Buchanan athletics receive prestigious School of the Year award

Buchanan was named the Cal-Hi Boys School of the Year for their overall excellence in the 2015-16 school year thanks in part to the baseball team’s No. 1 national and state ranking and 30-1 record. [Photo by Nick Baker]

By Paul Meadors | Sports Editor

The late, great Floyd “Doc” Buchanan, the Clovis Unified Superintendent from 1960-1991 believed in high standards and the fact that competition is an ingredient of high standards.

And Buchanan High School is surely continuing his legacy in word and deed.

A monster year for Buchanan, named after the beloved superintendent, helped launch the Bears to be named the 2015-16 Cal-Hi Sports Boys School of the Year due to their excellent body of work but largely in part to the baseball team’s No. 1 national ranking and the wrestling team’s CIF state wrestling title and No. 5 national ranking. 

The Bears narrowly missed being named the overall School of the Year as Cal-Hi Sports awarded the honor to Torrey Pines of San Diego in what the publication called “probably the most competitive year ever.”

Overall, Buchanan won CIF Central Section titles in nine sports and also placed second in four. In comparison, Torrey Pines won 11 CIF San Diego Section titles.

On the boys side, Buchanan won section titles in soccer, wrestling, baseball, volleyball and track & field. Soccer and volleyball were ranked in the top 5 in the state during the season.

Quite an accomplishment for the public school with an enrollment of 3,000.

“To be ranked the No. 2 athletic program in the state and the boys being named the State School of the Year is a tremendous accomplishment,” said Bears athletic director James Gambrell. “I’m so proud of the coaches and kids. It’s such a great thing for a public school and a community like Buchanan.”

Gambrell notes it’s especially satisfying since many power schools in the North and South are parochial schools such as De La Salle and Mater Dei who can essentially hand pick their athletes.

And another secret to Buchanan’s success? Look no further than the support of the district’s administration, including Assistant Superintendent of the Buchanan Area, Dr. Robyn Castillo, and principal Ricci Ulrich, who can often be seen at many Buchanan sporting events.

“Their connection and dedication in our area is unbelievable and it permeates throughout the entire Bear Nation,” says Gambrell. “From the football team to the gymnastics team all co-curricular activities are important to them.”

To further emphasize the stability of Buchanan athletics, the only new head coaching hire for the 2016-17 year is football coach Matt Giordano, the 2001 Buchanan alum and NFL Super Bowl champion with the Indianapolis Colts in 2006.

Head baseball coach Tom Donald is very clear what makes Buchanan not only successful on the athletic field but also a special place to work. The 18-year coach with six Central Section titles points to the cohesiveness between faculty, coaches and administration as the major factor – including Gambrell, assistant athletic director John Jay and office manager Candice Heniford of whom Donald says: “Collectively they are the engine that makes us go.”

Donald also understands the importance of supporting every athletic program at the school.

“The baseball program must do its part in keeping up with the other programs on our campus that work as hard or harder to put a quality product on the field, court, or pool,” Donald said. “I believe we are unique in that we really pull for each other and want to see every student-athlete and program succeed.”

Some of the top senior boys’ athletes during the 2015-16 school year were: J.T. Arruda (soccer, baseball), Grant Gambrell (baseball), Chuby Dunu (football, track), Bryson Young (football), Jacob Wilson (track and field), Paramveer Chohan (track and field), Donovan Mitchell (basketball, volleyball), Thomas Vandiver (water polo, swimming).

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