Around the TRAC: Bringing good cheer this special time of year

Elf. A Christmas Story. Home Alone. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. And yes, Die Hard.

For me and my family, those are our go-to Christmas movies, all recorded on our DVR (well, perhaps “Die Hard” is just for me) and always on the ready for an impromptu viewing. There’s nothing like watching Buddy the Elf after seeing the sign for “World’s Best Cup of Coffee” in New York say: “You did it! Congratulations! World’s best cup of coffee! Great job, everybody! It’s great to be here.” In fact, it’s become tradition to fire up “Elf” the day after Thanksgiving.

Or perhaps a classic like “Miracle on 34th Street,” “White Christmas” or “It’s A Wonderful Life” is more up your alley. Can’t argue those feel-good flicks that scream “they sure don’t make ‘em like they use to.”

So, OK, what does this have to do with sports? Well, as fall high school sports have completely wound down, isn’t Christmas time is the perfect opportunity for families to regroup, reconnect and reflect on what matters most – and yes, watch some movies and play cards together? The hustle and bustle of school, work and sports sure can take a lot out of us and it’s always refreshing to re-energize and simply sit and laugh and joke with friends and family. And my heart goes out to those who have lost family members or going through a rough patch in life. Know that you are loved and cherished and thought of during this holiday season.

True, there are tournaments and games to attend around the holidays, and heck, I’m going to be checking some out during my three weeks off of school, but I want to encourage you, my awesome readers, to breathe deep and take advantage of this special time of year.

After all, Bruce Willis spent his Christmas taking on a terrorist group led by Hans Gruber in Nakatomi Plaza, so the least we could do is get together for some merry ol’ cheer.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Clovis West boys basketball almost completes perfect two-week span

The Clovis West boys basketball team was this close (visualize an inch) from winning back-to-back tournaments in consecutive weekends as the Vance Walberg-coached Golden Eagles improved to 8-1 on the young season with an impressive showing.

First off, Clovis West won the Nor Cal Tip Off in Rocklin with four straight wins, culminating with an impressive 76-51 win over St. Francis, a game that saw the Golden Eagles outscore the Golden Knights 33-2 over a quarter and a half to end the first half. The game was reminiscent of the glory days of Clovis West under Walberg (when he coached from 1989-2000) as 14 different players scored in the game, led by freshman Cole Anderson’s 14. Brandon Recek, Fernando Guardado and Anderson were named All-Tournament and Eseosa Ogbeide was MVP.

Then, at the Simi Valley Tournament, Clovis West was stunned by San Marcos in the semifinals with a buzzer beater. Recek poured in 26 in the game and Anderson, who coaches rave about and plays well beyond his years, scored 23. They responded in the third place game by beating Simi Valley 68-48 behind Recek’s 23.

Clovis West hosts an impressive cast in the Clovis West Nike Invitational from Dec. 12-16, a 16-team pool play extravaganza featuring such heavyweights as Bullard, Central, Edison, Liberty-Bakersfield, Bakersfield High, Modesto Christian and San Joaquin Memorial.

Clovis soccer boys win Adidas West Coast Showcase

The Clovis boys soccer team won the Adidas West Coast Showcase in Los Angeles, beating Palos Verde 3-0 in the championship game. The Cougars are ranked No. 22 in the nation and are 6-0-2 on the season. (Contributed)

The Clovis boys soccer team is ranked No. 22 in the nation according to, and they were put to an early test at the Adidas West Coast Showcase in Los Angeles. And wouldn’t you know it, the Cougars proved their ranking and went ahead and won the whole enchilada.

After going 1-0-2 in pool play, the Cougars advanced to the championship game in the prestigious tournament against Palos Verde and jumped out to a 3-0 halftime lead that stood up to move to 6-0-2 on the season. Carlos Asuna scored two goals and tournament MVP Oscar Rubalcava scored the other in the victory.

The Cougars, last year’s D-I Valley champs, beat Moorpark 3-0 behind two goals from Rubalcava and one by Matthew Sanchez in the opening game, then tied Warren before reaching the championship game after a 2-2 tie with Granada Hills when Osuna and Rubalcava each scored a goal. Rubehn Martinez registered three assists in the tournament.

Tournament championships for Clovis North and Clovis girls basketball

The Clovis North girls basketball team won the Rocklin tournament in dominating fashion by beating Whitney 80-59 on December 9 in the finals. MVP Savannah Tucker scored 25 points in the final, as the team improved to 6-1 on the season. (Contributed)

The Clovis North and Clovis High girls teams won tournaments the weekend of Dec. 7-9, an early sign that when league play starts after the new year, in addition to strong Clovis West and Central teams, it’s going to be a wild ride.

Clovis North (6-1) won the Rocklin Tournament in dominating fashion, defeating River Valley 78-42 and Pleasant Grove 68-37 before blasting Whitney 80-59 in the championship behind tournament MVP Savannah Tucker’s 25 points.

“The kids played really, really well,” coach Heather Long said. “We were proud of them all weekend.”

