By Jesse Muñoz/COC Sports Information Director
For The Signal
Looking to amp up the level of competition heading into the final stretch of the collegiate track & field season, College of the Canyons took a small contingent of athletes to compete at last weekend’s UCLA Rafer Johnson /Jackie Joyner-Kersee Invitational at Drake Stadium.
COC freshman Jacore Johnson had perhaps the best performance of the day for Canyons. The former Valencia High School standout placed sixth in the 200m at a time of 22.25 while running mostly against athletes from NCAA Division I programs.
Johnson’s sixth-place time came behind a trio of runners from the University of Oklahoma and two more from UCLA. His time bested the pace of runners from programs including UCLA, Fresno State and CSU Fullerton.
Johnson’s fifth-place time of 48.0 in the 400m was a season-best for the freshman and represents the No. 7 time posted by a CCCAA athlete thus far this season. It’s also the Southern California region’s No. 4 ranked time.
Freshman Timothy Sterkel turned some heads by winning the second heat of the 1500m at a time of 4:05.22 to place 10th overall. Sterkel, who ran for West Ranch High School a year ago, was one of only two non-NCAA athletes that finished in the event’s top 10.
“We set some individual goals for Jacore and Tim at the UCLA meet and they both went out and competed,” said COC track & field head coach Lindie Kane. “It was a great opportunity for them to be able to run in Drake Stadium and they both performed great.”
COC sophomore Delon Buncio had a good showing in the 400h with a fifth-place time of 56.59, which was just a half-second behind the fourth place runner from CSU Fullerton. Buncio continues to be a stalwart for the Cougars this season having scored points in seven different events.
“Delon is the pulse of our team,” said Kane, about the sophomore that has competed in the 100m, 400h, long jump, triple jump, javelin, 4x100m and 4x400m this season. “His performance will be key for us over the next few weeks.”
Buncio is state ranked in the 400h, long jump and javelin. According to Kane “he has a chance to win a conference title in all three events.”
Jordan Palmer’s march toward the CCCAA state championships continued on Saturday with a season-best toss of 14.99m (49’ 2.25”) to finish 13th in the shot put event. That throw currently ranks No. 3 in the state and No. 1 in the region among community college athletes.
Palmer, who ranks No. 5 in the program’s all-time history, is expected to be among the serious contenders vying for the Western State Conference (WSC) shot put title when the conference prelims get underway Friday at Santa Barbara City College.
In 2018, the WSC shot put title went to Chimechi Oparanozi of Santa Monica College after his throw of 14.62m (47’ 11.75”). Oparanozi then finished runner-up (15.56m / 51’ 0.75”) at the state meet.
“Jordan came to us as a top-ranked high school thrower,” said Kane about the two-sport athlete from Notre Dame in Sherman Oaks. “He has trained hard, adjusted well to the competition at this level and continues to excel for us.”
Palmer was also an offensive lineman on COC’s conference champion football team in the fall.
COC last won an individual conference title in the shot put in 2014 when freshman Marvin Magg threw for a mark of 13.00m.
The shot put is one of a handful events that will crown a conference champion prior to the WSC Finals. The men’s and women’s discus, long jump and 10,000m events will also be decided at the WSC Prelims. All other conference champions, as well as both a men’s and women’s team champion, will be determined at the WSC Finals on Friday, April 26 at Moorpark College.
“The goal this week is to get as many points as possible out of those finals events and see how many athletes we can qualify for the conference finals,” Kane said. “With 14 teams in the field it should make for a very competitive meet.”
COC’s men’s team finished runner-up at both conference meets this season. Canyons trailed meet winner Cuesta College 131-130 at the WSC North meet back in February. The Cougars then finished behind Glendale College 149-138 at the WSC Inland meet on March 29.
The men’s track & field team has won two conference titles in program history. The first came in 1970 during the program’s first year of existence in the Desert Conference. Canyons also won in 2014 when sophomore Tim White helped lead the Cougars to victory by winning the long jump, triple jump and high jump events.
