Student-Athletes honored at Torch of Excellence Banquet

Luke Pfaunmiller of the swim and dive team was named Clovis Community College Male Scholar Athlete of the Year. (Photo by Ron Sundquist)

After graduating from Madera High School in 2015, Oksana Reynoso was close to choosing Madera Community College as her next destination.

Little did she know, Fresno City College women’s soccer head coach Oliver Germond had other ideas for her. With Germond convincing her to join the Rams, Reynoso made a change of plans and now feels grateful for the decision she made.

In two years at Fresno City College, Reynoso helped lead the Rams to back-to-back playoff appearances and a record of 36-6-6. At the same time, the girl who struggled with academics in high school, enjoyed success in her classes at FCC.

Reynoso was one of the students who was honored at the 21st Annual Kiwanis Torchlighter Awards on May 1 at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District. The event recognizes local community college student-athletes who have excelled in academics.

The honorees hailed from Fresno City College, Reedley College and Clovis Community College.

“When you have coaches who are passionate for the sport and passionate to help their athletes succeed, it pushes you to work hard and to be just as passionate to succeed,” Reynoso said. “Thank you coach Oliver for being passionate and thank you for gathering such an amazing group of coaches.”

Reynoso, who is the first person from her family to attend college, has now accepted a scholarship offer to attend St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas.

Megan Smith of the Clovis Community College swim and dive team was named Female Scholar Athlete of the Year. (Photo by Ron Sundquist)

She thanks her coaches for helping her transform in the last two years.

“I know my first year you guys got the unfocused girl who was still acting like she was in high school, but you didn’t give up on me,” she said. “You were just waiting for me to become focused, so I could finally become the great student athlete I have always wanted to be. I don’t know what my life would be like if I wasn’t part of Fresno City Women’s soccer.”

Reynoso was one of three students who was chosen as a keynote speakers at the Torchlighter Awards. The other student was Sawyer Pittman, who thought he was done playing baseball after graduating from Sanger High School.

“Towards the end of high school I was going to hang up my cleats. All my life I was a multi-sports athlete. I wasn’t being recruited by anybody,” Pittman said. “I asked myself what am I going to do now. I decided to enroll at Fresno State and I was going to continue my education.”

But Pittman was recruited by Reedley College baseball head coach Steve Pearse. After deciding to attend Reedley, Pittman exceeded his own expectations.

“I did outstanding compared to what I thought I was going to do,” Pittman said. “I really thought I was going to go out there, play another two years of baseball and say hey it was fun and then hang them up after that. After two years of hard work in the classroom and getting better every day on the field, I was being recruited by several Division I colleges for baseball.”

In the end, however, Pittman chose San Jose State University.

Drew Walters, a 2014 Clovis West High School graduate, was also a keynote speaker at the Torchlighter Awards.

Walters, a highly recruited soccer player in high school, first committed to California State University, Northridge.

As he prepared for his first season at Northridge, however, Walters was told he would have to be a redshirt player.

“I started losing my confidence due to my lack of playing in games. It also caused me to struggle in school,” he said. “I had been a 3.8-GPA student my entire life. Now I was getting Cs.”

He then transferred to Hawaii Pacific University, but only played one season there.

“I came back to Clovis Community to finish the spring semester and transfer to Fresno State,” Walters said.

Atv Clovis Community College, Walters found the support he was looking for on and off the field.

“The support services were super beneficial,” he said. “Once my GPA started going up, I started to feel better about myself.”

Walters transferred to Fresno State with a 3.8 GPA transferred, but still wanted to play soccer at Clovis Community College in their inaugural season.

Because he was a redshirt at Northridge, Walters still had a year of eligibility left. So he played at Clovis Community College and made the most of the season.

“To make the playoffs is a big feat. To win a game in the playoffs is an even bigger feat. To do both of those as an inaugural program is almost unheard of,” Walters said. “This group of guys came together with the support of the community behind them.”

The Torchlighter Awards evening concluded with the presentation of the Scholar Athlete presentations.

The Fresno City College Female Scholar Athlete was volleyball player Jenna Goldsberry.

“I could not have done it without my amazing team, state champions,” Goldsberry said. “I couldn’t have done it without my coach, who pushed me to further my volleyball career.”

The Fresno City College Male Scholar Athlete was soccer player Andres Rios.

From Reedley College, golfer Jessica Rudd was named Female Scholar Athlete and Pittman was chosen as Male Scholar Athlete.

Swimmer Megan Smith represented Clovis Community College as the Female Scholar Athlete, while swimmer Luke Pfaunmiller was the Clovis Community College Male Scholar Athlete.