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Standing there with 92,000 of my closest friends at the 2018 Rose Bowl, I got to thinking: Sports allegiances are a bit of a moving target, but somehow the target always circles back to home.
We're mostly going from memory, so bear with us. As the City of Santa Clarita celebrates its 30th birthday, the sports fans among us have been reflecting on the evolution of sports in the Santa Clarita Valley over the past three decades. Like the city we call home, our sports scene has grown, evolved, achieved and excelled for the past 30 years.
College of the Canyons defensive lineman Christian Lofton-Grady is a force to be reckoned with at 6'5" and 335 pounds. But as he walked the turf at Cougar Stadium during the recent FUNdamentals Football Camp and "Punt, Pass, Kick" Challenge organized by Special Olympics Southern California and the Los Angeles Rams, the imposing figure simply could not contain his ear-to-ear smile.
They play for rival SCV high schools and are committed to different college football programs, but DeGabriel Floyd of Golden Valley and JT Shrout of Hart have more in common than not - a deep love for the game that has garnered these two SCV sports superstars national attention... and even rumored looks from NFL recruiters.
"Fierce." "Remarkable." "Fiery." "Exceptional." "A force." Do a Google search on Valencia pitcher Shealyn O'Leary and you'll find local, regional and national coverage on the senior softball phenom, each more flattering than the next. It's well deserved.
Jared and Noah Morrow are regular brothers - they argue, are competitive with each other and, when talking on the phone to a reporter, have voices so similar that it's easy to confuse the two.
It was a year when girls basketball grabbed the spotlight in the Santa Clarita Valley, with Valencia and Canyon playing for a CIF Southern Section Division 1-AA championship.
The Foothill League is synonymous with some of the most impressive winning streaks in CIF-Southern Section and state history, most notably the Valencia High boys volleyball team, Hart football program and Indian swim squads.
Jessie Harper and Amanda Doyle have been teammates before, but their next opportunity to wear the same uniform could be the most significant of their softball careers.
For the first time since 2006, a Foothill League girls basketball team captured a CIF-Southern Section championship.
West Ranch High has always had a special place in Carlos Fandino's heart. Whether it was coaching the boys junior varsity basketball team from 2006-10 or watching his son CJ play varsity basketball before graduating in 2011, Fandino has remained a fixture around the Stevenson Ranch campus since the school opened in 2004.
With each new year comes the anticipation of several exciting athletic activities involving SCV teams, as well as local high-school graduates.
The pursuit of a 10th state championship didn't produce the perfect ending for the Saugus High girls cross country team, but the Centurions didn't conclude their season without setting another California high school record.
The landscape in high school basketball changed during the offseason in the CIF-Southern Section and the significant revisions could end up having as profound an impact on nine Santa Clarita Valley area schools as the shot clock or three-point shot.
Victoria Hodge arrived at Saugus High with one of the most impressive resumes of any athlete in the Centurions' cross country program - only that success had nothing to do with distance running.
You won't find more impressive student athletes anywhere.
Allyson Felix came into this year with aspirations of becoming the first woman in Olympic competition to defend her 200-meter title.
Two athletes who didn't receive baseball scholarships from the University of Arizona during high school were instrumental in the Wildcats coming within one pitch of winning the College World Series championship for the second time in five years in Omaha, Nebraska.
Anthony Ervin and Abbey Weitzeil share many similarities throughout their journeys, starting as the best swimmers in the Santa Clarita Valley to developing into some of the elite freestyle performers in the country.
Mariah Lopez has experienced exhilaration on the softball diamond, winning three Premier Girls Fastpitch National Championships, and has also suffered devastation in her young career after her junior season at Saugus High was cut short by injury.
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