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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.
The last five years have likely been the most eventful in Santa Clarita Valley's prep sports history. It's hard to argue with the fact that there have been three state and two national champions. Each of the six Foothill League high schools can stake its claim to a unique accomplishment - whether it is individual or as a team.
Some of the people responsible for these achievements have moved on from high school and have started anew. These are their stories.
Steve Day had to apologize. The sounds in the background were overriding his voice as he spoke about his son Mike. So in a polite manner, in between the rumble of wheels on dirt and wind whooshing by, he said, "I'm sorry."
Prior to this decade, it was a two-team show in Santa Clarita Valley high school football, with Hart and Canyon battling for valley supremacy. In the '90s, Hart put a stranglehold on the rest of the valley.

But this decade has been unique.Three different schools have won Foothill League titles - Hart, Canyon and Valencia.
David Franklin, senior
West Ranch High School

Last year, West Ranch surprised everyone with a 19-9 record, going 6-4 in the Foothill in the process and taking fourth overall. Guard David Franklin was a big reason. The 6-foot senior is one of the Wildcats' most consistent scorers. Leave him along on the perimeter and he'll drop the three-pointer.
If track and field weren't so cruel, this would be a happier article. I would be able to tell you that two or perhaps all three of the Santa Clarita Valley runners vying for a spot of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team are on their way to Beijing.
The Throwers
After Daniel Swarbrick's first two turns at the shot put during last month's CIF-Southern Section Division I track and field finals, the weight of the metal ball he was there to throw must have seemed light - at least by comparison.
After fouling in both attempts, the pressure on the Saugus junior to register a legal throw was much, much heavier.
As soon as I hung up the phone, my mind began to wrestle with a dilemma: What should I wear?

In light of world events, the question seemed somewhat silly. But the debate over what to wear, it turns out, was a debate over which my personal security hung.
In the realm of Santa Clarita Valley boys volleyball, the Valencia Vikings are the definition of a dynasty. They have won eight consecutive Foothill League championships, compiling 73 straight league wins in the process.

And they are only getting better.
Q: I can't stop slicing the ball. What can I do to avoid this?

A:
Slicing the ball can be caused by a variety of body motions and by several different transgressions occurring in your hands and arms. Mostly, it is the result of beginning the downswing while turning the upper body towards the ball before you begin to rotate your hips.

Tournament Players Club Valencia
Valencia 288-1995 www.tpcatvalencia.com

The course: TPC Valencia reflects the vision and distinction associated with the TPC Network of courses. Designed by PGA Tour Design Services under consultation from two-time Major Champion Mark O'Meara, the TPC Valencia offers 18 holes of challenging, breathtaking play.
Nicole Johnson's most exciting moment on a softball field occurred in Colorado three years ago. She was playing in the championship game for her summer travel team, the Krushers, against a team that had beaten them the day before.
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