Los Angeles Times

CV's Atanackovic puts his best foot forward

The top-10 male high school athletes from the 2011-12 season were voted on by the Glendale News-Press sports department. These are selections 2-10. See the Aug. 23 edition for the Male Athlete of the Year.

2 Pavle Atanackovic, Crescenta Valley High soccer, senior — The UC Irvine bound striker's right foot wasn't just dangerous, it was versatile.

Already a soccer prodigy well before arriving at CV as a sophomore, Atanackovic developed into an All-CIF placekicker for the Falcons football team and enjoyed excellent seasons in both sports during his senior year.

Of course, the crowning achievement of his prep career came on the soccer pitch in the winter, as he was the driving force behind the program's first-ever CIF Southern Section Division IV title.

With Atanackovic providing scoring punch to the tune of a an area and school-record 39 goals, the Falcons didn't suffer a loss until their final game of the season, going 23-1-6 and even reaching the finals of the CIF Southern California Regional Championships after claiming the divisional crown with a 3-0 win over El Rancho at Warren High on March 2.

"He could score just about any way," CV Coach Grant Clark said. "He's that rare kind of player who is big, strong and quick all at the same time. He could dish out and take a lot while playing physical and that also took him to the next level."

Following the season, Atanackovic was named to the All-Pacific League and All-CIF Division IV first teams, to go along with mirror honors he earned in football after converting eight field goals, including kicks of 52 and 49 yards, and making all 35 of his point-after attempts.

Atanackovic was also named All-Area Boys' Soccer Player of the Year.

3 Harrison Thai, Crescenta Valley swimming, junior — Having either teammate Young Teo Seo or Thai on its roster would have made Crescenta Valley an instant CIF contender. Having both made the Falcons a champion.

Already a multiple CIF and Pacific League titlist and record holder from his first two years of high school swimming, Thai solidified his status as one of the top athletes in the Southern Section by winning two CIF individual titles on May 12 in furthering the Falcons' Division II title win.

Thai took first in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100 backstroke, while also swimming on the winning 200-medley relay squad and the 400-freestyle relay team whose win clinched the team title over Damien.

"It's a pretty sweet win for me because I've been in it for the last two years and I've been out-touched every time," Thai said of his first CIF win in the backstroke. "It's nice to finally win this one, especially."

At the league finals, Thai won a title and tied the league record in the 100 backstroke, while also winning titles in the 200-individual medley and the 200-medley relay and 400-freestyle relay.

4 Hakop Kaplanyan, Hoover water polo, senior — In order to make a historic playoff run, the Tornadoes needed a player for the ages.

Kaplanyan certainly fit that bill, as the 2012 All-Area Boys' Water Polo Player of the Year proved to be the driving force in propelling Hoover to the semifinals of the CIF Division IV playoffs for the first time in program history.

Kaplanyan's unmatched scoring ability and rare combination of hulking physical presence mixed with grace and agility was never so magnificently on display as in the Tornadoes playoff run, which came on the heels of a second-place finish in the Pacific League.

Kaplanyan got Hoover's postseason off to a winning start by hitting a buzzer-beater to seal a 14-13 win over Walnut in the opener. Then in a quarterfinal match against Palm Desert, Kaplanyan scored a goal to force overtime, where he would bury the game-winning goal minutes later to send the Tornadoes forward in the postseason with a 16-15 victory.

On the season, Kaplanyan, who was voted to the All-CIF first team as well as being named the Pacific League Player of the Year for the second year in a row, finished with 139 goals, recorded 47 assists and notched 103 steals.

"There's no doubt I'm happy with how my team did this year and the accomplishments we had," Kaplanyan said. "We made Hoover history and that's all we needed. I'm happy for the effort my team put in and I know everybody played their hearts out every single game."

5 Michael Davis, Glendale football, track and field, junior — With his sure hands and fleet feet, Davis set himself apart in the fall and the spring.

After starring as a wideout on the Nitros football team, Davis became the first track and field athlete to qualify for the CIF State Championships since 1986 as part of his remarkable postseason run in the 200-meter dash.

