It’s been said you play like you practice.
It that’s true then these athletes who played in the following games and performed on the biggest stage must practice like their hair is on fire. It takes a special mindset, certainly not for the timid and weak, to be able to rise above the noise and pressure and with laser-like focus perform at an elite level. These athletes certainly did.
While they are many games and performances throughout the 2017-18 year that deserve recognition, there are four that stand out, worthy of being honored and remembered for a long time.
Boys Game(s) of the Year
CLOVIS BASEBALL AND BLAKE SODERSTEN
Throwing one no-hitter in a season is quite an accomplishment for any high school kid, but throwing two in the same season? Now that’s something to hang your hat on. Enter Clovis High’s 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior right-hander Blake Sodersten who accomplished the rare feat with a no-no against Tulare Western on Feb. 12 when he struck out 11 and walked none in a 7-0 victory then doubled his fun on March 2 with a 4-0 win over Clovis West, a six-strikeout, two-walk, no-hit performance against the eventual TRAC champs and Valley finalist. No other Clovis High pitcher had even pitched two no-hitters in their career, let alone two in one season. That feat nowu belongs to Sodersten alone.
Girls Game of the Year
CLOVIS WEST VS. HARVARD-WESTLAKE
At home and in front of a capacity crowd in the second round of the CIF State Open Division basketball playoffs, Clovis West had its work cut out against a Harvard-Westlake squad who had set its sights on knocking off the defending CIF Open Division State Champs. The game certainly didn’t start well for the Golden Eagles, as they fell behind 13-4 after the first quarter. However, they clawed their way back to within two points in the fourth quarter and had the ball with 17 seconds left on the clock. Deciding to go for the win, and with star Madison Campbell on the bench after fouling out, Clovis West called on Champney Pulliam and then the magic: after a screen from Aari Sanders and a pass from Nikki Tom, Pulliam pulled the trigger after a slight pump fake and swished a game-winning three-pointer from the right side with 1.7 seconds remaining for a 46-45 victory, lifting the Golden Eagles into the SoCal Open Regional Finals and sending the crowd home in a frenzy.
Boys Performance of the Year
SETH NEVILLS, CIF STATE WRESTLING TOURNEY
To say that Seth Nevills dominated the competition at the CIF State Wrestling Championships is a massive understatement. The heavyweight from Clovis marched through opponents like they were made of water at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield March 3-4, pinning all six hapless challengers in record fashion, the final match against No. 2 seed Jake Levengood lasting a mere one minute and 11 seconds. The win capped an amazing career as Nevills became only the third ever four-time California state wrestling champion in the meet’s 46-year history. Now with the youngest of the four wrestling Nevills brothers (along with Nick, Zach and A.J. they won nine total state gold) graduating, the 2019 CIF Wrestling tournament will be a first without a Nevills.
Girls Performance of the Year
CORIE SMITH, BUCHANAN CROSS COUNTRY
Running on her home course at Woodward Park on the biggest stage – the CIF State Cross Country Championships – sophomore Corie Smith ran the race of her life. As is the case with all cross country races, opponents fight and claw for position. And after the dust had settled, Smith found herself 15 yards behind the leader with 800 meters left. It was then Smith could hear one of her coaches imploring her with encouragement: “You can do this! You’ve been training all season for this!” And that was all Smith needed as she crossed the finish line in a heap of exhaustion with seconds to spare, 3.1 to be exact, to claim the title of Division 1 champion in a time of 17:16.1. And who did she beat by 3.1 seconds? None other than best friend and Buchanan teammate Meagen Lowe.