Here at BVarsity, it’s not just about football during the fall sports season.
Kern County has always produced incredible athletes and teams that rise to the occasion and show the state that the region is a hot bed of talent, even in the shadows of Fresno and Southern California.
This was no different.
We had a plethora pf team section championships in cross country, with Ridgeview on the boys side and Wonderful Prep and Foothill on the girls. Individually there was Highland’s Moises Medrano, his best friend Marcus Mota at Stockdale, and Ridgeview senior Austin Garcia all sweeping the top-three Central Section titles at Woodward Park in Fresno last month.
Liberty and Garces became the first volleyball teams from Kern County to win opening round CIF Southern California regional matches while locals won section gold in girls golf and girls tennis.
Through all the highlights, here are my top-five moments of the 2017 fall semester from non-football sports:
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1. Ridgeview boys makes cross country history - When one thinks about boys cross country in Kern County, of course, the first thing that comes to mind is McFarland. That should, and likely will always, be the case. The Cougars have won nine CIF State Championships and are known worldwide now because of Disney. But this season, something magical happened here in Bakersfield. The Ridgeview boys cross country team won the Central Section Division III team championship, as Austin Garcia won the individual section title and Bryan Gaxiola finished second. Adding to the impressive showing was Ased Adus, Alex Cuevas, Payton Fox and Gerardo Moreno all finishing top-10 in the D-III finals. Then, 10 days later, the Wolf Pack, led by a ninth-place finish by Gaxiola, finished sixth as a team at the state championships at Woodward Park. Doing so, Ridgeview became the first Bakersfield boys cross country team ever to place in the top-10, and the first in Kern County other than McFarland to accomplish the feat. What made this season even more storybook is how the team rallied around Cuevas, who was hospitalized for a week just before the season began in a car accident. Even more remarkable was Cuevas’ return, finishing 56th overall at state.
2. Madi Daniel winning Central Section title - Madi Daniel made a name for herself early in her high school career at Bakersfield Christian as a standout golfer who could drive the ball a ton. She was also recognizable by her tall physique and tan bucket hat that she sported her freshman and sophomore years. Daniel won the South Area championship her sophomore year in 2015, but was always seeking section gold. It was something she witnessed Lexi Keene, the former Stockdale golfer and four-time BVarsity Girls Golfer of the Year, do in 2016. This year was Daniel’s year to shine and she did. The University of Oregon signee who will graduate this month, won the section title with a 3-under-par 69 at River Island Country Club in October. It was a feather in her now-regular ball cap that she wears on the course.
3. Garces boys winning state playoff water polo match - When Garces won the Central Section Division III boys water polo championships in 2015, that was it. There was nothing more to play for. This year, however, the CIF state office finally enacted a regional state playoff system and Rams were selected after beating Porterville-Monache, 16-10, for the section D-II title. Led by standout 2-meter Grayden Reynolds and seasoned veterans like Eric Klang and Lee Begin, the Rams hosted, and defeated, San Rafael-Marin Academy in the Northern California D-II regional quarterfinals, 11-8. They then advanced to the semifinals at Rio Americano High in Sacramento and lost to regional champion Mountain View-St. Francis, 16-11. Garces will miss the senior leadership of Begin and Oliver next season, but the Rams will return seven of the top eight scorers along with goalie Ostin Woodfin.
4. Erica Paradise finally winning section gold - Paradise began her high school tennis career as part of a dynamic duo her freshman and sophomore years at Stockdale. Along with former Stockdale standout Emily Horrigan, the pair advanced to the Central Section tournament twice. They finished third in 2015, and won the BVarsity Doubles Team of the Year in 2014 and 2015. As a junior, Paradise advanced to the section semifinals in singles play, but finally got a taste of section gold this season. Along with freshman Greta Krueger, the doubles team for the Mustangs won the Central Section championships in Clovis, giving Paradise the hardware she was seeking for years.
5. Garces’ big turnaround in volleyball - The Rams were very young in 2016, going 5-5 in the Southwest Yosemite League before winning the Central Section Division II title. The expectation was there for a vast improvement for the team after losing just one starter — that being Hannah Merjil, who is now playing collegiately at Cal State Northridge. But what the Rams did exceeded those expectations, going 9-1 in the SWYL and splitting the series with Liberty. The Rams then took a 2-0 lead over Fresno-Central in the D-I semifinals before losing in five sets. The Grizzlies went on to win the section title and advanced to the Open Division. Garces, led by Perri Starkey, Lailah Green, Emily Demos, Priscilla Miranda and company won a first round D-I match in the CIF Southern California Regional playoffs.