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Leader Top 10 Sports Stories of the Year: Burbank boys’ cross-country state meet success tops list

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The success of the Burbank High boys’ cross-country team at the state meet is the top sports story of the year.
(Esterlita Jenkins)

Chosen by the Burbank Leader sports staff, here are the top 10 sports stories of 2019.

1 Burbank High boys’ cross-country places fifth in state meet: The Bulldogs did not disappoint on the season’s biggest stage, earning the program’s finest effort in state competition.

Burbank had five of its scoring runners move up at least 10 spots in the final mile at Fresno’s Woodward Park in the CIF State Championships in November, rallying for fifth place in the Division I boys’ race with 181 points, the best finish in program history.

Burbank took advantage of its opportunity by demonstrating tenacity and mental toughness to complete its comeback from being in ninth place at the mile mark in the Division I final.

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The Bulldogs had three athletes finish in the top 50, led by senior Victor Goli, who improved 20 spots in the final mile to place 14th in 15 minutes, 20.7 seconds.

Burbank had finished sixth in Division II in the 2000 state competition, tying for fifth with Concord De La Salle, but enduring a tough setback on a sixth-runner tiebreaker. That Bulldogs’ lineup had only one athlete, Thomas Harley placing 18th in 15:52, eclipse the 16-minute mark.

There was no such drama in the finals this season, with the Bulldogs producing four individuals that ran under 16 minutes, including senior Anthony Chiaravalle finishing 36th in 15:39.7, junior Andres Leon placing 50th in 15:46.2 and senior Dayne Ellis taking 61st in 15:54.4.

Junior Tyler Jenkins was 88th (16:11.7) and seniors Steven Wright (16:18.5) and Tadeh Shanazari (16:56.8) were 102nd and 155th, respectively, for the Bulldogs, who relied on heavier volume during summer training with Burbank legend Jeff Nelson, coach Kathryn Nelson’s husband, to spark a turnaround from placing 30th in its own division at the Southern Section prelims last season.

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Burbank was 21st in the overall merge of 101 schools with its 2000 performance. The Bulldogs found themselves 10th out of 118 teams, including fifth among all Southern Section programs, one week after placing fourth in its own division at the section final in Riverside.

The Bulldogs also clocked a program-record team time of 78:52.7, becoming the third Pacific League program to break the 79-minute mark at Woodward Park, joining the 2017 Crescenta Valley squad that ran 78:28.5 at the ASICS Clovis Invitational and the 2014 Burroughs lineup that clocked 78:50.8 and placed fourth in the Division I state final.

Burbank also elevated to the No. 38 all-time school ever to run at Woodward Park, with the top six teams in the race all part of that prestigious list, in addition to ranking 29th among Southern Section programs all-time on the course.

Photo Gallery: Burroughs vs. Burbank in Pacific League track
Burbank’s Jayla Flowers enjoyed league, CIF Southern Section and state success in the girls’ triple jump in 2019.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

2 Burbank High’s track athlete Flowers gets fifth in state in triple jump: In the track and field season in the spring, it was a Bulldogs sophomore who made some noise.

Flowers captured a pair of girls’ league crowns at the Pacific League finals. She had a mark of 16 feet, 9 1/4 inches in the long jump and turned in a 36-2 effort in the triple jump.

Flowers continued her success in a series of meets, advancing to the 101th annual CIF State Track and Field Championships at Buchanan High in Clovis. Flowers became the first athlete in area history to make the state podium in the girls’ triple jump since the event was added to the championship schedule in 1982, improving her own school record of 39-6 on her final attempt to place fifth.

Flowers, who was named the Leader Girls’ Athlete of the Year, decided not to compete in basketball for the 2019-20 season to concentrate on track in field.

Photo Gallery: Providence vs. Flintridge Prep in Prep League boys’ basketball
Providence head coach Brandon Lincoln helped guide the Pioneers to a wealth of success during the 2018-19 season.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

3 Providence High boys’ basketball nets wealth of success: The Pioneers enjoyed a season in which they won a league title, advanced to a CIF Southern Section championship game and won two games in the state playoffs.

