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Looking Back: Conference titles highlight 2018-2019 campaign for Glendale Community College

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The Glendale Community College baseball team captured a division title and enjoyed an impressive playoff run.
(Raul Roa \ Staff Photpgrapher)

Glendale Community College athletics had plenty to cheer about during the 2018-19 season.

It was a year in which a number of teams celebrated conference titles and extended playoff runs, with some title droughts snapped and others extended.

But one of the most topsy-turvy seasons ran through the Vaqueros baseball program, where a strong run through conference culminated in its second straight Western State Conference East Division title and seventh since 2011.

Each game was a battle. Each playoff series was gut-wrenching. Players stepped up when the team needed them the most.

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So, on the back of its conference success, fourth-seeded Glendale journeyed through the California Community College Athletic Assn. Southern California Regionals with victories against No. 13 Santa Barbara College and No. 7 San Diego Mesa.

Against Santa Barbara in the CCCAA Baseball Regionals, the Vaqueros dropped their first game of the best-of-three series, 10-4, before clinching the first-round playoff win in a doubleheader the following day on the strength of a 16-2 victory in the elimination game and a 4-3 win in the series-decider.

In the CCCAA Super Regionals, Glendale swept San Diego Mesa, earning an 8-7 win in an 11-inning thriller, then recording a 12-3 triumph to clinch the series.

Unfortunately, the Vaqueros’ run ended in the CCCAA Southern California Sectionals against No. 2 El Camino College, as the Warriors swept the best-of-three series.

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The Vaqueros finished 30-17, 15-5 in conference.

For their stellar efforts, 15 Glendale players earned All-Western State Conference East Division honors, led by WSC East Player of the Year Michael Choi and WSC East Pitcher of the Year Dexter Wilkerson. Vaqueros interim coach Alex Kocol was named conference coach of the year.

Choi finished off the season with a spot on the Southern California-American Baseball Coaches Assn./Rawlings All-Region Pacific Assn. first team for his performances during the state playoffs. Glendale lead-off batter Trent MacKinney was named to the association’s second team.

Choi, a sophomore catcher, had a .381 batting average (48 for 126) with 36 runs batted in, 32 runs scored, nine doubles and four home runs.

Mackinney led the Vaqueros in hitting with a .430 average (64 for 149), which was ranked No. 2 in the state. He recorded 29 RBI, 47 runs, 10 doubles, four home runs, three triples and added 12 stolen bases.

Wilkerson was 11-2 with a 2.83 earned-run average with 75 strikeouts and 35 walks over 66 2/3 innings.

The team also saw two players selected in the Major League Baseball Draft in June, with pitcher Kevin Holcomb selected in the 13th round (406th overall) by the Houston Astros and infielder Casey Slattery picked in the 38th (1,138th overall) round by the New York Mets.

The Vaqueros baseball program wasn’t the only team that claimed a conference championship, as the women’s basketball, men’s tennis, cross-country and track and field squads joined in on the celebration as the year progressed.

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The cross-country teams kicked off the trend in the fall as both men’s and women’s teams claimed Western State Conference championships in San Dimas in October.

The women’s team, which was ranked No. 1 in Southern California and the state, ousted Moorpark, 40-51, to claim its14th consecutive title, while the men’s squad also edged Moorpark, 35-88, and captured their fourth straight championship.

Marcelo Ramirez won the men’s title and clocked in at 20 minutes, 56.33 seconds over the four-mile course to represent Glendale with the conference championship. For the women’s team, Jennifer Perez-Cazarez ran 18:37.12 to finish third at the finals. In total, the women’s squad had five runners finish in the top 12.

In the Southern California meet in Cerritos, the women’s team finished third behind Los Angeles Harbor and Mount San Antonio college and the men placed fourth.

Unfortunately, the Vaqueros failed to crack the top-five teams at the California Community College Athletic Assn. State Cross-Country Championships, as both the men’s and women’s teams finished fifth. Glendale also failed to place an individual runner among the top 14 racers for the first time in 15 years.