Davis' run to state began May 19 when he finished fifth at the CIF Division I championships at Mt. San Antonio College and a week later punched his ticket to Clovis by placing third overall at the Masters Meet at Cerritos College.

Davis' seventh-place finish at state on June 2 had him immediately looking forward to his senior year.

"This is all motivation for next season," Davis said. "I'm going to work hard all year to make sure I get back here and get a state title next year."

The track season provided Davis' brightest highlight of the year, but it was his gridiron grit that landed him a scholarship from Brigham Young University.

Davis earned All-Pacific League first-team honors after hauling in 52 receptions for 860 yards.

6 Nick Ruiz, Crescenta Valley football, soccer, senior — Whether catching footballs or swatting away shot attempts in goal, Ruiz's hands were an integral part of two Falcons' teams this season.

In the case of the soccer team, Ruiz's efforts paid off in the ultimate prize.

"With Nick, without a good goalie, you don't go far, and he made a lot of great saves," Clark said.

Ruiz posted 14 shutouts on the season, including three in the postseason, where he made 53 saves and numerous big plays to keep the title chase alive. He saved two potential goals in the Falcons' 2-1 win March 8 over Millikan that clinched a berth in the regional final.

In football, Ruiz recorded more than 1,000 receiving yards, as he hauled in 12 touchdowns on 57 catches while pulling double duty at defensive back.

7 Travis Talianko, St. Francis football, senior — In one of the Golden Knights' most successful seasons in recent lore, Talianko was a key on both sides of the ball as a skilled wide receiver and safety.

The San Jose State-bound Talianko and was voted to the prestigious All-CIF Western Division first team for the third time after finishing the year with 56 tackles and an interception he returned for a 90-plus yard touchdown. He also recorded 44 catches for 687 yards and three touchdowns.

Talianko caught a touchdown pass in the Golden Knights' 49-28 loss to Arroyo Grande in the Western Division quarterfinals.

8 Elliot Surrey, Crescenta Valley baseball — Surrey's left arm was one of the Falcons' most potent weapons during a season in which they captured the Pacific League title for the first time since 2008 and advanced to the first round of the CIF Division I playoffs.

Few opposing batters solved Surrey throughout a season in which the pitcher went 6-1, tallying a 1.11 earned-run average and 73 strikeouts to just three walks.

Bound for UC Irvine in the fall, Surrey was also dangerous with the bat, hitting .341 with 14 runs batted in, 22 runs and eight doubles

"My coaches helped me become a better overall player," Surrey said. "Everything has paid off over the last four years and it will be something great to look back at."

9 Alex Berger, Crescenta Valley soccer, senior — Berger was the man behind many of the goals that propelled the Falcons to their first CIF championship and he was rewarded for his role with a pair of prestigious awards.

After notching 10 goals and a team-leading 29 assists, Berger was bestowed with his first Pacific League Player of the Year award before taking home the All-CIF Division IV Player of the Year award.

Berger was a co-captain on the Falcons team that won the Pacific League crown, the Division IV title and came one win away from winning the Southern California Regional Championships.

"He's just a fabulous player," Clark said. "Without Alex, our offense doesn't run as smoothly."

10 Gareth Weiss, Flintridge Prep track and field, freshman — Weiss' CIF finals debut resulted in an accomplishment few first-timers can claim — a Division championship in the pole vault.

Competing alongside, as well as against his twin brother Barrett, the pair tied with identical marks of 12 feet 9 inches before a tiebreaker determined Gareth to be the champion.

I still can't really believe it, we were just trying to do our best and I didn't expect this," Gareth Weiss said

Honorable Mention: Cole Currie, Crescenta Valley basketball, baseball, junior; Kory Hamane, Flintridge Prep, football, basketball, volleyball, senior; Christian Misi, Crescenta Valley, basketball; Jessy Cantinol, Reniassance Academy, basketball, senior; Vince De Guzman, Renaissance Academy, basketball, senior.

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