Long noted the all-around excellent play of Tucker, who, in addition to scoring 32 and 22 in the first two games, shined on the defensive end as well as Rowan Hein’s ability to finish plays. Freshman Laney Amundsen and senior Jordyn Brown scored 14 and 11 points respectively and contributed solid minutes all tournament long.

Hein and Taylor Pilot earned All-Tournament honors.

“The vibe is good and the kids like being around each other – they are having fun,” said Long, who is the daughter of Clovis West boys coach Vance Walberg. “They are so poised for being such a young team.”

Indeed they are young: Brown is the only senior while Pilot and Grace Webb are juniors, followed by sophomores Tucker and Hein and freshman Amundsen, the daughter of Bullard boys coach Tim and sister Tess, a current freshman at Boise State who was a member of Clovis West’s state championship team from last year.

League promises to be tough and rugged this year with defending state and national champs Clovis West and Central.

Meanwhile, Clovis (6-2) won the Rumble on the River tournament in River City also in dominating fashion, destroying American Canyon 70-27, Rio Americano 52-20 and finally Vista de Lago 62-15 in the championship game.

Buchanan girls XC place 12th nationally, Lowe 16th, Smith 21st

Buchanan junior Meagen Lowe (left) placed 16th and sophomore Corie Smith (right) 21st at the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon, earning All-American status. The team placed 12th overall. (Contributed)

Fresh off a CIF state Division I second place finish, the cross country girls of Buchanan made the trek to the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon and finished 12th nationally and their star runners, Meagen Lowe and Corie Smith finishing 16th and 21st, respectively.

Lowe’s 18:05.6 was the fastest time for a junior west of the Mississippi as was Smith’s 18:09.8 for a sophomore.

“It went good, it was an unbelievable experience for the girls and the coaches,” Buchanan coach Brian Weaver said. “They were treated so well by Nike. It was a great experience.”

The Nike Cross Nationals is comprised of eight Regional Qualifying meets and features fields of 22 7-person clubs and an additional 45 individuals. With 198 girls in the race, the competition is truly a best of the best from around the country.

Weaver puts it this way: “There are no stragglers and nobody is left behind. For instance, the front pack of the state meet is a huge mass then it thins out. In the national meet, the whole race is a sea of girls and there’s no thinning out. It’s just a huge mass the whole way, you really can’t move and nobody slows down. There is fighting tooth and nail in that meet – the level of competition is unbelievable.”

At one point in the race, Smith, who is used to going around girls with ease, tried to move around a girl in front of her using her arms to move her aside. However, the girl didn’t move, mainly because there was nowhere for her to go.

The course was similar to Woodward Park as far as the hills but it was all muddy grass forcing the runners to run in spikes, something that California doesn’t allow.

Lowe, who placed second to good friend Smith, crossed the finish line, took five steps then fell on her face, lying there in the mud, a rarity for Lowe according to Weaver.

Lowe and Smith earned All-American status with their times and also valuable lessons they’ll take with them next year and beyond.

“It helped elevate their overall confidence and their ability to be great runners,” Weaver said. “They achieved some of their goals but not all of their goals. To see these other athletes run better drives them to want to be as good as them.”

Controversy arises as Clovis’ top wrestler denied participation at top tournament

The Clovis wrestling team, featuring one of the top wrestlers in the nation in Seth Nevills, took off for Ohio to take on some of the best high school wrestlers the United States has to offer. However, what took place at the Walsh Ironman tournament was disappointing and very much controversial.

Nevills, the three-time CIF state heavyweight championship with an unblemished 127-0 record, was denied wrestling in the tournament by an on-site doctor due to a skin condition, despite the fact that Nevills had a signed note from a dermatologist clearing him of wrestling.

“We came across the country and you want to run a national level tournament and you are adding your own rules,” Clovis wrestling coach Adam Tirapelle said. “I was as mad as I’ve ever been. That is completely unacceptable.”

Tirapelle said the on-site doctor made the diagnosis based on “looks.”

The decision cost the fans and the world of wrestling the potential of a much anticipated finals match between Nevills and Cohlton Schultz from Ponderosa, Colorado. Schultz is a two-time state champ and was seeded No. 2 to Nevills No. 1.

Schultz is a Greco-Roman World Champion and won the 100kg gold medal at the the Cadet World Championships in Athens, Greece, on Sept. 5.

Tirapelle, who was a two-time California State Champion and a three-time Division I All-American at the University of Illinois, winning the NCAA Championship in 2001, tried to keep the experience in perspective but also made it known that Clovis will never be back to Ohio, due to the way they were treated.

“He’s disappointed,” Tirapelle said Nevills. “Good thing is he’s a high school kid because they let stuff blow off pretty fast. They are a good family [the Nevills], they could have gone nuts, but when he [Seth] finally found out he couldn’t wrestle he said, ‘Hey coach thanks for trying I appreciate it.’ That’s the kind of kid he is.”

And yes, it wasn’t all bad as Niko Petrucelli (113) and Jacob Good (195) placed in the top 12 and Tyler Gianakopulos (170) placed top 16.