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Providence made its way to a second CIF division championship game in program history. But to get there, Providence first sprinted through the Prep League unscathed with an undefeated run to the league title in its first season in the new league.

Still hungry for more, Providence (28-8) enjoyed a lengthy playoff road to the CIF Southern Section Division IV-A championship game. However, for the top-seeded Pioneers, their quest for their first basketball title fell short in a 56-45 loss to Ribet Academy.

On its way to the championship game, the Pioneers bested Foothill Tech, 84-45 in the opening round, Pomona, 77-64, in the second round, Wiseburn-Da Vinci 75-49 in the quarterfinals and No. 4 Orange Vista, 73-54, in the semifinals.

Behind All-CIF trio A’Jahni Levias, Jordan Shelley and Bryce Whitaker, the Pioneers extended their season in the Division IV CIF State Championships as the No. 2 seed.

The team convincingly won their first two rounds of the state championships, but their run was halted in the regional semifinal at home against third-seed Silverado with a 50-41 loss.

The Pioneers defeated Roybal, 73-33, and seventh-seed Independence, 64-58, to book a spot in the regional semifinal.

Shelley concluded the season averaging 16.8 points and five rebounds per game, Levias contributed 13.8 points and nine rebounds and Whitaker, the Leader Boys’ Athlete of the Year, recorded 9.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists and two steals.

Photo Gallery: Former coaches Kemp, Kallem honored at Burbank High
Former Burbank High School coaches Dave Kemp, left, and Frank Kallem, right, where honored with the distinction of having the school field named in their honor, Kemp Kallem Field, during celebration on campus in Burbank on Saturday, May 4, 2019.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

4 Burbank High field named after longtime coaches, athletic directors Kemp, Kallem: In May, the school paid tribute to two beloved figures: Dave Kemp and Frank Kallem.

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Kemp and Kallem were the guests of honor at a celebration of their contributions from a combined 85 years of survive to Burbank High in a ceremony that was attended by many who have known and have benefited from the pair’s decades of dedication.

The two longtime friends, confidants and colleagues, who happened to marry sisters, were ultimately bestowed the honor of the facility bearing their names, from that day forward to be known as Kamp-Kallem Field.

It was evident what a profound impact Kemp and Kallem have made during their tenure — and beyond — at Burbank High by the number of former students and athletes who attended the event. Many of those individuals took the time to thank the two men and let them know how much Kemp and Kallem impacted their lives.

To both men, who graduated from Hoover High and attended Glendale Community College, the relationships they developed with those former students and athletes is the most rewarding and fulfilling aspect of their tenures, as Kemp dedicated 38 years and Kallem gave 34 years of service to Burbank High.

Photo Gallery: Burroughs girls’ soccer wins Pacific League title by defeating Burbank in rival game
Burroughs’ Olivia Aguilar pulls teammates Lauryn Bailey and Lily Gonzalez together for a celebratory embrace after learning the team is Pacific League champions after defeating rival Burbank in the final regular girl’s soccer game of the season at Burroughs High School on Thursday, January 31, 2019. Burroughs won the game 5-1.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

5 Burroughs High girls’ soccer captures first league title in 26 years: It was an accomplishment that was a long time coming for the Indians program during the 2018-19 season.

Behind co-Pacific League Players of the Year Lily Gonzalez and Lauryn Bailey, the Indians captured the program’s second league title and first since 1993.

It is only the second league championship for Burroughs in program history and the first since a team coached by Rob Kodama won a crown in the Foothill League.

In February, the Indians defeated cross-town rival Burbank, 5-1, to secure the title at Memorial Field.

Under coach Brady Riggs, Burroughs went 16-4-2 and 12-1-1 in the Pacific League to finish first over Crescenta Valley and Arcadia. In the Division IV playoffs, the Indians opened with a 4-1 win against Artesia and fell in the second round to Hemet, 4-2.

Photo Gallery: Dual Pacific League swim meet between Burroughs and Burbank
Burroughs’ Maya Wilson looks up at a teammate after winning the 200 individual medley, setting a new school record, in a dual Pacific League swim meet between Burbank and Burroughs at Burroughs High School on Wednesday, April 17, 2019.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

6 Burroughs High swimmer Maya Wilson wins CIF championship, breaks records: The Indians standout was able to continue her record-breaking career during her junior season.

