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Latest sports

Ojai Valley’s baseball teams still hope to finish strong

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Photo by Tom Moore
Thacher freshman Tyler Vondriska, of Ojai, slides safely into home against Nordhoff High School in a non-league contest.
Mike Miller, Ojai Valley News sports editor
With high school baseball teams entering the second half of their seasons, Ojai’s programs are looking to finish strong so they can make a run at the playoffs.
At Nordhoff High School (NHS), the Rangers are still looking for their first league-win of the season. NHS currently sits at 1-14 overall and  0-4 in the Tri-Valley League standings.
The Rangers will host St. Bonaventure April 20 at 3:30 p.m. in a Tri-Valley League contest.
The Thacher School Toads improved to 4-5 on the season after defeating Nordhoff, 3-2, April 6.
The Toads also are winless in league, having posted an 0-3 record against their Frontier League foes.
Thacher’s next opponent will be Foothill Tech April 27 on the road. First pitch is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
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Ramirez setting the pace for NHS track

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Photo by Carl Huffman
The Nordhoff High School (NHS) track and field team traveled to Fillmore April 11 to take part in the Fillmore Cluster Meet, facing a number of area track and field programs. NHS had several highlights, but none bigger than Jasmine Ramirez (above) who won the 3200-meter run in a time of 11:58.44. Ramirez then doubled up and won the 1,600-meter run in 5:25.14. Other top performers for the Rangers included Korey Stevens who won the 110-meter high hurdles and Angelo Sorrentino who took first place in the boys’ varsity 400-meter dash in a time of 53:51. NHS then took part in the 99th annual Russell Cup in Carpinteria where Ramirez took third place in the 3,200 with a time of 11:42.33. The girls’ varsity 4-by-100-meter relay team also took third in the competition.

Medals plentiful for Casitas Rowers

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Photo by Wendy Gillett
The Casitas Rowing squads saw success at a new racing venue in Lake Perris April 14 and April 15. Each squad took home a medal and the freshmen girls’ coxed quad (from left) Kristi Shinn, Mia Monsour, Audrey Taylor, Vivian Gaggia and coxswain Siena Hager, earned the silver medal. Next up for the Casitas Rowers will be the regional championships in Sacramento.

Thacher track crew earns a trip to historic Penn Relays

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Photo submitted
Thacher’s Jesse Van Newkirk smokes his leg of the distance medley relay at the Arcadia Invitational.
Mike Miller, Ojai Valley News sports editor
For the second time in three years, the Ojai Valley will send a boys’ relay team to the storied Penn Relays.
In 2015, the “Nordhoff Express,” comprised of Cameron Kunde, Varian Wilson, Elijah Balderas and Landis Meyer, went to Philadelphia and competed in front of 40,000 die-hard track-and-field fans. The foursome finished as the top USA team in the 4-by-800-meter relay to capture the Championship of America title.
Fast-forward three years and local middle-distance coach Ed Italo is at it again, this time at The Thacher School.
Italo currently has only six male distance runners in his training group, but that is apparently all he needs. The team of Colin Kirkpatrick, Ford Shaper, Edison Chadwick and Jesse Van Newkirk have managed to go from a group of runners with only a few weeks of training together to the 11th-ranked distance medley relay (DMR) team in the U.S.
“It’s crazy. I’m blown away by these kids and their determination,” proclamed Italo.
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Root signs letter of intent: Hoopster will play for Pacific Union College

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Photo submitted
Elissa Root signs her name to a national letter of intent and will play basketball at Pacific Union College in Napa Valley.
Ted Cotti, Ojai Valley News correspondent
Elissa Root, who graduated from Villanova Preparatory School in 2015, signed a letter of intent last weekend to play basketball for Pacific Union College.
Pacific Union College is a private liberal arts college in Angwin, Calif., 8 miles north of St. Helena in Napa Valley.
Root played basketball all four years at Villanova and was a member of the school’s 2011-2012 team that advanced to the CIF-Southern Section championship game and state regional semifinals.
Coach Ray Pierson’s Lady Wildcats also won the Nordhoff and Avalon basketball tournaments that year.
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Peterson hammers competition in the pool

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Ojai Valley News photo by Holly Roberts
Villanova Preparatory School senior Luke Peterson crushed the competition in the 1,500-meter event against neighboring Nordhoff High School. Peterson figures to make a run at a CIF title in his final year of high school competition.

Ranger Gridiron Club hosting annual golf outing

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Ojai Valley News photo by Ken Brown
The Ranger Gridiron Club will host its annual golf tournament May 12 at the Soule Park Golf Course. This year’s event will feature a shamble format and will tee off at noon. The event serves as one of Nordhoff High School’s main football fundraisers. For more details on the event or to register, interested golfers can contact Mike Dawkins at 340-1057.

