Two standout individuals and three Cougar teams were inducted into the College of the Canyons Athletics Hall of Fame on Wednesday.
The 1986 State Championship Cougar baseball team, 1996-97 state finalist women’s basketball team and 2007 state finalist women’s basketball team were all inducted. Canyons track star Chris Low and the late Harlan Perlman were also inducted.
Perlman, the longtime assistant of fellow legendary coach Greg Herrick, was honored first of the five. Perlman’s wife Kathy Perlman accepted the honor for her late husband, who died last year. Herrick then joined Kathy on stage, after she asked her extended family member to join her, saying none of this would be possible without him.
“I nominated him for the state coaches Hall of Fame, which he got in and then he got in here at COC in the Hall of Fame,” Herrick said. “I feel that his whole career has been validated by these Hall of Fame selections. I miss him every day. I have a memorabilia cabinet at home of all my career and his pictures in there because he was just as responsible for all the success that I’ve had.”
Perlman and Herrick worked together for over three decades. The hall of fame duo began coaching together at Hart High School before taking over the Cougar program together. Perlman handled recruiting, game preparations and practices, a collective tall task for an assistant coach. Herrick cited Perlman as the hardest-working assistant coach ever.
The Hall of Fame assistant coach worked on the COC coaching staff for 27 years before retiring. Perlman was also a decorated teacher and won The Learning Post’s Teacher of the Year award in 2003.
Perlman was a crucial part of putting together the fourth inductee, the 1996-97 women’s basketball team. The state finalists were an offensive powerhouse, averaging over 95 points a game, with a season-high points total of 146.
Cougars guard Le Cresha Clark set the program’s all-time scoring record with 722 points, while teammate Kyetra Brown set the conference assist record with 10.8 a game. Herrick regarded the two as the best guard combo to ever play together.
Clark won Western State Conference South Player of the Year while Brown, Nikki Turner, Zevette Mitchell and Gohar Tumanian earned all-conference honors. The team went 33-5, including a 21-game win streak that reached the state championship game.
“This team, they’re the mark,” Herrick said. “They’re what we always talked about to other kids. They were the best team and I still believe they were the best team in the state. I mean, we averaged 95 points a game, and 115 points in the conference. Nobody’s ever done that. Behind the scenes, we worked very hard. The kids worked really hard and I’m very proud to have been their coach.”
Herrick retired after the 2021 season after 611 career wins, and will likely be inducted to the COC Hall of Fame in 2025.
The 2007 women’s volleyball team was also honored for reaching the state championship tournament. The Cougars finished the regular season 16-8, second in the WSC South. However, the squad embraced the underdog role and ran wild through the regional playoffs. COC swept the hosting Orange Coast before drawing a rematch with the top-seeded Irvine Valley College. IVC had beaten the Cougars earlier in the year but Canyons pushed through to a five-set victory.
The win punched COC’s ticket to the state tournament. However, setter Heather Sanders was injured in the celebratory dogpile after the huge upset.
Canyons won its opening match in the state tournament 2-1 over San Joaquin Delta but ultimately fell in its next matches. Six Cougars earned conference honors, including outside hitter Priscilla Bremer, who led the team with 235 kills, while Sanders led the group with 697 assists.
Track and field runner Chris Low was the third inductee of the 2023 class. Low began track in senior year at Canyon High after breaking his arm early in the spring, forcing him to miss baseball.
Low was a distance runner with the Cowboys’ cross country team and took home a league title in the 1600-meter run that year.
The distance runner adjusted into the 800-meter run in his freshman year at COC. Low earned All-American honors, two WSC Male Athlete of the Year awards and a state championship.
“COC is where I really focused on the 800, which is what I excelled in,” Low said. “Before coming here, I was a miler and coach Lindie Kane sort of saw something in me and pushed me towards the 800. Before I knew it, I had a chance at winning a state title, so it was a lot of fun and a lot of new experience because I didn’t run until my senior year of high school. So, running was just all new to me and I just wanted to see how far I could take it.”
Low broke his own school record in the 800 with a 1:49.16 mark at the state meet before going on to Long Beach State, where he broke the 49ers school record with a 1:47.52 finish. Low earned more NCAA All-American honors and hit his all-time personal best time mark of 1:46.44 in the U.S. Olympic trials.
“It’s been great,” Low said. “The videos that they put up there really brought back the memories and all the fun and excitement that I had with all my teammates and coaches and stuff. It was such an honor and I’m really happy to be here.”
The last honoree of the night was the 1986 Cougars baseball team. Canyons finished as a state runner-up in 1985 and aimed for nothing less than a state championship.
The team won 41 games behind sensational pitching from Frank Halcovich and freshman Darrin Beer. Halcovich went a perfect 15-0 on the mound, leading the team in strikeouts, while Beer added 14 wins for the Cougars.
Halcovich also served as the team’s designated hitter and earned his second conference and California Community College Athletic Association Player of the Year award. The ace was joined by Beer, Victor Sotelo, Scott Drury, Don Erickson, Pete Kuld, Bobbie Clark, and current COC head coach Chris Cota, with All-Mountain Valley Conference honors.
Canyons opened up the state tournament with a win but took a lump in its second game to the Rancho Santiago Dons. Now in the losers’ bracket, COC was forced to win three games in less than two days. The Cougars beat Long Beach City, 4-1, before drawing a rematch with Rancho Santiago. COC bested the Dons, 7-6, which set up a third game with Rancho Santiago for the state title.
The Cougars needed extra innings to pull away and with two on in the top of the 10th, COC struck. Two balls got away from the Dons catcher, leading Cota to score just before Clark.
It was the program’s third state championship in five years but its last title.
The championship game was the last for head coach Mike Gillespie in a Cougars uniform. Gillespie earned his dream job and became the longtime skipper at USC.
“This team was full of stars, way full of stars,” said former assistant coach Len Mohney in his speech. “Many of these guys are waiting for a call from the Hall of Fame committee, an honor worth waiting for, but I’m sure a few more will be inducted.”
The 2023 class all left their mark and were honored in front of hundreds of current and former COC standout athletes.