Around the TRAC: where awards, college scholarships and Olympic dreams come together

The Clovis West girls basketball team currently has six players that hold Division 1 scholarships including Danae Marquez (left) and Megan Anderson (center) who have both verbally committed to San Jose State. [Photo by Nick Baker]

By Paul Meadors | Sports Editor

The month of August signifies a plethora of things – the start of high school football two-a-days (and back to school in general), some last ditch vacations before returning to school and the tail end of summer blockbuster movies. Well, through all the Captain Americas, Jason Bornes and fun-filled trips to Pismo and Santa Cruz, our CUSD student-athletes were winning some really sweet awards and some pretty special girls’ basketball players were offered (and accepted) full-ride college scholarships. And we can’t forget our very own Clovis High alum Jenna Prandini’s remarkable run to the Olympic Games in Rio, representing the United States in the 200m and 4×100 relay, and another too-good-to-be-true story of Olympic dreams coming true.

So, while we’re all glued to the TV and the XXXI Games of the Olympiad for the next few weeks cheering our Jenna and the rest of the Olympic hopefuls, go ahead and take a gander at some really neat stuff that’s happening Around the TRAC.

Fraizer, Gambrell and friends earn all-state baseball honors

Even though Grant Gambrell of Buchanan and Matt Fraizer of Clovis North are off to their PAC-12 colleges, the talented TRAC alumni were honored by Cal-Hi Sports for their superb senior seasons on the baseball diamond.

Both were named to the exclusive Super Elite team, made up of the best 30 players in the state.

Gambrell, currently on campus at Oregon State and the 2016 TRAC Baseball Player of the Year after leading the Bears to the No. 1 national ranking and a 30-1 record, was selected as a multipurpose player for his play as both a pitcher and first baseman. Gambrell went 12-0 on the mound with an ERA 0.69 to go along with a .363 BA and 37 RBI.

Gambrell was also a finalist for Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Baseball Player of the Year which was awarded to Mickey Moniak, the No. 1 pick of the 2016 MLB draft from La Costa Canyon in Carlsbad.

Fraizer, the Arizona-bound five-tool player, is a fleet-footed center fielder who hit .392 for the Broncos and played superior defense all season. Fraizer was also drafted in the 38th round of the MLB draft.

Buchanan’s only baseball loss on the season was a 12-5 setback to Clovis North during TRAC play. The two rivals met in the D-1 Central Section championship game won by the Bears 5-0. In the game, Gambrell pitched a complete game with ten strikeouts and Fraizer lined two hits off Gambrell.

And we all know it takes a total team effort to win championships and three other Buchanan players – catcher Zach Presno, pitcher Hunter Reinke and infielder Quentin Selma – were named to the underclass first team with infielder Jamal O’Guinn chosen for the second team. All four were juniors last season.

Nevills earns state sophomore of the year

Awards are nothing new for the Nevills brothers of Clovis High, and the youngest of them all can add another piece of hardware to the family mantle. In 2014 brother Nick was named the Cal-Hi Sports Athlete of Year for his wrestling and football prowess, and now Seth Nevills has been named the state sophomore of the year for the same accomplishments.

Seth captured his second straight CIF state heavyweight wrestling title this past year as he capped off a perfect season and continued a two-year undefeated run at 90-0. He was also a standout lineman on the football team that shared a TRAC title with Buchanan and made it to the D1 Central Section championship game before losing to Liberty-Bakersfield.

Seth and his three older brothers, A.J., Nick, Zach, have combined to win seven CIF wrestling titles. We can’t wait for the encore.

College offers keep rolling for Clovis West girls basketball players

It’s quite remarkable for a basketball program to have a single player with a Division 1 college scholarship offer. But what about a team that has two…or three….or gasp, SIX?

I know it seems almost impossible but that’s what the girl’s basketball team at Clovis West currently can boast. Let me rephrase it this way –  six Golden Eagles are getting college paid for to go along with playing the game they love for four more years. Color us impressed.

Seniors who have committed include: Bre’yanna Sanders, Arizona State; Danae Marquez, San Jose State; Megan Anderson, San Jose State; Sarah Bates, UC Santa Barbara.

Senior Tess Amundsen has offers from San Jose State, Hawaii, Long Beach State, New Mexico State, UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine.

And coach Craig Campbell’s daughter, Madison Campbell, only a sophomore, currently holds the following offers: TCU, San Jose State, New Mexico State, University of the Pacific and UNLV.

The Golden Eagles have won four consecutive D-1 Central Section championships and reached the second round of the Open Division of the state playoffs as the No. 2 seed last season before losing to Long Beach Poly.

It’s shaping up to be a magical season for the CW girls’ basketball team in more ways than one.

Buchanan football dinner and auction a success

Buchanan held a football dinner and auction on Saturday, July 23 at the Veterans Memorial Building to a rousing success, highlighted by new head coach Matt Giordano’s introduction of the soon-to-be senior class, great auction pieces, scrumptious food and a fantastic atmosphere.

Giordano, the former NFL player and Super Bowl champion as a member of the 2006 Indianapolis Colts, got the evening started on a high note, introducing a few members of the senior class to the crowd of around 175 with some good-natured ribbing, letting the world know some of their fun-loving nicknames and telling some pretty funny stories.

And some of the auction items had a clear theme centering around a Central Valley hero – Derek Carr. Featured in the live auction was a Carr signed jersey, helmet and four tickets to a Oakland Raiders game of their choosing. All proceeds are going towards new equipment for the entire Buchanan football program.

Buchanan opens their football season against defending DIII state champion Hanford High School at home on August 26.

Clovis West alum has whirlwind experience to represent Nigeria at Olympics

Nikki Okwelogu, an alumni of Clovis West attending Harvard University, has already experienced a whirlwind of emotions in the short span of a couple of months in her quest to represent Nigeria in the Olympic Games. And it took the financial support of friends, family and the Central Valley to put her in a position to make her dream come true and make the trip to Rio de Janiero.

Okwelogu qualified for the Olympic games to represent Nigeria in the shot-put when she threw 17.91 meters at the NCAA Outdoors East Regional on May 11 in Jacksonville, Florida.

But then the unknown hit as she was informed via e-mails that Nigeria might have trouble funding her trip to Rio due to economic issues. Imagine that – a dedicated athlete’s dreams might be dashed because the country she represents couldn’t afford it.

But then the doubt and uncertainty was erased on July 29 when Okwelogu received some happy news – she was told via e-mail that Nigeria would in fact be able to pay for her ticket to Rio.

And while toiling away during those dreaded unknown period, there was a gofundme account set up, a Web site where people can donate money to a cause. In this case, as of August 4, a whopping $7,990 was donated towards her trip, which would have been more than enough to fund her plane ticket and other expenses. So now, not only will Okwelogu be able to attend Rio but the funding will allow her throwing coach, Mike Guidry Jr, to accompany her.

Be sure to watch for Okelogu in the Games of the XXXI Olympiad from August 5-21 on NBC.

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