Wilson put the finishing touches on her domination of the Burroughs record books and now holds every individual all-time mark in all eight events.

At the Pacific League finals, Wilson broke the league record in the 100-yard freestyle in the first leg of the 400 freestyle relay with a time of 51.95 seconds, eclipsing a mark set in 1992. She also captured a league title in the 100 butterfly in 55.58.

In the the CIF Southern Section Division III finals in Riverside in May, Wilson, who will continue her career at UCLA, captured a title in the 200 freestyle in 1:49.94, earning All-American consideration.

Photo Gallery: Local golfers in Pacific League play
Burroughs High School freshman Lincoln Melcher lines up his shot on the green during Pacific League play at Harding Golf Course in Los Angeles on Thursday, March 14, 2019.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

7 Burroughs High’s Lincoln Melcher has fine showing in CIF tournaments: The freshman golfer came on in the later part of the spring season for the Indians, as he enjoyed a remarkable individual effort.

Melcher, who has verbally committed to UCLA, finished second in the Pacific League, shooting a 67 to finish with a 68.66 average in the individual tournament in April. He was edged out by Burbank’s JJ Nakao, who fired a 65 to place first at Hansen Dam Golf Course in Pacoima.

Melcher helped the Indians place second in the league team standings.

Melcher then experienced impresive results in Southern California tournaments. Melcher finished his season at the CIF/Southern California Golf Assn. Southern California Boys’ Championship, tying for 25th with a two-over-par 74 at Brookside Golf Course No. 1 in Pasadena.

Photo Gallery: Burroughs High soccer vs. Oak Park
Burroughs High boys’ soccer coach Mike Kodama headed the Indians program for three decades.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

8 Longtime Burroughs High boys’ soccer coach Mike Kodama steps down: In November, the mainstay stepped aside to concentrate on health issues after building the Indians into a winning program for three decades.

During Kodama’s tenure, the Indians captured 11 league titles — in the Pacific League and Foothill League — and his squad advanced to the Division III championship game in 1994. In addition, his Burroughs players have garnered 35 All-CIF honors under his tutelage.

Last season, the Indians captured the Pacific League title.

Although Kodama has stepped aside, his son, Mitchell, has taken over the daily duties with the team. However, the elder Kodama is still around, attending Burroughs matches.

Photo Gallery: Burbank vs. Burroughs in Pacific League boys’ volleyball
Burroughs’ head coach Joel Brinton led the Indians volleyball team to it’s 10th straight Pacific League title.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

9 Burroughs High boys’ volleyball captures 10th straight league crown: The Pacific League domination continued for the Indians during the 2019 season.

For the 10th straight season, the Indians won the Pacific League championship.

Led by league player of the year and All-CIF Southern Section Division II first-team honoree Sam Tipton and under the direction of veteran coach Joel Brinton, the Indians dropped just one match in league, ending with a 13-1 record.

The Indians defeated Sherman Oaks Notre in three sets to open the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs before falling to Mission Viejo in three sets in the second round.

burbank little league senior all-stars softball team
Members of the Burbank senior Little League All-Star softball team hold up their state championship banner after beating Los Angeles, 10-0, on July 10.
(Vincent Nguyen)

10 Burbank Little League Senior team reaches World Series: It was a season filled with success for the Media City softball squad.

Burbank won the District 16, State and West Region championships, propelling it to the World Series in Lower Sussex, Dela, in August. It marked the first time an area softball squad appeared in the World Series since 2010.

Unfortunately for the Media City squad, it couldn’t sustain its momentum in the 10-team World Series and ended with a 9-8 loss in eight innings to East Region representative Pennsylvania in a consolation contest.

Burbank, coached by Rocco Buffolino, finished 1-5 in the tournament. It went 1-3 in pool-play contests, beating Europe-Africa (Netherlands) and losing to Michigan, Canada and South Carolina. Burbank suffered a 6-2 loss to Asia-Pacific in a winner’s-bracket game Friday before falling to Pennsylvania.

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