Cougar Baseball Sees Streak End at Five
Canyons headed north to play in the annual Allan Hancock Spring Tourney armed with a five-game win streak before falling 11-10 to Merced College in opening round action on Wednesday.
COC (19-16, 10-7) started the streak on April 6 at Glendale College before sweeping three from Victor Valley College and following up with a 2-0 road win at West L.A. on Monday. The six-game undefeated run represented a season-high for the Cougars who currently sit second in the Western State Conference (WSC), East Division.
The Cougars led 2-1 after four innings behind sophomore starter Alex Ravago. But Merced (20-15-1, 9-9) put together back-to-back big innings to take a 10-2 lead into the seventh inning. Canyons fought back but was never able to retake the lead in what turned out to be an 11-10 final score.
The Cougars will next face No. 13 state ranked Cypress College (25-11, 10-8) at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday.
Cougar Golf Finishes Second, Still Clings to WSC Top Spot
Canyons remains atop the WSC standings despite finishing second, just one stroke off the lead, at Monday’s conference event played at San Dimas Golf Course.
The Cougars (374) were runner-up to Santa Barbara (373). Ventura College finished third at 395. Prior to Monday’s result the Cougars had won five straight WSC events dating back to Feb. 25.
Canyons had three players finish in the top six of the individual standings on Monday.
COC freshman Nobuhiko Wakaari finished one-under par to claim medalist honors for the sixth time this season. Five of those results have come during WSC events.
Tom Sims finished fifth overall with a round of 74 and Matthew Mansholt tied for sixth after carding a 75.
Jules Lavigne, James Wilkes and Anguerrand Voisin all finished with rounds of 77.
Canyons remains in first place in the WSC season standings with a conference record of 60-4. SBCC is also in the hunt with a mark of 58-6.
The Cougars next play at WSC No. 9 hosted by Glendale at Oakmont Country Club on Monday. Tee time is scheduled for 10 a.m.
Lady Cougars Comes Close at WSC Finals
The COC doubles team of Una Stanisavljevic and Seleste Sakato finished runner-up at the Western State Conference (WSC) Doubles Championships to represent the best finish in the program’s young history.
The No. 4 ranked duo from Canyons cruised to victory in the tournament’s semi-final round, beating the No. 14 ranked team of Jacqlyn Zavala and Alexis Strange from Bakersfield College 6-0, 6-1.
The win pitted Stanisavljevic/Sakato against the No. 2 ranked team of Kayleen Sanchez & Paige Darstein, also from Bakersfield, in a showdown for the WSC Doubles Championship. Despite a valiant effort, COC fell 6-2, 6-0 to give Bakersfield the title.
Stanisavljevic/Sakato now move on to compete in the CCCAA Southern California Regional Championships beginning April 25 in Ojai. COC will also be represented by the doubles pair of Marisa Wambolt and Nicole Villarta at the regional championships. In addition, Stanisavljevic and Villarta will both compete in singles action at the four-day event.
COC Soccer Alumni Weekend Coming April 26-27
The Cougars’ men’s and women’s soccer programs are inviting former players, coaches and supporters to attend the first COC Soccer Alumni Weekend being held over two days April 26 & 27 at the Valencia campus.
The weekend kicks off with the men’s team’s exhibition game vs. Clovis Community College at 4 p.m. Friday, April 26. The evening continues at 7 p.m. with the COC women’s team squaring off vs. a collection of participating alumni spanning the program’s 21-year history. The two programs will then come together to host an evening social event at a yet to be determined restaurant location, beginning at 8:30 p.m.
Saturday’s schedule calls for footgolf matches beginning at 10 a.m. followed by a barbeque and ongoing seven-on-seven games beginning at 1 p.m.
Admission to both the men’s exhibition game, alumni game and social is free. Attendees interested in playing footgolf, seven-on-seven and/or attending the barbeque will be charged a fee.