2016 was a year of many triumphs for Mountain Area teams and individuals as they earned a collection of titles, trophies, and personal achievements.
Team highlights included Yosemite High School’s turnaround season as an independent football team, going from 27 straight losses to a 9-4 record and the semifinals of the Central Section D-V playoffs with Head Coach JD Burnett. The team’s biggest win of the season was, as the No. 10 seed, a 29-14 upset of No. 2 seed Dos Palos Nov. 25.
Another highlight of the year was Minarets High School avenging last year’s Central Section D-IV girls volleyball title loss to Sierra. Under Head Coach Jessica Carter, the Mustangs reclaimed that crown from the Chieftains in a championship rematch Nov. 12.
The Yosemite Badgers won six North Sequoia League titles in 2016 including boys golf, tennis, and swimming, and girls volleyball, golf and track and field - and for the 12th consecutive year won the Erwin C. Ginsburg Cup, awarded to the NSL’s most successful athletic program.
Outstanding individual high school highlights of 2016 included YHS freshman Sayda Taylor running in the 200 meter sprint prelims at the state track finals June 3 at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Clovis - YHS sophomore wrestler Peter Martinez winning his weight class at the North Sequoia League match in February - Minarets basketball player Kristy Berry being named to the West Sequoia League’s All League First Team in February - six YHS volleyball players being named to the NSL All League team - YHS tennis player Steven Standefer being named the MVP of the NSL in April - YHS junior golfer Spencer Uzzell named NSL MVP in May - YHS swimmer Jayden Malcolm winning two individual events and being on two winning relay teams at the NSL meet in May - YHS softball player Lynette Combs named NSL All-League in June - YHS golfers Claire Oetinger, Meagan Rich, and Sarah Meeks being named to the NSL All League team, and Oetinger named NSL MVP for the second year and advancing to the Southern California State Sectional Golf Tournament in November. Along the way, Oetinger shot her first hole-in-one at Pheasant Run Country Club on Sept. 21.
Here’s a month-by-month glance at Mountain Area sports highlights in 2016:
☆ The Minarets girls basketball team, coached by Deann Kamalani, won three games to win the Parlier Invitational Tournament. Kristy Berry and Danielle Johnson were named to the All Tournament team.
☆ Kade Cross joins Yosemite High School’s prestigious 1,000 Point Club after scoring 16 points against Washington Union Jan. 22. Cross became only the third boys basketball player in Yosemite history to score more than 1,000 points. “I’m proud to be a Badger, and I’m really honored,” said Cross, the team’s 6-foot-7 center. Cross also maintained a GPA above 4.0 while on the team coached by Aaron Eames.
☆ The girls soccer season ended for Yosemite with a 14-4-1 record, and 7-2-1 in North Sequoia League after a loss to Independence in the first round of the CIF Central Section D-III playoffs Feb. 9. “Yosemite soccer has made a significant impact on my high school career,” said senior Gianna Defelice. The team played under Head Coach Vanessa Jasper.
☆ Yosemite sophomore wrestler Peter Martinez, coached by Kent Lincoln, won the 195-pound weight class at the Feb. 12 North Sequoia League Championship in Kerman. Martinez, who was 22-6 on the season, pinned Sierra’s Quinn Butterfield to win the championship medal. Other YHS wrestlers Erik Johnson, Tyler Gaines, and Diego Combs placed second in their weight divisions.
☆ Yosemite’s Criminal Justice instructor Dave Maynez was named head coach of the school’s varsity softball team.
☆ Yosemite’s girls basketball team, coached by Gary Blate, turned an 8-14 record into a 15-14 record, finishing the regular season with seven straight wins, enough for a No. 8 seed in the Central Section D-II playoffs. They defeated No. 9 seed Selma 47-36 Feb. 24, then lost to No. 1 seed Redwood 51-42 Feb. 26. Allie Stearns went on to play in the East-West All-Star Basketball game in June and scored 11 points. Stearns, Ashlee Harrell, Jessica Fine, and Lynette Combs were named to the North Sequoia League’s All League First Team.
☆ The Badger boys basketball team (19-10), seeded No. 10 in the Central Section D-IV playoffs, lost to No. 7 Coalinga (21-6) in the opening round 58-36 Feb. 23. The Badgers finished second in the North Sequoia League at 7-3, behind Kerman, who went undefeated at 10-0. Kade Cross went on to play in the East-West All-Star Basketball game in June, scoring 9 points. Cross and Tristan Eames were named to the NSL’s All-League team.
