We all love stories, and we all want to know more about our favorite teams and student/athletes. What motivates them? What drives them? how do coaches get the best of their players. The games and action are certainly a blast for fans, and let’s admit it, we are all fans, cheering and hoping for the best. However, to be able to look beyond what we see on the field or court or in the water is equally as engaging.
While there can be, at times, an overwhelming amount of sports going on at any given time – there are 23 total sports offered at Clovis Unified Schools – there are special stories from the student/athletes and teams that need to be recognized. Here is a look at some of the great – and incredible – stories that went on during the 2017-18 year in Clovis Unified sports.
Kendall Milton racks up major football offers
The college offers kept coming … and coming … and coming in waves for Buchanan sophomore running back Kendall Milton – and have settled, as of now, at 39. And these aren’t the lightweights, these are the big boys, the heavyweights of college football: every Pac-12 school along with Alabama, Notre Dame, Penn State, Ohio State, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Miami, Michigan – you get the picture – basically everyone, almost unheard of for a sophomore. During the 2017 season, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound 15-year-old rushed for 1,512 yards and 23 touchdowns and is salivating for more in 2018. The 5-star recruit is the No. 10 overall recruit from the 2020 class and No. 2 running back, according to 247Sports. When all is said and done he will be the most heavily recruited, and most coveted, football player ever from the Central Section.
22 in a row for Clovis West girls swim and dive team
In 1996, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were in the middle of their second three-peat run as NBA champions, there were only 100,000 websites compared to the one billion websites that exist today and Tickle Me Elmo was first introduced. OK, so what’s the significance here? Well, that was the year “The Streak” started for the Clovis West girls swim and dive team – 22 years in a row of winning the Central Section Swim and Dive championship. It’s quite a streak to behold and this year’s squad was not going to be the one to break it. Led by junior Abby Samansky, Jordan Gruce, Lexie Voice and senior Caitlyn Snyder, the girls breezed through the TRAC and Central Section then went on to place 8th at the CIF State meet at the Clovis Olympic Swim Complex. Samansky, a junior, broke school records in the 100 (1:47.69), 200 free (49.90) and 100 backstroke (56.29), while Snyder broke one in the 50 free (23.27).
Clovis West girls golf dominate, boys win too
Perhaps the most dominating team in all of Clovis Unified, and the Valley for that matter, was the girls golf team from Clovis West. Check this out – the Golden Eagles dominated the TRAC and the Northern Area Championships then destroyed the competition in the D-I Central Section Championships by an amazing 64 strokes with a score of 385, a new Section record by nine shots. Madison Nii, Taylor Dufresne, Aya Enkoji, Kayla Terrey, Claire Shubin, and Marissa Martinez strutted their stuff all year. The dynasty led by Ken Shipley now has won 13-straight TRAC titles, 11 of the last 12 Northern Area Championships, and 10 of the last 12 Division I Valley Championships.
The Clovis West boys team also won the Central Section title by the hair on their chinny-chin-chin – 381 to 382 over Buchanan. The Golden Eagles got a 73 from Jacob Miller, followed by Kyle Quest (75), Trevor Gardner (77), Tyler Gardner (78) and Adam Montague (78).
Adrian Martinez enrolls early at Nebraska
Adrian Martinez certainly had a most unconventional route to Nebraska, one that had more twists and turns and adversity than Pacheco Pass in a windstorm. The Clovis West dual-threat quarterback was nails his junior year when he combined for over 4,000 total yards and 39 touchdowns and committed first to Cal-Berkeley then Tennessee. Coaching changes at both schools muddied those situations, and despite sitting out his senior year after surgery to repair a torn labrum, Martinez still had close to 30 Division I offers to choose from. In the eleventh hour (almost literally), and a week before National Signing Day on Dec. 20, newly christened Nebraska coach Scott Frost swooped in and made a home visit, a mere 24 hours after coaching his Central Florida team to a Peach Bowl win over Auburn (completing a 13-0 season) and BOOM! the 4-star recruit was sold. “When I was evaluating quarterbacks a year ago around the country, he was my favorite one,” Frost would say. Martinez enrolled at Nebraska in January, making an immediate impact in the sold out Spring Game at Memorial Stadium when he rushed for three touchdowns and threw for one, earning rave reviews from alumni, coaches and the media. And remember this folks – at the Spring Game he was supposed to be a senior in high school.
Buchanan boys water polo domination
Dominating, precise, hungry. Just a few words to describe the 2017 Buchanan boys water polo team. The Bears were unbeaten by Central Section opponents during their 25-5 campaign, winning the TRAC title with ease, and capturing their second straight D-I Central Section championship. In fact, their closest game in Valley play was the championship game against Clovis North, an 8-6 victory in which junior superstar Caleb Archer scored four goals, rallying from a 5-4 deficit. The season didn’t end there though – for the first time there were state playoffs for water polo – and the Bears beat Menlo on the road 10-9 in two OTs before losing 7-4 at Drake. Teams beware: the Bears return their top three scorers in 2018: Archer, Zach Zetz and Gabe Putnam.
