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Top 10 Sports Stories of the Year: Closing of Bell-Jeff leads list

Top 10 Sports Stories of the Year: Closing of Bell-Jeff leads list
Bellarmine-Jefferson High closing its doors in June is the top sports story of 2018. (Tim berger \ Staff Photographer)

Chosen by the Burbank Leader sports staff, here are the top 10 sports stories of 2018.

1. Bellarmine-Jefferson High shuts its doors: In October of 2017, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles sent out a press release stating Bell-Jeff would be closing at the conclusion of the 2017-18 school year.

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With the commencement ceremony June 2, students from the final Bell-Jeff graduating class closed the books on the high school that was rich in athletic history.

Founded in 1944, Bell-Jeff, a private Roman Catholic school, ultimately couldn’t survive low enrollment, which proved to be its death knell.

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Bell-Jeff produced its share of talented and successful athletes that went on to play at the collegiate and professional levels. Guards teams won four CIF Southern Section titles and one state championship.

"We have tried our best to maintain the sports the past few years and in some cases we have been successful and in some other cases we haven't,” Bell-Jeff athletic director Fred Martinez said. "We just tried to put teams out there that were competitive and we wanted the kids to have fun.

"This past year has been tough, I will admit it. But give credit to the athletes who stayed around and tried to make the best of it. I know it was difficult for them, as well.”

2. Burroughs’ Jagdeep Chahal has historic track and field season: During the track season, the senior ran to CIF Southern Section Division I and Masters Meet championships in the 1,600 meters and advanced to state competition in the 1,600 and 3,200.

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In the Pacific League finals, Chahal pulled off an impressive double, capturing titles in the 1,600 (4 minutes, 21.10 seconds) and 3,200 (9:13.24).

At the CIF Division I prelims, the senior finished third in the 1,600 (4:17.55) and eighth in the 3,200 (9:07.58) to earn a berth to the CIF finals at El Camino College. In the finals, Chahal earned a spot in the Burroughs history books by winning the 1,600 championship in a school-record time of 4:12.73

He became the program's first boys' CIF distance champion and Burroughs' fourth CIF track and field champion.

Chahal also finished third in the 3,200 (9:05.85).

In the Masters Meet, Chahal won a title in the 1,600, lowering his school record to 4:11.09, and placed third in the 3,200 in a personal-best 9:04.83.

In state competition, Chahal finished his successful campaign with a fourth-place finish in the 1,600 (4:12.16) before before placing 14th in the 3,200 (9:09.05).

For his accomplishments, Chahal was named the 2017-18 Burbank Leader Boys' Athlete of the Year.

3. Nick Montijo transfers to Providence, advances to state in cross-country: After the closing of Bellarmine-Jefferson High, the distance runner made the decision to transfer to Providence for his senior season.

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It was a decision that led to an historic accomplishment, as Montijo became the first Pioneers cross-country runner in school history to advance to the CIF State Championships. At the meet at Woodward Park in Fresno, the senior placed 34th in Division V in 16:55.

In addition, Montijo had an eighth-place effort at the CIF Southern Section finals, placed first in his Division V heat at the CIF prelims and placed third in the Prep League finals.

4. Providence girls’ basketball enjoys successful campaign: Under the direction of veteran coach Andrew Bencze, the Pioneers enjoyed another campaign filled with fine accomplishments — something that has become common place for the program.

Behind senior Giselle Camonayan and freshman Melissa Zozulenko, the Pioneers went 9-1 in the Liberty League to notch the program's eighth crown in nine seasons — all under Bencze.

In the playoffs, the Providence (22-9) advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division IV-A semifinals for the first time since 2013, falling to top-seed Rolling Hills Prep, 77-55. The Pioneers also earned a spot in the CIF State playoffs for the third time in program history, losing in the first round to No. 3 Chula Vista Eastlake, 75-36, in Division IV.

5. Elizabeth Switzer of Burroughs soars in pole vault: The senior stepped up during her senior campaign, which culminated in an appearance in the CIF State Track and Field Championships.