☆ The Minarets girls basketball team (19-7, second in West Sequoia League), seeded No. 3 in the Central Section D-V playoffs, topped No. 14 Laton and No. 6 Fowler before falling to No. 2 Caruthers 45-24 March 2. Junior center Kristy Berry led scoring for the Mustangs with 10 points.
Danielle Johnson was named MVP of the team at an awards dinner in June, while Kelea Kamalani was named the team’s Best Defensive Player. Berry was named to the West Sequoia League All-League First Team. Johnson and Kamalani earned Second Team honors in the league.
☆ Yosemite’s boys tennis team, coached by Aaron Eames, earned back-to-back North Sequoia League championships after a victory over Washington Union April 21. “Tennis is life, life is tennis,” laughed Steven Standefer, who finished as the league’s top individual player.
☆ Freshman Trinity Curtis made Yosemite High history as the first female player to ever play on the Badger JV baseball team. “At first, (teammates) were like ‘aw man, a girl,’ but then they realized I’m just here to play baseball like the rest of them,” said Curtis, a freshman. “They’ve all been really great.”
☆ Yosemite High’s girls track team, coached by Walker Vaughn, won its second straight North Sequoia League title at Washington Union May 4 with 270 points. Sierra took second with 192 points, and Liberty-Madera Ranchos third with 176. Ten school times or records were set by the team.
Freshman Sayda Taylor had a tremendous season, going on to compete in the CIF State Championships of the 200 meter sprint on June 3 at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Clovis after finishing second in the May 21 Central Section Championship Meet. She ran her fastest time ever (25.25) at the state meet and ended the year ranked No. 1 all-time in Yosemite girls history in the 100 meter (12.54) and 200 meter (25.25) sprints.
☆ The Badgers boys golf team won its fifth straight title after a May 4 tournament at Dragon Fly Golf Club with 72 points, followed by the next closest teams Liberty at 55, and Chowchilla at 43. Junior Spencer Uzzell, MVP of the North Sequoia League, was the only golfer to score under 80 with a 77 in the tournament. The team is coached by Reg Turner.
☆ Yosemite boys, coached by Brandon Brokaw, remained dominant in swimming as they won their 11th straight North Sequoia League title with 553 points, 257 points ahead of Sierra in second place on May 7. Jayden Malcolm led the Badgers, winning two individual events (200 and 100-yard freestyle in times of 1:57.53 and 52:42) and being on two victorious relay teams (200 and 400 freestyle in times of 1:36.31 and 3:41.02).
☆ In a 14-5 loss to No. 1 D-V seed Central Valley Christian May 24, the season ended for the Minarets baseball team coached by Jesse Darrah (18-9-1, 8-2 West Sequoia League), but not before finishing in second place in league, and finishing the year with an impressive 12-game win streak prior to the CVC game. Mustang Riley Hillerman led the team throughout the season, and planned to pitch for Reedley Community College.
☆ Star Badger softball player Lynette Combs was named to the county squad in the 35th annual City/County game. Combs, a senior, led the Badgers in hitting with a .516 batting average, was the team’s Offensive MVP, and earned All North Sequoia League honors.
☆ In the Bass Lake Triathlon June 4, 16-year-old Illi Gardner took first place for the female division in a time of 2:27:07 while John Savage, 29, repeated as the top male participant with a time of 2:09:12.
☆ Trevor Wood and Katie Whitcomb were named Athletes of the Year at Yosemite High School, while Travis Wood, Trevor’s twin brother, and Rose Curley were named Scholar Athletes of the Year.
All four participated in multiple sports, and held GPAs above 4.8. Trevor Wood was the Badgers’ center defender in soccer, ran cross country, and was on the school’s swim team. He earned a full four-year scholarship to the University of Chicago, and planned on majoring in physics.
Travis was a co-captain on the soccer team, and also ran cross country as well as participating on the swim team. He earned a full four-year scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, and plans to become a doctor with a specialization in sports medicine.
Whitcomb, a standout player on the girls soccer team, was also one of the school’s top cross country runners, and planned to major in biological science at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Curley, Yosemite’s Student of the Year, played soccer and was a member of the swim team. She planned on attending the University of California, Berkeley, to major in environmental studies.
