back 0-10 seasons, to making the playoffs last season with a 6-6 record, to beating Vista Murrieta High School for the first time ever this year, winning the Southwestern League, and now, they are the CIF Southern Section Division 7 champions.

Temecula Valley head coach Bert Esposito, who in his second year with the Golden Bears, guided them somewhere they hadn’t been in 26 years. The Golden Bears faced Cypress High School Friday, Nov. 29, at Anaheim Western High School, where they played in their first CIF-SS final since 1993 and won. For Esposito, it’s also been a long time coming. In his first year as a head coach in 1991, he took Orange Southern California Christian High School to the finals, beating Santa Ana Calvary Chapel High School 34-14 in the Division 10 championship game. This past season, he made a triumphant return after reaching the semifinals with five different teams (Southern California Christian, Linfield Christian, Ramona, Paloma Valley and Temecula Valley high schools).

The Golden Bears traveled to play in the CIF Division 3AA State Regional championship bowl game Friday, Dec. 6, against El Camino High School, but fell to the Wildcats, ending a remarkable run.

The Vista Murrieta High School Lady Broncos are the 2019 CIF State Division 1 high school girls’ volleyball champions. Valley News/Courtesy photo

No. 18 – Vista Murrieta goes the distance, Lady Broncos win first ever CIF State volleyball title

The whirlwind of the high school volleyball girls’ playoffs took Vista Murrieta from being ousted in the second round of the CIF Southern Section playoffs, to winning their first ever CIF State girls’ volleyball title. The Lady Broncos qualified for the State playoffs by advancing to second round of the CIF-SS playoffs, where they fell to Marymount High School.

After knocking off the No. 12 seed (La Jolla Country Day, the No. 4 seed (Mira Costa), and the No. 1 seed (Sierra Canyon) in consecutive matches to reach their first CIF State Regional championship match, the Lady Broncos defeated No. 3 seed La Costa Canyon 25-20, 21-25, 32-30, 23-25, 15-9. With the state regional title in their hands, the ladies from the Vista Murrieta girls’ volleyball team were one win away from their first ever CIF State title. Standing in their way was the Campolindo High School girls’ volleyball team. The ladies from Vista Murrieta (25-11) came out swinging Friday, Nov. 22, and defeated the Lady Cougars 3-1 (20-25, 30-28, 25-21, 25-22) to capture the Division I State title.

Vista Murrieta became the second southwest Riverside County school to win a state championship in girls’ volleyball, joining Temecula Valley (also from the Southwestern League), who won this same title last season, becoming the first Riverside County program to ever win a State title. It is also the Broncos third CIF State title, adding to what boys’ track and field did in 2015 and 2016.

After winning their fifth straight CIF Southern Section title, the Great Oak High School boys’ cross-country team wins their sixth straight CIF State Cross-Country championship at Woodward Park in Fresno in 2019. Valley News/Courtesy photo

No. 19 – Great Oak boys’ win sixth straight title at CIF State Cross-Country Championships, girls finish second

The Great Oak boys’ cross-country team continued their winning ways at the CIF State Cross-Country Championships, which were held at Woodward Park toward the end of 2019. It marked their sixth consecutive Division 1 state championship, while the girls finished second to Clovis Buchanan, making it the first time since 2011 that the Lady Wolfpack runners were not the Division 1 champion. The boys ran with authority, outshining the field with 46 points to Carmichael Jesuit’s 144 and San Jose Bellarmine’s 145. Seniors Chris Verdugo (seventh; 15 minutes, 9.4 seconds) and Gabe Abbes, (eighth; 15:11) led the way for Great Oak, which was a solid for Abbes, since he missed much of last year to an injury. Aric Reza placed 12th in 15:14.5 for Great Oak and fellow senior Cole Sawires-Yager was 15th in 15:21.4.

Great Oak’s girls went into the race having won seven straight Division 1 titles and were looking to set a record for most consecutive championships in meet history, but they had to try to do so while running without one of their top runners in Tori Gaitan, who was out with the flu. Arianna Griffiths was another runner that wasn’t at full health, but the Lady Wolfpack runners all stepped up in the final mile, ultimately placing second, falling to Buchanan, 67-71. Senior Audrey Dang (10th, 17:50.6) and freshman Kelli Gaffney (12th, 17:56.6) both had their best races of the season.

Vista Murrieta’s Lady Broncos, last year’s Division 1 runner-up, placed sixth at this year’s meet. Senior Makayla Fick was 16th, running in a time of 18:06.3. Linfield Christian sophomore Ryley Burns also had the day’s other standout individual performance, placing fifth in Division 5, running in a time of 18:31.0.

Hunter Mikkelsen, middle, and the Temecula Pop Warner’s junior varsity cheer team won the 2019 YCADA Level 2 National Championship in Florida. Valley News/Time Stood Still Photography photo

No. 20 – Temecula Pop Warner Cheer team wins third straight National title

Each year, since 1997, the Pop Warner Super Bowl and National Cheer and Dance Championships takes place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, during the first full week of December. The Pop Warner Football Championships, referred to as the Pop Warner Super Bowl, consists of 72 teams from eight Pop Warner Regions playing in three age-weight classifications as well as three age-based classifications. There are also two playing divisions in the age-weight classification, Division I and Division II.

The Cheer and Dance Championships featured over 500 cheer and dance teams who compete at a six-day long event. Competitions took place at the HP Field House at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex where two local Temecula Pop Warner teams competed. The Junior Peewee team led by head coach Acacia Thede, competed out in Florida for the first time and placed 11th in their division. The Junior Varsity team, that is no stranger to this competition, walked away as National Champions for the third straight year.

Head coach Kristin Juve and her team have gone to nationals five years in a row taking fifth, second and now first the last three years. During that run the team has managed to keep five of the original members, while gaining lots of help along the way. Bree Padgett, Jenna Juve, Hunter Stackpole, Hunter Mikkelsen and Hailee Stoner represent the original members while Grace Barclay, Rylie Borge, Kaylie Cassinelli, Milan Colonna, Sammie Cox, Taylor Crawford, Presley Ford, Sam Lewchenko, Sybellan Loverbridge, Aya Sabado, Kristina Schubert, Amanda Teachenor, Emilia Toensing and Kaliana Tyquiengo joined over the years.

Juve’s coaching staff consists of Jackie Stoner, Holly Cox, Patricia Mikkelsen and Starr Stackpole. Next up for Juve and her team are the Jamz Nationals in Las Vegas at the end of January where they have won their division two years in a row and three of four years took second.

*The full versions of these sports stories can also be found online at 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 my photographers as well staff writers, editors and the many others who contributed to the sports section. I can’t wait to see what sports stories we can share with you in 2020.

If you have a sports tip, JP Raineri can be reached by email at sports@reedermedia.com.