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Meet six of Santa Clarita's most promising athletes. These young sports stars have more than skill, they have the heart of a competitor. Their sports may be different, but the one thing they have in common is the drive to be the best.
It's that time of year. No offense to Christmas, but 'round these parts, there's more than a few people who might say that high school football season is the most wonderful time of the year.
Don't be fooled by the thin frame, the braces-filled smile complete with dimples, or her quiet demeanor. When you are looking at 10-year-old Madison Martinez, you are looking at a BMX world champion. And while she's on the track, that's Monster Madison to you.
Even if Micaela Velasquez didn't own a Foothill League record - which she does - or swim a time that gave her All-American consideration - which she did - she would still have loads of swimming success to her name.
When West Ranch infielder Chris Caldwell fell to the ground after a swing of his bat, no one needed a doctor to know it was bad.

"When I went to swing, my cleat got caught in the dirt and my [right] kneecap dislocated," recalled Caldwell, remembering the game against Golden Valley in April last year. "I felt it bend inward. It was nasty."
Canyon's Jason Ferlianto can't choose just one, so don't ask.

The junior loves tennis and already has a Foothill League singles title to his name.
Start with Chris Printz, who had never been a head coach before taking helm of the Golden Valley boys basketball team in 2004.

Sprinkle in the fact that Golden Valley was a new school and starting its sports programs from scratch, and then add in a dash of transfer players from all over the Santa Clarita Valley.
Greg Herrick has a good thing going. He knows it. He loves it.
Earlier this season the College of the Canyons women's basketball coach won his 400th game with the Cougars. Nine times along the way he's won Western State Conference Championships. Eight times his teams have produced the highest scoring in California.
Anyone who thinks boys basketball players need to leave the Santa Clarita Valley to get noticed by college programs needs to swing by Lonnie Jackson's house and take a look inside his family's mailbox sometime, or listen to his ringing phone and watch as he does his best to keep up with all his e-mails.
A four-and-a-half minute highlight video, posted on YouTube, of Santa Clarita Christian School senior football player Collin Keoshian was intended for the eyes of friends and family. Think of it as a "Hey Grandma, look at what I've been doing in school" video. It turned out to be so much more.
In the past five years, four schools have won Foothill League football titles. That's how competitive things have become.

"It's to the point where an injury or two could be the difference between finishing fourth or winning the championship," says Canyon coach Chris Varner. "Teams are that close."
Santa Clarita is filled with sports phenoms, both amateur and professional. As a special nod to "back to school," we'd like to introduce you to seven of the SCV's most impressive prep sport personalities.
At this time last year, the Saugus High football team had never finished on top, Golden Valley's boys basketball team had never finished anywhere but the bottom and Saugus' girls cross country team was barely even a mega dynasty with just two straight state titles. Things have changed.
Despite the yearly graduations of star players, despite a bull's-eye on its back, despite playing in a sports-crazy valley, the Valencia High softball team pulled off an incredible feat this spring. The Vikings won a share of a ninth consecutive league championship.
If somebody had told the 10-year-old version of Valencia High sophomore Christian Lopes that he'd end up spending his days the way he does now, he wouldn't have just called them crazy. He probably would have broken down into a full-blown tantrum.
Before they wrote their names in cursive on UCLA and Oklahoma softball scholarships, before they became an All-California catcher/pitcher combo, even before they were old enough for slumber parties, Hart High's Destiny Rodino and Jessica Shults were just a pair of Padres.

Seniors now at Hart, they've been teammates since their parents first bought them gloves.
It would be borderline irresponsible to not kick things off with a warning.

For the sake of their sanity, volleyball coaches, players, parents and well wishers from Saugus, West Ranch, Hart, Canyon and Golden Valley high schools might want to go ahead and skip over this page. Chances are they will not be happy with Valencia High head boys volleyball coach Mark Knudsen's take on this year's Vikings squad.
There's something brewing in the gymnasium at Golden Valley High School in the foothills rimming the southeastern edge of the Santa Clarita Valley.

It is a caldron of backdoor cuts, pick-and-roll layups and tomahawk slam dunks. Its fire is fueled by a raucous student body, fist-pumping parents wearing jerseys bearing the school's snarling mascot and, more importantly, a level of team chemistry never before witnessed at the fledgling campus.
Audrey Drake stood near the looping hills behind College of the Canyons one promising day five years ago.

She walked up to her son Greg and jokingly encouraged him, "Your sister got first place. You get it now."

Greg's sister Aly had just won the Rio Norte Junior High cross country race - giving her the coveted title, "Fastest Girl in School."
The valley's best player - he's gone. The valley's best playmaker - he's gone. The Foothill League's Most Valuable Player - he's gone, too. Even the league's longest-serving coach is gone. That begs the question - what's left? Actually, better days.
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