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Throwing Shade at the Record Books
July, 2017 - Issue #154
courtesy of Shutterstock
courtesy of Shutterstock

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.

It was the season of the thrower in Foothill League track and field, with three athletes qualifying for the state meet in the discus throw, shot put or both events.

So, it was only fitting that Canyon High junior Gabby Sanchez played a part in two of the biggest athletic storylines of the school year, earning her the distinction of being the only SCV student-athlete to qualify for state competition in two sports.

Despite joining the team late because of the basketball postseason schedule and competing throughout the season with a sore ankle, Sanchez became the first Canyon female to reach the state track and field championships since Tiffini Stone finished 14th in the long jump in 2012.

Stone also competed in the Division 2 girls basketball state playoffs for the Cowboys in 2011, reaching the regional quarterfinals. Although Stone, who competed in track and field at UC Riverside, is the first to participate in state competition in both sports, Sanchez is the only one to achieve the feat in the same year.

Sanchez helped Canyon reach its second straight CIF Southern Section girls basketball final, after the Cowboys fell to Newbury Park in the Division 2-AA championship last year.

Valencia posted a 50-45 victory March 4 over Canyon at the Honda Center in the first all-Foothill League girls basketball final since 2006. Hart defeated Canyon 54-37 in the Division 1-A championship 11 years ago.

Canyon then reached the Division 2 regional quarterfinals March 11, losing to Orangewood Academy.

After finishing 11th in the discus at the CIF Southern Section Masters meet as a sophomore, Sanchez placed fifth on May 26 at Arcadia High with a throw of 137 feet, 1 inch after winning the Division 2 title with an effort of 137-5 at Cerritos College.

That performance earned Sanchez the opportunity to throw at the state meet June 2 and June 3, joining Golden Valley senior Gabriel Coronado and West Ranch sophomore Natalie Ramirez, also making their first appearances at Buchanan High in Clovis.

In addition to Sanchez making history at Canyon, Coronado is the first male thrower from Golden Valley to compete at the state meet and Ramirez is the first West Ranch female thrower to reach the state level.

Golden Valley's Nikela Harris qualified for state in both the girls shot put and discus in 2015 - placing 15th and 21st, respectively - after Saugus' Jeanette McConnell achieved the same feat in 2006. McConnell was the first SCV female to reach the discus final, placing fourth following a 10th-place finish in the shot put.

Since Stone reached the state meet, Canyon had boys high jumpers Jeremy Kimmer advance in 2013 and Brett Molster also qualify in 2015, although neither made the final. Jeremiah Chow placed 11th for the Cowboys in the pole vault at last year's state meet.

But Sanchez and Stone join an elite group of Canyon athletes who competed at the state level in multiple sports.

The most decorated group of state qualifiers for the Cowboys are represented in cross country and track. Lauren Fleshman won the 1998 Division 1 state cross country title, then captured the 3,200-meter state championship in 1999 before heading off to Stanford.

Fleshman also remains the only female to sweep CIF Southern Section titles in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 in the same final when she won Division 2 championships in all three events her senior year. She is also Canyon's only individual state cross country winner at Woodward Park in Fresno.

Alysia Montano, the 2004 state 800 champion who has gone on to win six US national titles in the two-lap event, qualified for both the state finals in cross country and track all four years at Canyon.

Lauren Walker, a teammate of Montano, competed in the 2003 Division 1 state cross country championships and also placed 15th in the 3,200 in the 2004 state final.

Canyon is even more impressive on the boys side, with Dave Hartman, Jameson Mora, Ryan Morgan, Luke Llamas and Troy Werner all qualifying for both state meets.

Hartman was second in the Division 1 state cross country final in 1990, then won the state 3,200 championship in 1991. Fleshman, Hartman and Montano remain Canyon's only state track champions.

With Sanchez among six players returning on Canyon's basketball roster, the Cowboys possess strong potential to reach the state playoffs for a third straight year next season.

Sanchez will also have an opportunity to continue her work with veteran Canyon throws coach Kent Richardson, giving her a odds chance to compete again in the discus at the state meet as a senior, looking to duplicate her impressive achievements from this year.
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