Underdog Nordhoff tennis program stuns powerhouse Cate

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Ojai Valley News photo by Ted Cotti
Nordhoff’s Mikel Elizalde uses a backhand to return a shot in a match earlier this season.
Ted Cotti, Ojai Valley News correspondent
Nordhoff High School’s (NHS) boys’ tennis team rallied from an 8-5 deficit to defeat defending Tri-Valley League champions Cate, 10-5, in Carpinteria March 29.
“This was absolutely a huge victory for our boys,” said NHS head coach Todd Dickey, whose squad improved to 6-0 on the season and 2-0 in league. “Cate is a perennial top-10 team and a CIF power, but today we were absolutely solid, top to bottom, and showed great equanimity in a difficult environment.”
“It’s particularly sweet because they’re two divisions above us,” said senior Ian Perkins, “and because they’ve destroyed us and the rest of the league for so many years.”
Cate is Division 2 school while Nordhoff is Division 4. 
The Rangers were paced by senior co-captain Victor Becker and his doubles partner, sophomore Dakota Martin, who improved their season mark to 13-5 with a three-set sweep that included Nordhoff’s only win of the day over Cate’s previously unbeaten No. 1 team.
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Deason continues breakout season for U of A

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Photo courtesy of University of Arizona Athletics
Former Nordhoff High School (NHS) baseball star Cody Deason started the 2018 NCAA baseball season as one of the top major league baseball (MLB) prospects in the country. Through the first half of his junior season at the University of Arizona, Deason has done nothing but help his draft position. So far this season, Deason is 3-1 with a 1.62 ERA. Through 39 innings pitched, the former Ranger has allowed 24 hits, seven earned runs and 41 strikeouts. Arizona’s opponents are hitting only .183 when he is on the mound. In his last game against the Washington State Cougars, Deason went 7.1 innings and struck out 10 batters in route to his third win of the season. The MLB draft will take place June 4 through June 6. 

Besant Hill School makes history by fielding its very own golf team

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Photo submitted
The Besant Hill School golf team includes (from left) Eli Myer, Clayton Weisberg, Nicolas Rosen, David Yan, Kadutoshi Saito and coach Kevin Henschel.
Mike Miller, Ojai Valley News sports editor
When Besant Hill athletic director Mike Biermann noticed he had a core group of students who enjoyed golf and who were rapidly improving, he decided it was time to start a golf team.
“This is my third year at the school and starting a golf team has always been in the back of my mind. Besant Hill has always had golf as a fitness program, but never an official team. Our kids play at the Ojai Valley Inn and Soule Park and they take lessons. When I saw that some of our kids were getting pretty good, I talked to them about starting a team and they were very interested right away,” said Biermann.
After Biermann created the CIF team, the Coyotes made school history when they competed for the first time, facing off against Villanova Preparatory School.
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VPS wins first baseball game this season

Mike Miller, Ojai Valley News sports editor
The Villanova Preparatory School (VPS) baseball team notched its first win of the season, defeating Newbury Park Adventist, 17-1, in a March 28 non-league contest.
According to head coach Carson Brown, the Wildcats played well and managed to get their freshmen players lots of valuable game experience. 
Impact players were junior Ryan Melsness who struck out nine batters in four innings and senior Jimmy Schmitt who had an inside-the-park home run. 
The story of the game, however, was freshman Mackenzie Hicks — featured in the March 23 Ojai Valley News — who entered the game as a pitcher and threw a perfect inning using her underhand-softball motion.
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Matilija Lady Eagles qualify for postseason

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Photo submitted
The Matilija Junior High School Lady Eagles made another playoff appearance this year thanks to a strong second half of the season. The Lady Eagles lost in the playoffs to Anacapa Middle School in a close contest, but the coaching staff was pleased with their performance. This year’s team included (front row from left) Maggie Caputo, Sophia Fitch, Willow Williams, Alessandra Lucchesi, Juliet Ruiz, Stephanie Perez, Hannah Ignacio, Vanessa Ramirez, and (back row from left) coach Jeff Wells, Jasmine Umschied, Ella Ruf, Maple Umschied, Noelle Brown, Katie McArthur, Alexis Kehoe, Jennifer Donohue, and coach Mike Donohue.

Youth tennis players treated to clinic

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Photo by Jill Cox
Ojai’s Mary O’Reilly participates in a recent youth tennis clinic.
Jill Cox,Ojai Valley News contributor
As a lead-up to the 118th Ojai Tennis Tournament, set for April 25 through April 29, the Ojai Valley Tennis Club (OVTC) organized and sponsored a tennis clinic for young, Ojai-area players March 31 at Libbey Park. 
The 40 players were selected by Ojai Valley tennis coaches for their ability and enthusiasm for the sport. They were mostly from the Ojai Valley, with a few Rio Mesa and Santa Barbara students sprinkled in.
The tennis professionals donated their time and expertise to demonstrate and encourage technical skills on the court. They included Mike Burke, Ron Edwards, Ryan Gaston, Jim Kasser, Scott Burton, Katya Welborn, Stacy Potter and Fabio Lauretta. They provided three hours of instruction, rotating the players through a variety of drills.
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