☆ For the 12th straight year, Yosemite High was awarded the Erwin C. Ginsburg Cup June 8, an honor given to the school with the most successful athletic program in the North Sequoia League. YHS has won the cup 19 of the last 30 years.
☆ Nathan Hodges reclaimed his throne as All-Around Logger at the 57th Annual Mid-Sierra Loggers Jamboree in North Fork July 2. He finished with a score of 46.5, beating last year’s champion and Cal Fire forester Len Nielson.
☆ Former Yosemite High basketball player Tim Beauregard has been named the new head coach of the Fresno Pacific University’s women’s basketball team. He then selected former YHS basketball star Katie Menton as one of his assistant coaches.
☆ Four of the best players to strap on a Yosemite High School football helmet, and a Badger coach, were honored during the inaugural Yosemite High Football ‘Wall of Fame’ Induction Dinner Aug. 13. Roosevelt Shultz-Cooks (2001), Bonner Cunnings (1991), Chris Mullins (1984), Cole Popovich (2003) and Coach Steve Raupp (1979-1989) were honored as the first inductees in Yosemite High’s 40-year history.
☆ Seventh grader Justin Beaumont ran all the way to the National Junior Olympics in Houston Aug. 3 in the 800 meters. With a finishing time of 2:28, he was the fastest of all California participants in the 12-year-old boys division, and placed 36th out of 91 runners from across the country in his division.
☆ Young athletes participated in the Third Annual Bass Lake MY-Tri Triathlon Sept. 10, as 114 kids ages 5 - 17 splashed, biked, and ran the course to the cheers of hundreds of spectators.
☆ In a game anticipated for years, since the opening of Minarets High School in 2008, the Yosemite High Badgers faced the Mustangs in football Sept. 23. In a tale of two starkly different years for each team, the Badgers overwhelmed the winless Mustangs 50-0. Badger QB Tristan Eames accounted for four touchdowns, two passing and two running, while running backs Johnny Varian and Luke Howell produced a combined 243 yards on the ground. The Badgers were coached by JD Burnett, and the Mustangs were coached by Becher Marr.
☆ Yosemite’s girls volleyball team, under head Coach Michele Chenowith, ended the 23-game winning streak of Liberty-Madera Ranchos at home Sept. 29. In what was thought to be a competitive matchup, the Badgers finished off the Hawks in three straight sets (25-18, 25-11, 25-18).
☆ Oct. 27 was a great day for Yosemite High volleyball. In the North Sequoia League, YHS snapped the five-title streak of Sierra in four sets to become NSL champions after they lost to the Chieftains just two weeks earlier.
Minarets, meanwhile, cruised through West Sequoia League play undefeated and earned their third straight WSL championship under Head Coach Jessica Carter.
☆ Yosemite High’s girls golf team won its 12th consecutive North Sequoia League title Oct. 12 at Lemoore Golf Course. The team scored a 467, beating out second place Chowchilla’s 495. The team was led by two-time NSL MVP junior Claire Oetinger, who shot a four-over-par 76. The season ended for Oetinger Nov. 10 at the Southern California State Sectional Golf Tournament in San Bernardino. She was the eighth golfer from YHS to play in the tournament. Oetinger ended the year ranked in the top 200 of female high school golfers in California. Yosemite’s athletic director Rusty Oetinger coached the girls golf team.
☆ Yosemite High freshman cross country runner Ali Contreras placed 14th in her division at the Mt. Sac Cross Country Invitational, the largest cross country meet in the world, held on Oct. 14, 21, and 22.
☆ After finishing the year 11-5 and 6-4 in the North Sequoia League, Yosemite’s girls tennis team, coached by Aaron Eames, sent seven players to the North Area Tournament Oct. 28 and 29 at Buchanan. Top Badger Kendall Miller finished fourth in singles play, followed by Lauren Wharton in fifth, and Ari Bhalla in sixth. In doubles play, Maddie Sloas and Emily Neff placed third, while Andie Miller and Boston Thorne took fourth.
☆ Without a senior on the team, the run at a Central Section D-III volleyball title came to an end for the young but talented Yosemite High girls volleyball team Nov. 9, in a three-set semifinal loss to the Mission Oak Hawks (25-20, 25-17, 25-17).
