Clovis West Invitational set to host 1,400-plus swimmers and divers this weekend

More than 1,400 swimmers and divers representing 41 high schools will converge in Fresno on Friday and Saturday for the 26th annual Clovis West Invitational.

The meet — featuring varsity and junior varsity competition — begins at 8:30 a.m. Friday with diving and continues at 8:30 a.m. Saturday with swimming.

Top area swimmers entered include Sanger freshman Jillian Hatch (200 free, 500 free), Clovis senior Hannah Harvey (50 free, 500 free) and Clovis West senior McKenna Fife (200 individual medley, 100 back) and junior Mary Brooks (50 free, 100 free).

On the boys side, top locals are Clovis senior Ryan Perry (50 free, 100 free) and Clovis West junior Justin Wright (200 free, 100 Fly). Golden Eagles coach Adam Reid said Wright is a good bet to set the meet record in the 500 free having already swam an automatic All-American time in the event this season.

St. Ignatius College Prep of San Francisco and Westlake are the top out-of-town schools entered.

Bullard’s Pacheco, Central’s Rodriguez earn Grizzlies Hot Stove awards

Central’s Rachel Rodriguez. (GARY KAZANJIAN/THE FRESNO BEE)

Niko Pacheco of Bullard and Rachel Rodriguez from Central will be honored Thursday as the prep baseball and softball players of the year at the Fresno Grizzlies’ 52nd Anniversary Hot Stove Gala.

The Kerman baseball squad is the team of the year and the Lions’ Jay Preuss is coach of the year.

The Al Radka Award winner also will be announced during the Hot Stove Gala at the Fresno Convention Center in downtown Fresno. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

The gala features  guest speakers Ryan Vogelsong of the San Francisco Giants and former Fresno State star Doug Fister of the Detroit Tigers.

As juniors last spring, Pacheco and Rodriguez helped lead their respective teams to Central Section D-I titles. Preuss’ Kerman team won the D-IV baseball title.

Prep notes variety pack (football all-stars, section finals at Bulldog Stadium?, & hoops)

Clovis North coach Cory Hall reacts on the sideline during a game against Memorial at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Clovis Thursday, September 29, 2011. (CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE)

A few thoughts as January turns to February on a spectacular 65-degree Friday:

** Bee football All-Stars that were published Friday:

– Yes, Clovis North’s Cory Hall was supposed to be listed among the Coach of the Year finalists (he’s been added to the online story). He was actually a close runner-up to Mendota’s Beto Mejia. Quite impressive that both have won Central Section division titles in their first two seasons as prep head coaches.

– I also gave Clovis North’s Isaiah Duran long, serious consideration for Player of the Year before going with teammate and quarterback Christian Rossi. Duran flat got it done as a lineman on both sides of the ball.

** Housing all six section football finals over two days at Bulldog Stadium is gaining traction. The concept is the same in what has been an enormous success in basketball for eight years at Selland Arena. What’s making the football gig possible is Fresno State offering a huge discount rate. This will come down to Kern County schools accepting the idea, giving up potential home-field advantages — ala, Bakersfield at legendary Griffith Field.  Keep in mind: The section’s CIF office has returned thousands of dollars to its schools as a result of the basketball financial windfall at Selland. Read more →

Rugby festival set for Saturday at Wawona Middle School

The Bullard Rugby Club works on passing skills during practice on Monday January 18, 2010. (DARRELL WONG/THE FRESNO BEE)

Get ready to get your scrum on.

All of the Fresno-area rugby clubs — from the high school level to the Fresno State club team to the Fresno Rugby Club — are scheduled to be featured Saturday as part of a day-long festival to the sport at Wawona Middle School in Fresno.

Bullard, Fresno, Roosevelt, Buchanan, Clovis West and Clovis will play in a high school tournament, featuring time-shortened games, starting at 8 a.m. and running until noon. A JV match between Buchanan and Clovis will follow.

After the prep matches, the Fresno Rugby Club will take on Vacaville at 1 p.m. and the Fresno State club team will face off against Nevada at 2 p.m.

The event is free to attend. For more information, contact Harlie Smith with the Central California Youth Rugby Foundation at (559) 259-7073.

Bold move for Fresno Unified in football: No offseason full contact

Bullard’s head coach Donnie Arax, center, greets the Central High coaching staff midfield after a scrimmage game against Central High at Central High on Friday night, August 17, 2012, in Fresno. (ERIC PAUL ZAMORA/THE FRESNO BEE)

In the most progressive move yet in the north Valley to reduce football injuries — specifically concussions — the Fresno Unified School District on Tuesday adopted a policy to prohibit full contact in the offseason.

That means no tackle in pads will be allowed outside of August, when practice begins, through the teams’ final games of the season, in November or December.

Offseason tackle in gear is commonplace at the high school level in summer camps and scrimmages.

“It’s tough for me to make this concession because I’m a dinosaur, we hit more than any team in the area and I’m going to miss it,” Bullard coach Donnie Arax says. “But I think it’s a smart move because this concussion issue isn’t going away. This is a great sport and we’ve got to establish measures to keep it so we don’t start losing kids. Parents in suburban schools are not going to let their kids play football if we don’t make changes.” Read more →

McLane to host first Central Section girls wrestling finals

The evolution of girls wrestling in the area continues Feb. 14 with the inaugural Central Section championships meet at McLane High.

Marina Doi of Kingsburg High was the 2011 CIF state champion at 98 pounds as a sophomore.

Wrestling begins at 10 a.m., with the finals to be held that evening under the lights on one mat. McLane coach Bruce Lippmann said he expects a field of more than 125 girls in the first section finals.

The top two in each of the 14 weight classes advance to the CIF State Girls Championships, which will be held Feb. 22-23 in Lemoore.

Last year, the Highlanders’ Anissa Hernandez was one of seven Central Section competitors to medal at state when she played third at 235 pounds. Kingsburg’s Marina Doi was the state champion at 98 pounds, Porterville’s Sabrina Sandoval was seventh at 103, Arvin’s Angelica Llanes was second at 108, Arvin’s Kassandra Castruita was sixth at 126, Porterville’s Natalee Ozuna was seventh at 154 and Porterville’s Reyna Pina was seventh at 165.

The CIF launched an official state championship meet for girls in 2011 after five years of holding Northern and Southern California Regional tournaments.

Games notes for Clovis North vs. Long Beach Poly

Notes/thoughts from tonight’s CIF State South Regional matching Clovis North (12-1) and Long Beach Poly (11-3) at Long Beach City College’s Veterans Memorial Stadium:

** This 64-year facility accommodates 11,600 fans and has a combination of aluminum bleachers and fixed chairbacks only on its west side. Clovis North fans are sitting to the north; Poly’s to the south.

** Love to know when the last time Poly and it’s 96-year program — with a state second-best 720 wins all time — has lost twice to Central Section teams in the same season. The Jackrabbits were beaten 29-6 here by Bakersfield Sept. 14. They’re 10-0 since.

** Last week, Poly defeated Mater Dei-Santa Ana 35-17 for the Southern Section’s coveted Pac-5 Division title. Mater Dei’s Chase Forrest passed for 316 yards. He’s the latest in a long line of Monarchs quarterbacks, including Matt Barkley and Matt Leinart. But, in talking to a few people who have seen both Forrest and Clovis North’s Christian Rossi, they say Rossi is clearly a cut above.

** Rossi has been exceptional both in accuracy, decision making and elusiveness while passing for 2,487 yards and 26 touchdowns with seven interceptions and a 63.5 completion percentage.
“He somehow prolongs plays by running around,” Poly coach Raul Lara says. “You can’t bring him down. Obviously, we’re a little concerned.”

** Clovis North senior wide receiver Marcus Rose (31 receptions, 616 yards, 5 TDs) has never been better than last week, when he caught six passes for 105 yards and a TD in the Broncos’ 27-10 win over Central for the section D-I championship. That was a highly acclaimed Grizzlies secondary he burned. And he’ll encounter another tonight.

CW’s Central Valley Showdown: Section’s best girls hoops tourney — EVER!

State two-time defending Division I champion Mater Dei-Santa Ana is one of four state preseason Top 25-ranked girls basketball teams in this week’s Central Valley Showdown at Clovis West.

State-ranked teams in the 16-school field — the strongest in section girls basketball history — are No. 3 Mater Dei (34-3 last season), No. 14 Lynwood (26-5), No 15 Hanford (25-5) and No. 21 Ridgeview (24-8).

Hanford (D-I, Ridgeview (D-III) and Memorial (D-IV) are 2012 Central Section champions entered in the event, which will run Thursday through Saturday at two Clovis West gyms.

College-bound players in the tourney include Hanford’s Bayli McGlard (Gonzaga), Ridgeview’s Erica McCall (Stanford) and Mater Dei’s Karlie Lou (Stanford).

Bullard (23-6), a rising section program under coach Bill Engel, will learn firsthand what it’s like at the top when the Knights close first-round play against Mater Dei at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in the main gym.

Other first-rounders: Clovis East vs. Ridgeview, 4 p.m. (Gym 2); Memorial vs. Clovis West, 4 p.m. (Gym 1); Clovis North vs. Lincoln-Stockton, 5:30 p.m. (Gym 2); Buchanan vs. Oakridge-El Dorado Hills, 5:30 p.m. (Gym 1); Clayton Valley-Concord vs. Hanford, 7 p.m. (Gym 1); Clovis vs. Armijo-Fairfield, 7 p.m. (Gym 2); Bullard vs. Mater Dei-Santa Ana, 8:30 p.m. (Gym 1); Liberty-Bakersfield vs. Lynwood, 8:30 p.m. (Gym 2).

The championship is set for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the main gym.

Buchanan cross country star Hagen Reedy and her “routine”

Had fascinating interviews today with Buchanan cross country star Hagen Reedy, her mother, Shelly and coach, Brian Weaver.

To become a state champion and national-class runner like Reedy requires some serious sacrifices, and she talked freely about them, notably, no dating.

“That would interrupt my routine,” says the 4.0 senior and 2011 state D-I champion who will chase the nation’s finest young female distance runner, Simi Valley’s Sarah Baxter, Saturday in the CIF State Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park.

I’ll tell the story of Colorado-bound Reedy and what got her to this point in a Thanksgiving Day package in The Bee.

Then, on Friday, I’ll feature easily the best thing to happen in the short history of Madera South sports — coach Rich Parris and the cross country program.

Saturday’s state meet schedule: 8:30 a.m., boys D-V; 9 a.m., boys D-I; 9:30 a.m., girls D-V; 10:05 a.m., girls D-I; 10:40 a.m., boys D-II; 11:10 a.m., girls D-III; 11:45 a.m., boys D-IV; 12:15 p.m., girls D-II; 12:50 p.m., boys D-III; 1:20 p.m., girls D-IV.