Wildcats capture academic awards

West Ranch quarterback Wyatt Eget runs the ball against Oxnard High during the Wildcats' homecoming game at Valencia on Sept. 24. Katharine Lotze/Signal
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The most impressive part of West Ranch High’s marks in the CIF-Southern Section’s annual Academic Awards might not have been its two first-place teams, but rather its overall depth.

Wildcats football and boys track and field this week finished with the best cumulative grade point average in their respective sport and enrollment category (1,500 students and above).

Track and field posted a 3.63 GPA, while football had a 3.41.

Then came a host of others.

West Ranch boys volleyball finished second (3.64), girls track and field came in fourth (3.730) and baseball came in fifth (3.518).

“I think it’s great,” said West Ranch Athletic Director Cassandra Perez, whose school boasted a first-place academic team last year, too, in boys golf. “We try to emphasize that our kids are student-athletes: student first. This really goes a long way to proving that’s what we really mean.”

Not every Santa Clarita Valley school entered the competition, which honored teams in 23 sports. Entries from 1,730 teams were received.

To be considered, teams had to have a minimum of five student-athletes with at least a 3.0 GPA in the first semester or first two quarters of the 2016-17 school year.

Hart had two teams in the top five of their respective sport: girls basketball finished third (3.71) and boys basketball came in fifth (3.5526).

Albert Einstein Academy girls basketball (3.78) came in fifth in the enrollment category of 1,499 and below.

As for West Ranch football and boys track and field, the teams will receive a banner and the athletes will receive certificates. They will also be honored in a pregame ceremony on April 25 at Angel Stadium.

“To be honest, I never had a team where (this award) was on my radar, so I didn’t ever pay attention to it,” said West Ranch coach Chris Varner.  “I knew, obviously, that I had tremendous students on the team because of (our) academic awards we gave out. But as an average, I didn’t know it was that high.

“So I’m very proud of those boys. They worked really hard (at football) and kept the main focus on their grades. … It proves you can do both.”

This year, Golden Valley’s highest team GPA came from girls volleyball (3.48). Valencia’s was girls tennis (3.66).

Schools were also entitled to name a male and a female Student-Athlete of the Year, a senior with at least a 3.5 GPA (4.0 scale) over the past three years, in addition to earning a letter in at least one varsity sport and participating in extracurricular activities.

Golden Valley nominated Justine Reblando and Matthew Chang. Hart nominated Matthew Larkins and Nicole Benz.

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