Clovis North boys track and field place fifth in state, first in Central Section
The Clovis North boys track and field team was primed for a banner year under the tutelage of coach Rich Brazil and staff, and the boys in black and powder blue went full throttle from the get-go. Featuring a well-rounded squad, the Broncos won the TRAC title, the Central Section Masters and placed fifth at the CIF State Track and Field Championships – and could have very easily placed in the top three if not for a disqualification in the final relay event. Their most exciting bunch was a remarkable 4×100 squad of Caleb Foster, Nathyn Scruggs, Christian Wood and Kurt Kobzeff, racing to second place at the state meet in a school record 41.14 after winning the Masters Meet. That same relay team ran a 40.95 at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in North Carolina on June 18. Foster, just a sophomore, made the state finals in the 110 hurdles (7th) and the long jump (4th) along with the 4×100 relay. Jared Whitt placed 3rd in the triple jump and Wood placed 6th in long jump.
Buchanan boys volleyball win fifth straight Valley title
Okay, let’s just call this Buchanan volleyball program what it is – a dynasty. When the Bears beat Clovis in five sets for the D-I Central Section title, they claimed back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back titles. That’s five (5) backs for those scoring at home, unprecedented in boys volleyball. As far as the 2018 Bears edition they went 28-8 and 9-1 in TRAC and were led by senior setter Kyle Merchen (9.6 assists per set) and senior outside hitters Spencer Heimerdinger (293 kills) and Braden Clarke (270 kills). They were seeded No. 1 in the CIF NorCal Division but lost at home to rival Clovis, the No. 4 seed. The Bears finished ranked No. 9 in the state and No. 16 in the nation.
More Cool Stuff from Clovis Sports
- It was a clean sweep in more ways than one for the Clovis North tennis programs as the boys and girls teams each won TRAC and D-I Central Section team titles. But they weren’t done there – No. 1 Michael Fourchy won the singles title and the No. 1-seeded doubles team of Drew Quall and Billy Schulz followed suit with a title of their own. On the girls side, the Broncos swept Buchanan 6-0 for their second straight title behind the strong play of Tatiana Ruiz, Mercedes Garcia and Jordan Pickett. Great work from the Broncos at the net, and I didn’t even have to use the cheap-trick phrase “tennis anyone?” Victory!
- Clovis West senior Janie Ellis put herself in some fine company after winning her third straight Central Section tennis singles title, but it certainly wasn’t easy – at least at the beginning. After dropping the first set 6-7 (5-7) to Tatiana Ruiz of Clovis North, Ruiz would suffer severe leg cramps in the second, and Ellis seized the opportunity and cruised in the last two sets 6-1, 6-0 for the victory. She’ll be attending Fresno State next year.
- Splish-splash; the No. 4 seed Clovis girls water polo team beat No. 2 Sanger 5-4 to capture the D-I Central Section crown behind senior Abby Mammen’s four goals. The Cougars, who placed second in league, beat No. 1-seeded Clovis West in the quarterfinals after losing to the Eagles twice during the regular season.
- Buchanan goalie Alexa Marchini (by the way, if you haven’t heard she’s the Clovis Roundup Female Athlete of the Year) was money in goal all season for the Bears. But to win the D-I Central Section title, they had to drive down the gorgeous (sarcasm) Highway 99 to Bakersfield to face No. 1 seed Liberty. Playing to a 1-1 tie and then two OTs, they went to the dreaded (not sarcasm) penalty kicks when Marchini, channeling her inner Wonder Woman, saved the day when she blocked the final kick. Pandemonium ensued and another title secured for Buchanan.
- Three more years of soccer superstar freshman Christian Silva (Clovis North) and Taylor Phillips (Buchanan) will certainly be fun as both had phenomenal years. Silva led the Broncos to a TRAC title and a berth in the D-I championship game (a 2-1 loss to Sunnyside where Silva scored a goal in stopped time), scoring an amazing 21 goals in 25 games. Phillips led the Bears with 16 goals in a season they won the TRAC and D-I title.
- Clovis West’s Maddie Campbell was so unconscious (in a good way) in Arizona that even a left handed, desperation three-point shot went in. The junior star player kept that heat-check sizzlin’ when she scored a school record 41 points in a 81-58 victory over Lake Highland Prep in the Nike Tournament of Champions on Dec. 21. She hit 9 of 14 three-pointers in the game and is on pace to break some all-time records next year; during the 2017-18 season, the 5-foot-11 USC commit scored 737 points, sank 120 three-pointers and is second all-time in career threes with 224 and sixth all-time in points with 1,265.
