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A 30-Year Snapshot
January, 2018 - Issue #160

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.

What follows is not meant to be a comprehensive historical record of those 30 years. That would fill a pretty thick book. Rather, we're providing the 50,000-foot overview of the highlights, accomplishments and landmark events that have helped shape who we are as a sports community. As you'll see, much of it is about celebrating the accomplishments of our young people.

Olympians of the SCV
Multiple SCV residents have competed at the world's highest levels of sport in the past 30 years, including several Olympic medalists. Among them are...

• Crystl Bustos, a Canyon graduate and a leader of the US softball team. Bustos won gold in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics.

• Allyson Felix isn't only the most decorated track athlete in SCV history. She's the most decorated Olympic track athlete, ever. The sprinter has won six gold medals and a total of nine Olympic medals - and the 32-year-old is training to compete again in the 2020 Olympics.

• Anthony Ervin, a Hart grad who has won four Olympic gold medals for swimming, most recently in the 2016 Olympics.

• Abbey Weitzeil, a Saugus graduate and US Olympic team swimmer who won silver and gold in the Rio Olympics of 2016.

Football, '80s to mid-'90s
It may seem like ancient history, but there was a time when Hart and Canyon high schools alone competed for football supremacy in the SCV. In the 1980s, Hart and Canyon met in non-league competition even though they were crosstown rivals, as the two schools were in different leagues. The rivalry amped up in the mid-1980s when the Hart-Canyon game was moved to the season opener. Thousands packed the grandstands for these intense rivalry games. Since 1969, Hart holds the edge in the series, with 27 wins and 18 losses against the Cowboys.

In 1994, the SCV's prep sports landscape would forever change with the opening of Valencia High School. It was the beginning of the SCV becoming a regional sports juggernaut, with eventually six major high schools competing at high levels in a variety of sports.

1995: Hart football wins its third CIF championship, with six more on the way during an impressive period of dominance under coach Mike Herrington. Hart also won CIF titles in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2013.
Also in 1995, Saugus Speedway closes in the same year it hosted its first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. Citing safety issues with its aging grandstands, the track's owners announced the closure in the middle of the summer racing season. It ended a tradition of small-town racing that dated back to 1946, when the old Hoot Gibson rodeo arena was paved for motorsports.

1998: Football returns to College of the Canyons for the first time in 17 years and the new program posts an impressive debut season under coach Chuck Lyon. The fledgling team's 7-3 record was good enough to earn the Cougars an invitation to the McDonald's Community College Bowl.

Also in 1998, the SCV hosted its biggest golf tournament ever. If you ask most local residents, "Did Tiger Woods ever play here?" they would not know the answer. But yes, Tiger played here: The 1998 PGA Tour Nissan Open was played at the Valencia Country Club, and in his only SCV appearance, Woods lost in a dramatic one-hole playoff to Billy Mayfair.

2004: West Ranch and Golden Valley high schools open, setting the stage for the six SCV high schools to form their own version of the Foothill League with all league members within the SCV.

2005: For the final time as of 2017, Canyon and Hart football meet with a CIF title on the line. This time, Canyon emerges victorious, beating Hart 21-13 at the Home Depot Center.

2006: Canyon football wins the state championship over Concord De La Salle, capping a record-setting season in which the Cowboys won their fifth CIF championship under legendary coach Harry Welch. Shortly after, Welch announced he was moving to San Juan Capistrano. He left the SCV with an overall record of 179-46-2.

2007: The Amgen Tour of California comes to Santa Clarita for the first time. Featuring world-class cyclists, the race is akin to the Tour de France, with riders competing in a series of stages throughout California. The event is a boon for local tourism and commerce.

2009: Valencia wins its second-ever Foothill League football title - and it would be the first of at least nine consecutive regular-season titles, a period during which the Vikings would win 32 consecutive league games by the end of 2017.

2013: Hart's football team wins its ninth CIF championship with a win over crosstown rival Valencia, which falls to 0-4 in CIF title games, with three of the losses coming to Hart.

2015: SCV native and 2007 Valencia grad Shane Vereen's game-leading 11 catches help the New England Patriots defeat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.

2016: College of the Canyons' hockey team, run by an all-volunteer staff and playing out of Ice Station Valencia, ends its 15-year run of competing in the American Collegiate Hockey Association's Division III, highlighted by a 2011 victory at the ACHA Division III National Championships.

Also in 2016, the 20-and-under Valencia Flyers Junior A hockey team set a franchise record with 45 wins and just 7 losses, posting the best regular-season record among the 29 teams of the Western States Hockey League.

2017: Saugus cross country puts both its boys and girls teams on the podium at the state championships, with the boys finishing third and the girls finishing second. It was the Centurion girls' record-setting 12th straight podium finish at the state championships. During that time, the Saugus girls cross country team has brought home a staggering eight state championships.

COC's men's golf team wins the state community college championship for the eighth time, having won previous titles in 1993, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008, 2013 and 2015.
COC football defeats Mt. San Antonio College, 28-17, in the Western State Bowl. It was the Cougars' first bowl win under four-year head coach Ted Iacenda.

And, at press time, two local high schools were in the CIF Finals, pursuing their first-ever CIF championships. In Division 2, Valencia was preparing to take on Oaks Christian for the championship. And, in Division 6, Golden Valley was seeking its first title in a matchup against Bishop Diego of Santa Barbara, which had eliminated Saugus High in the semifinals.

30 Years of Prep Excellence
The Santa Clarita Valley's high schools have earned a reputation for athletic excellence, and the scope of local prep athletic achievement expanded during the city of Santa Clarita's first 30 years. Local schools' CIF championships in various sports reveal the breadth and diversity of the SCV's athletic accomplishments during the past 30 years, with championships in volleyball, softball, track and field, basketball, golf and more.

Like we said: The accomplishments could fill a book.
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