Switzer tied with teammate Alexandra Akobian for the Pacific League championship in the pole vault with a mark of 11 feet at the league finals at Arcadia High.

Switzer also competed in the CIF Southern Section Division I prelims at Trabuco Hills High, where she placed third with a personal-best effort of 12-0. That led her to the Division I finals at El Camino College in Torrance where she finished third with a 12-0 mark.

At the Masters Meet, Switzer punched her ticket to state competition as she tied for seventh after hitting an at-large mark of 11-11.

At the first day of the state meet at Clovis Buchanan High, Switzer missed on her third and final try at 12 feet. Switzer finished tied for 16th at 11-6.

Switzer became the fourth Burroughs pole vaulter in the past five years to qualify for state competition.

6. Burroughs girls’ volleyball wins league, plays in CIF quarterfinals: The Indians overcame an early loss in league to win a share of the Pacific League championship with Arcadia.

Burroughs (24-8, 13-1 in league) lost to Arcadia in four games on Sept. 11, rebounded to take the second match against the Apaches in three games on Oct. 3.

It was Burroughs' second straight league championship and third in four seasons.

In the Division III playoffs, the Indians earned wins against Irvine University and Notre Dame Academy to advance to the quarterfinals. In the quarters, Burroughs lost a close contest to Village Christian, 25-17, 21-25, 22-25, 25-15, 15-11. Village Christian went on to win Southern Section and state titles.

Burroughs was led by All-CIF senior Juliana Van Loo.

7. Burbank girls’ cross-country wins league title: Coached by Kathryn Nelson and Robert Hammel, the Bulldogs enjoyed an impressive showing among a competitive Pacific League field.

The Bulldogs swept all three meets. In the finals at Crescenta Valley Park, Burbank finished with 32 points by virtue of five top-11 efforts to win its first league crown since splitting with Crescenta Valley and Arcadia in 2014.

It was Burbank’s first outright league crown since winning the Foothill League championship in 1978.

In the finals, the Bulldogs received an impressive effort from Sol Fernandez, who took second in 19:12.5, while Shalom Mejia clocked 19:36.6 to take third.

8. Burbank’s Matthew Porras has record-breaking football season: The senior quarterback put up impressive numbers and was instrumental in leading the Bulldogs to a second-place finish in the Pacific League.

Porras completed 167 of 282 passes for 2,689 yards. He had 38 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. Porras rushed for 492 yards in 121 carries and three touchdowns to finish with a school record 38 touchdowns and help Burbank go 7-4, 6-1 for second place in league behind Arcadia and qualify for the Division V playoffs.

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The senior also set a number of records, including: a 61% completion percentage; career passing touchdowns with 68; all-purpose yards with 6,378; passing yards in a season; total points in a season; and the single-game touchdown record of seven against Burroughs.

Porras was named an All-Pacific League first-team selection.

9. Kiara Hernandez wins league golf title in freshman season at Burroughs: The golfer had a breakout campaign in her first year with the Indians girls’ team.

In October, Hernandez carded a 10-over-par 80 at Los Robles Golf Course in Thousand Oaks to take the match and claim the league championship.

Hernandez, who placed first in five of six Pacific League contests, shot a 37 on the front nine and 43 on the back nine. She finished with a league-adjusted total of 37.3.

She became the first local golfer to capture a Pacific League individual championship since Burroughs' Emily Tubert accomplished the feat in 2009.

The freshman advanced two rounds in individual competition and advanced to the CIF Southern California Individual Championship, where she shot an 81 at River Ridge Golf Club in Oxnard. Hernandez missed the cut, which was 77.

10. Bell-Jeff boys’ track wins school’s final league championship: A small but determined group of Bellarmine-Jefferson High track and field athletes were motivated to make one last spirited league showing.

Despite having just nine athletes, the Guards boys’ squad captured a Santa Fe League team title.

With the school slated to close in June, the group, which included just nine boys and one girl, were looking to bring Bell-Jeff some final glory at the league finals in May at El Camino College in Torrance.

The Guards more than held their down, as three athletes won two league titles apiece and Bell-Jeff brought home seven total individual championships.

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