The NSL Champion Badgers finished the year with a 34-5 record, and were seeded No. 3 in the playoffs while Mission Oak was No. 2. Mission Oak lost to No. 1 seed and D-III title winner Bakersfield Christian.
Yosemite players were later honored at an end-of-season awards banquet on Dec. 19. Siena Oswald was named to the NSL All-League First Team, with Sayda Taylor, Savannah Bohna, and Tiffany Cacy on the Second Team, and honorable mentions to juniors Karee Smith and Rachel Loveland. Team awards were: Smith as Offensive MVP (led team with 40 aces), Oswald as Defensive MVP (267 digs), Bohna as Outstanding Offensive Player (284 kills), Hannah Hurtado (247 digs) as Outstanding Defensive Player, and Tiffany Cacy for the Coach’s Award (485 assists).
☆ After losing to Sierra in the 2015 Central Section D-IV championship, the Minarets High girls volleyball team (28-8) came out on top in the 2016 rematch, defeating the Chieftains in three sets (25-22, 25-21, 25-22) Nov. 12. “Our win felt so good,” Head Coach Jessica Carter said. “This team worked so hard this entire season ... to come out with the win was nothing short of amazing.” The Mustangs were seeded No. 4 and bested the No. 2 Chieftains to move on to the Southern Section of the state playoffs, where they lost to Ontario Christian in three sets (25-15, 25-15, 25-9) in the opening round.
☆ Yosemite’s water polo seasons for boys and girls came to an end Nov. 9 with playoff losses in the opening round of D-II. For the boys, coached by Patricia O’Neill and seeded No. 9, a 12-6 loss to No. 8 seed Sunnyside ended the year, while the No. 11 Badger girls coached by Michelle Burton lost to No. 6 Edison 14-2. The boys team finished the year 13-12 and 6-6 in the Central Sequoia League, while the girls team finished 12-9, and 5-7 in CSL. Goaltender Dylan Thacker finished the season with 342 blocked shots, and was ranked first in D-II for blocks before the playoffs. Girls goalie Sophie McGoldrick finished with 268 blocks.
☆ The Minarets Mustang boys JV cross country team, under coaching from Denise Alvarez, places first at the West Sequoia League meet on Nov. 9. The JV girls team placed first with Lucy Cummings and McKayla Batty taking first and second place in the 2-mile race. Runners for the boys team include Cole Shattuck, Connor Finnegan, Jessia Moseley, Quinn Fenton, and Cyrus Christensen, while the girls team is comprised of Batty and Cummings.
☆ In perhaps the most stunning upset of the year for Central Section football, the No. 10 seed Yosemite Badgers defeated the No. 2 Dos Palos Broncos 29-14 Nov. 18 in the Central Section D-V quarterfinals. Cannon Eames returned the third-longest kickoff for a touchdown in YHS history in the third quarter (95 yards), which tied the game at 14-14 and drastically shifted momentum in Yosemite’s favor. Brother Tristan Eames finished the night with 153 yards passing and 84 yards rushing.
The season ended for Badger football, however, when the team lost to No. 3 Firebaugh 37-20 Nov. 25, finishing the year with a 9-4 record playing as an independent team. Firebaugh then lost to No. 1 Mendota, 50-22 in the D-V Championship game Dec. 2.
Badger players honored at the end of the season were Tristan Eames as MVP (33 TDs, combined 2,300 passing and rushing yards), receiver Cannon as Most Valuable Offensive Player (15 TDs, 1,129 yards), Peter Martinez as Most Valuable Defensive Player, and right tackle Kevin Bulawsky as Lineman of the Year. The Iron Man award went to 5-foot-5 running back Luke Howell, Clayton Burke and Klay Kliest were co-winners as Most Improved Player, and Adam VanZant won the Coach’s Award.
☆ Yosemite’s boys basketball team avenged an earlier season loss to Minarets with a 62-52 home victory over the Mustangs Dec. 22. Tristan and Cannon Eames combined for 42 of the Badgers’ points, while James Backmann led the way for Minarets with six 3-pointers and 20 points. Grant Denney, a 6-foot-7 center, also notched a double-double for the Mustangs coached by Paul Varner with 11 points and 12 rebounds. The Badger JV team also beat Minarets 52-50 in a thrilling game after the Mustangs hit a 3-pointer with less than a second left in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime.