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Column: A look at the summer stars in a variety of high school sports

Katie Gomez of Birmingham High won the Under-16 Cadet freestyle wrestling world championship in Budapest, Hungary.
(Randy Miller)

School will start soon, marking the end of summer sports competition. In 2020, there was no competition because of COVID-19. This summer, it was back to normal, with nonstop activities, lots of traveling and players trying to attract the attention of college recruiters.

Here’s a look at players and teams earning a look:

Basketball

It was a frantic time. The regular season ended in late June, forcing players to immediately start traveling and playing nonstop for a month in a bid to be seen for recruiting purposes.

Some players didn’t really need to convince anyone about their talent. Corona Centennial guards Kylan Boswell and Jared McCain led their team to the Southern Section Division 1 championship, then kept proving it was no fluke, helping the Huskies win two tournament titles and helping their travel team win a 16U championship. Also on that travel team was point guard Tyler Rolison from St. Bernard and guard Dusty Stromer from Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, both of whom made major contributions.

Sophomore guard Isaiah Elohim of Heritage Christian averaged 28 points in one competition, establishing himself as one of the best underclassmen in Southern California.

Notre Dame had a summer victory over Santa Ana Mater Dei after not making the playoffs during the regular season, an indication the Knights could be the main challenger to Harvard-Westlake in the Mission League.

In girls’ basketball, the big news was the confirmation that Windward junior Juju Watkins has transferred to Sierra Canyon. Watkins is considered the best player from the class of 2023.

Football

There were weeks of camps, allowing players to visit colleges and have unofficial tryouts. There was also extensive seven-on-seven competitions, though with the season ending in April, coaches really didn’t need to go all out to learn more about players.

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Among quarterbacks, junior Malachi Nelson of Los Alamitos announced a commitment to Oklahoma and showed in passing competitions that he has separated himself from others his age.

Skill position players at several schools rivaled those at powerhouses St. John Bosco and Mater Dei. Servite, Corona Centennial and Santa Margarita all had productive moments.

Schools had a chance to finally let their players focus on gaining strength in the weight room. That should be important when the season begins Aug. 19. Also watch how many of the freshmen who played in the spring can make an even bigger jump at the varsity level.

Baseball

The top pitchers who threw extensively during the spring smartly took the summer off to rest their arms. All eyes are on sophomore Bryce Rainer of Harvard-Westlake to see if he makes an impact hitting like he did on the mound.

The Area Code tournament will take place next month in a final summer activity.

Pitcher Kassius Thomas of Sierra Canyon played in the High School All-American Game at Coors Field.

Softball

The Inland Empire-based Athletics Mercado travel teams won Top Club national championships for 18U and 14U.

Two of the top players to watch for next spring are infielder Amari Harper of Corona Santiago, a Texas A&M commit, and infielder Ramsey Suarez of Great Oak, a UCLA commit.

Wrestling

Katie Gomez of Birmingham won the U16 Cadet freestyle world championship for 53 kilos in Budapest, Hungary. She’ll be a senior this fall and a heavy favorite to win a state championship.

City Section football coaches continue to push to keep programs going

Track

Get ready for a year of Newbury Park runners dominating in cross-country and distance running. Senior Colin Sahlman spent the summer preparing for what could be a record-setting season. State championships will return in cross-country and track after none were held last school year.

The excitement is building for a group of sprinters that will battle it out in big track meets next spring. Rodrick Pleasant of Gardena Serra and Patrick Ize-Iyamu of Chaminade are the two fastest next to Mater Dei’s Domani Jackson, who might leave for college in January and miss out on the spring races.

Golf

Alexis Faieta, an incoming freshman girls’ golfer for Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, won the Optimist International Junior Golf Championship in the girls’ 13-14 age group in Florida.

Water polo

Laguna Beach is getting four incoming freshmen girls who helped their Vanguard club team win the 14U title at the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics.

Volleyball

A girls’ club team loaded with Marymount players won the national championship at the Junior Olympics in Las Vegas. Stanford-bound Elia Rubin of Marymount is the player to watch this fall.


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