It wasn’t the preferred start to the football season for Glendale in the fall.

The Vaqueros failed to notch a win in their first six games of the season before earning a 40-14 victory against Compton in an American Metro Conference contest.

Though Glendale dropped its following game, the Vaqueros won back-to-back contests to close out the season with a 3-3 conference record and a 3-7 overall mark.

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To add to Glendale’s success was a wintertime celebration with the women’s basketball team.

The Vaqueros tied their best conference finish since the 2002-2003 season and won their first outright Western State Conference East Division title this century.

With a first-round bye, Glendale continued its historic success in the California Community College Athletic Assn. State Championships. In the Southern California Regionals, the Vaqueros defeated El Camino College, 71-55, in the second round.

The ninth-seed Vaqueros were one win away from earning a spot in the CCCAA state tournament, but Glendale fell to eventual state finalist and top-seeded Moorpark, 71-55, in the regional third round.

The Vaqueros suffered just one conference defeat in its successful season. The Vaqueros finished 22-6, 9-1.

Vaqueros sophomore Sylvia Vartazarian earned an All-CCCAA State second-team selection to go with All-Western State East Division honors. Sophomores Cheyenne Jankulovski and Marlene Salazar, along freshman Tess Oakley-Stilson, were bestowed with conference honors.

Vartazarian shot 49 percent from the field and averaged a team-high 13.5 points and nine rebounds in conference play, Jankulovski scored 11.2 points per game, Salazar averaged seven rebounds and Oakley-Stilson recorded nine points per game.

Despite narrowing missing the playoffs, the Vaqueros men’s basketball team notched a pair of Western State Conference East Division first-team honorees in University of Hawaii-Hilo commit Steven Hubbell and Isaac Etter.

Hubbell, a 2016 Burroughs High grad and former All-Area Player of the Year, started 26 games, shot 38 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from three-point rage to average 11.6 points a game.

Etter, a former Bellarmine-Jefferson player, led in scoring with 18.6 points per game, shooting 48.1 percent from the field and 43.5 percent from three.

Vaqueros sophomore Eric Ting received All-WSC honorable mention and averaged 11.3 points.

The Vaqueros’ ended the season 11-17 and were 4-6 in conference, finishing in a three-way tie for third with Victor Valley and Antelope Valley.

Alongside baseball in the spring, the men’s tennis team was triumphant in conference play. For the first time since 2014, the Vaqueros claimed a Western State Conference West Division crown.

With the help of a deep team, it was a 7-2 victory against Santa Barbara City College at home.

Glendale finished undefeated in conference play with an 8-0 mark and recorded a 14-5 overall record on its way to state competition at the Ojai Tournament in late April.

Vaqueros freshman Mark Peneff added a conference singles title, notching a 6-3, 3-0 win against Antonio Rosales of Ventura. Peneff also teamed up with Nicholas Pupiec to advance to the conference doubles championship match against Rosales and Kyle Spiegalman, but the Vaqueros duo defaulted due to an injury.

The Glendale track and field team also made noise with a trio of athletes earning All-American honors alongside Western State Conference titles.

At the Western State Conference finals, Vaqueros duo Sergio Aguilar and Carlos Rivera won WSC championships for the men’s team, while Daisy Romero and Pheobe Forsyth led the women’s team with conference titles.

Aguilar finished the men’s 400-meter hurdles in 54.88 for the title and Rivera won the men’s 1,500 in 4:06.12. Romero captured the women’s 1,500 in 4:42.31 and Forsyth claimed the 3,000 steeplechase in 11:59.30.

The Vaqueros sent 13 athletes — nine men and four women — to the Southern California Track and Field Championships at San Mateo College.

In the state competition, Forsyth finished second in the women’s 3,000 steeplechase with an All-American time of 11:48.56. She was followed by Genesis Siam-Alvarez with a third-place All-American finish of 11:49.22 in the same event. Romero added an All-American mark of 4:54.34 for third place in the state event to go along with her conference title.

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