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<p>Larsen Jensen reacts after finishing second in the 1,500 freestyle at the US Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha, Neb. on July 6. Jensen, formerly of Garces High, won the 400-meter freestyle at the U.S. Olympic Trials. In the Olympic Games at Beijing, Jensen won bronze in the 400 free and placed fifth in the 1500 free.</p>

Over the past year, Kern County athletes experienced the euphoria of making the U.S. Olympic Team and winning state and national finals. And we suffered the tragic deaths of three young athletes. Here's a look back at the highs, lows and other notable events of 2008:

HIGH SCHOOLS

Bakersfield High wrestler Travis Rasmussen reached the state finals at 145 pounds but lost a tight 1-0 match to Clovis-Buchanan's Andrew Balch at Rabobank Arena.

Garces' boys and girls basketball teams won Central Section Division IV championships at Selland Arena in Fresno. Both won a state playoff game but lost in the next round.

Stockdale and Centennial gave Kern County a sweep in Central Section Division I baseball and softball titles.

Stockdale's Jeremy Quiroz won the Central Section singles championship in tennis, and the Bakersfield High duo of Michael Rodriguez and David Mossman won the doubles title. In the fall, Stockdale's Frances Ellison and Julie Hutton won a girls section title in doubles. Stockdale High won its sixth straight large-school Central Section girls tennis title.

Shafter's Anna Jelmini and Foothill's Dayshan Ragans swept state championships in the shot put and discus in Norwalk. Ridgeview freshman Johnny Carter stunned the crowd with a state title in the triple jump (49 feet, 1 inch).

Stockdale's Pete Fernandez Jr. placed second in the CIF State Golf Championship, with a even-par 72 at Santa Maria Country Club.

Kern County high school football was rocked by two deaths. Bakersfield Christian junior Patrick Allen collapsed after a preseason practice and died Aug. 17. The cause of death was determined to be hyponatremia, a condition in which water seeps into blood cells because of a lack of salt in the body. Boron player Vinnie Rodriguez died Sept. 16 after suffering severe head trauma during a game.

Derek Carr broke a 15-year-old Central Section record with 544 passing yards in Bakersfield Christian's victory over Arvin.

Bakersfield Christian defeated Corcoran 49-27 in Division V, and Tehachapi beat Hanford 21-14 in Division III — both wins on the road in heavy fog — in Central Section championship football games Dec. 12. The titles were the second in a row for both schools.



BAKERSFIELD COLLEGE

Running back Bruce Frieson ended his career ranked No. 3 on Bakersfield College's career rushing list (2,522 yards). His 1,418 yards last season were the fourth-highest in a single season in BC's history.

BC baseball player Brandon Boren led the state with 64 runs scored and tied for second in the state with BC's Casey Brown with 76 hits. Pitcher Kyle Witten tied for the state lead with 11 wins.

The BC men's basketball team stunned then-top ranked City College of San Francisco in the state playoffs and reached the Final Four in the state tourney.



CAL STATE BAKERSFIELD

The CSUB baseball team started practicing in September. Construction began on the on-campus baseball facility that will be used in the inaugural season in 2009.

The CSUB volleyball team became the first team in the university's Division I era to finish with a winning record (18-15).

Volleyball player Mystie McNaughton finished her career as the program's all-time leader in digs (1,918) and set a season CSUB record with 654.

The men's basketball team landed what it considers its most significant recruit since becoming a Division I program when Garces senior Stephon Carter signed a letter of intent in November.

CSUB had its most significant men's basketball win of 2008 on Jan. 9, 80-72 over the University of San Diego, which later beat such notable teams as Gonzaga, Saint Mary's and University of Connecticut.

CSUB's men's soccer and softball programs announced they will join conferences. Softball will compete in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference starting with the 2009-10 season and men's soccer will join the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation in the fall of 2009.

Freshman Brittany Johnson walked 14 batters in 159 innings to lead the nation in fewest walks per 7 innings.

Amanda Ortiz was named Western Water Polo Association Player of the Year. She tied for third in the nation in goals (104).

Alexey Belyy, 26, a native of Russia who was a standout on the Cal State Bakersfield men's swimming team, died Jan. 11 of natural causes after collapsing in his apartment following swimming practice. The cause of death was determined to be a "bad heart," according to the Kern County coroner's office.



CYCLING

Local cyclist Jimmy Watkins won three events at the Elite Track National Championships in Carson — the keirin, the match sprint and the team sprint.



OLYMPICS

Larsen Jensen, formerly of Garces High, won the 400-meter freestyle at the U.S. Olympic Trials and was second in the 1500 free. In the Olympic Games at Beijing, Jensen won bronze in the 400 free and placed fifth in the 1500 free. Also, Taft High graduate Billy Nelson finished second in the steeplechase at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., and qualified for the Olympics, where he was unable to reach the finals.



WRESTLING

Jake Varner, a Bakersfield High graduate now at Iowa State, was ranked No. 1 in the nation and undefeated at 184 pounds last March until a heart-wrenching overtime loss to Ohio State's Mike Pucillo in the NCAA Championships finale, a match decided by six seconds of riding time. Varner, a junior, began this season top-ranked at 197 pounds.



GOLF

Brady Baguio won the Bakersfield City Amateur Championship when he made a miraculous second shot and eagled the final hole to win by a shot at Sundale Country Club.



MOTORSPORTS

Construction on a $30 million half-mile paved racetrack adjacent to Enos Lane and Interstate 5 ground to a halt and never resumed due to a sea of mounting debt. No work has been done on the half-finished Kern River Raceway facility in nearly a year and the project is several million dollars in debt. Several mechanic's liens have been filed against the project as well as four civil suits which are progressing though the court system.



HOCKEY

In May, the Condors and Anaheim Ducks announced an agreement for a working affiliation for this season. It is the first affiliation with a National Hockey League team for the Condors, who play in the ECHL.



NFL

Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter, a 1995 Foothill High graduate, made a run for the NFL sack record. As of Dec. 13, he needed six sacks in the final three games to tie the NFL's single-season record of 22.5 held by New York Giants great Michael Strahan.