- A couple of explosive scorers and shooters entered the record books, and one has a chance to be one an all-time great. Clovis High’s 5-foot-8 guard Anthony Martinez broke the school career scoring record with 1,343 points and Clovis West freshman Cole Anderson broke the school’s freshman scoring record with 507, becoming only the sixth freshman in Central Section history to score more than 500 points. Anderson, who holds five Division I offers including Fresno State and San Diego State, was also named Co-TRAC Player of the Year for the 26-4 and league champion Golden Eagles. Clovis West coach Vance Walberg has never seen a freshman named league player of the year.
- This year’s girls basketball season was the most competitive in a long time but guess what – next year is gonna be lit. Clovis West (32-4) finished 2018 ranked No. 5 in the state and Clovis North (26-6) No. 11 and those two played three competitive games this year with the Golden Eagles winning all three including the D-I title game 63-49. Clovis High (22-13) was placed in the D-III NorCal playoffs and went to the championship game before losing 59-54 to West Campus. All three schools return their top players including Cal-Hi Sports Sophomore of the Year Rowan Hein from Clovis North and teammate Savannah Tucker (First Team Sophomores), Clovis West’s Madison Campbell (First Team All-Elite), Champney Pulliam (Third Team Juniors), Nikki Tom (First Team Freshmen) and Clovis’ Avery Evans (Second Team Sophomores). And watch out for rising Buchanan soon-to-be-junior Morgan Mathis.
- Parity was the word in baseball as Clovis West won the TRAC (recently voted the ninth best high school conference in the nation) with a 10-5 mark, a record that in most years would place second. However, this was no ordinary year on the diamond as three schools (Buchanan, Clovis North, Clovis East) were all even at 9-6. Clovis West would earn to the No. 1 seed and met Stockdale in the D-I title game at Rawhide Stadium. However, there was no joy in Clovis that night, for the Golden Eagles were shut out 6-0 and denied their first title since 2004. Kohl Simas was named the TRAC Co-Player of the Year with Clovis East’s Jared Aguilar. Nick Castro, Chase Prieto, Dusty Schramm, Karson Simas and Rodney Wright were the major contributors for the Golden Eagles.
- A double medal winner at the CIF State Track and Field Championships at Veterans Memorial Stadium, Clovis senior Jake Woods had himself a great meet, hurdling and sprinting to a fourth-place finish in the 300 (37.57) and fifth in the 110 (14.22).
- When Buchanan sophomore Corie Smith won the D-I individual title at the CIF Cross Country Championships, right there behind her was best friend, junior Meagen Lowe, making a BFF one-two finish and leading the Bears to a 2nd place team finish. They also finished 1-2 at the Valley meet, and a Central Section title, however, it was Lowe finishing first and Smith second, proving the theory that sharing is caring. At the CIF State Track and Field Championships, they both made the finals of the 1600 and 3200. The Buchanan girls also won the team championship in the TRAC and Masters Meet. For the first time since 2010, both the Buchanan boys and girls teams won Division I Cross Country team titles. The boys were led by Hayden Hansen, Ryan Toto, Dustym McKenney, Kelly Brewer, Andrew Goff, Thor Swanson, and Bo Olsen.
- It’s no secret Buchanan baseball had a down year at 19-11-1 overall, but they have a strong senior-to-be class with pitcher Jake King, shortstop Brady Hormel, outfielder Brock Jones, brother outfielders Miguel and JD Ortiz and pitcher and first baseman TJ Fondtain.
- Clovis Unified hosted three CIF State championships – cross country at Woodward Park, swimming and diving at the Clovis Olympic Swim Complex at Clovis West and the state track and field meet at Veterans Memorial Stadium. It’s been heard numerous times that Clovis has the best facilities in the state – and the facts would seem to point in that direction.
- Buchanan football seems loaded in 2018 for a return trip the D-I Central Section football championship game, where the Bears lost 30-7 to Central in 2017. Along with heavily recruited running back Kendall Milton, they have Sanger transfer Jalen Cropper, who can line up in multiple positions on offense, Brock Jones who holds D-I offers for baseball and football, and quarterback Carson Bailey (brother of Brent Bailey who plays for Fresno State). They’re going to be fun to watch.
- The Clovis North boys swim and dive team won the TRAC Central Section and were led by senior Michael Jia, who defended his titles in the 100 butterfly and 50 free and was on the winning 200 free relay team with juniors Cole Fleming and Benjamin Forbes and sophomore Bodhi Bowden.
- Clovis High’s Averee Preble took third place in the 500 free at the CIF State meet, the highest spot for any Clovis Unified swimmer.