Runners took top stage in the world of Santa Clarita sports in 2011. The Saugus girls cross country team set a standard in the state that will be tough to beat. The Centurions won their sixth CIF state title in a row. No other cross country team in the state, boys or girls, has won six state titles in a row. The Golden Valley boys cross country team won its first CIF state championship in school history. Two runners from Golden Valley were selected to the all-state team for finishing in the top 10 at the state meet.
Golfers also had a banner year in 2011. A freshman from College of the Canyons won the women’s state championship. The Saugus boys golf team came out of nowhere to win the CIF Southern Section Northern Team Regional.
Bryan Herta Autosport reached the unexpected pinnacle and hit the tragic pit of the auto racing world. The team owned by Hart High graduate Bryan Herta won the Indianapolis 500 in May with driver Dan Wheldon. Wheldon, again driving a car owned by Herta, was involved in a fatal crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October. Wheldon was collected in a 15-car pileup on lap 11 of the race and died from injuries he sustained on the track. He was 33.
Here are the top 10 sports stories of 2011:
- Nov. 26: The Saugus girls cross country team won its sixth CIF state championship in a row, a feat not matched by either a boys or girls cross country team in state history. Six of the Saugus runners finished in the top 30 at the CIF state meet at Woodward Park in Fresno. Senior Karis Frankian was the top finisher for Saugus in third place. Jenay Jauregui was the next Saugus girl to cross the finish line in 20th place.
- Nov. 26: The Golden Valley boys cross country team won its first CIF state championship despite an off-day from the Grizzlies’ top runner. Juan David Garcia and Nolan Del Valle each finished in the top 10 and earned all-state recognition. Garcia was seventh and Del Valle was 10th. Kristian Martinez, the team’s top runner for most of the season, was 15th.
- May 29: Bryan Herta Autosport won its first Indianapolis 500 with driver Dan Wheldon behind the wheel. The team owned by Valencia’s Bryan Herta was making only its second start in the Indy 500. Wheldon won the race for the second time in his career. Herta and Wheldon were teammates in the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series with Andretti Green Racing. The two teamed up again for the season finale race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October. Wheldon died in the early laps of the race when his car crashed in a multicar pileup.
- Nov. 15: Kristin Grimes, a freshman at College of the Canyons, won the California Community College Athletic Association state golf title. She shot 11-under in the two-day tournament at King County Country Club in Hanford on Nov. 15. She was also selected to the All-American team for winning the state championship.
- May 9: The Saugus boys golf team pulled off quite an upset at the CIF Southern Section Northern Team Regional at Soule Park in Ojai. Saugus, the third-place team in the Foothill League, won the Northern Regional by nine strokes and advanced to the Southern Section Team Final. Four players from Saugus, led by Andrew Moore’s impressive 1-under 71, shot in the 70s. Kevin Holzer shot 4-over 76, Connor Morris was 5-over at 77 and Tyler Larinto shot a 7-over 79.
- Aug. 6: The Hart PONY baseball team won the Mustang World Series in Burleson, Texas, going 5-0 in the tournament. Hart beat the team from Caguas, Puerto Rico, 7-2, in the championship game. Hart had to rally with four runs in the third inning to take a 4-2 lead. The boys scored three more runs in the fourth inning and shut out Caguas over the final three innings of the game. Hart beat the South Post Oak team from Houston, 10-0, in the semifinals.
- March 12: The College of the Canyons ice hockey team won an American Collegiate Hockey Association national championship. COC won the Division III championship, 5-3, over Hope College in the title game. COC beat California University from Pennsylvania in the semifinals and Saginaw Valley State, the 2010 ACHA Division III national champion, in the quarterfinals. Brian Voogt scored two goals against Hope in the championship game. Goaltender Michael McGrath was the tournament MVP.
- March 7: The Canyon girls basketball team earned a berth in the CIF State Division II playoffs. Canyon advanced to the semifinals of the Southern Section Division 2AA playoffs and lost to Buena. The girls reached the second round of the state playoffs, beating Monache in the first round, but losing to top-seeded Rialto, 46-44, in the second round of the Southern California Regional. Alia McCoy led Canyon in scoring against Rialto with 13 points. Jojo DeLong hit four 3-pointers and scored 12 points.
- June 7: Hart High graduate Trevor Bauer was selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was the third overall pick in the draft. He was one of two UCLA pitchers taken in the first round of the MLB draft. Gerrit Cole, Bauer’s UCLA teammate, was the No. 1 pick in the draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
- Oct. 15: Canyon High graduate Greg Pursley won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship, the first of his career. The driver for Gene Price Motorsports won six races and had 12 top-five finishes. He finished outside the top 10 in only two of the 14 West Series races.
Nov. 26: Canyon Country’s RJ Johnson wins NASCAR Super Late Model championship at Toyota Speedway. It was his third track championship at the track. He won the Super Trucks championship in 2009 and the Late Model championship in 2010.
Oct. 18: Valencia’s Connor Cantrell won the NASCAR Super Trucks championship at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, the first of his career. He won four races in a row and had four runner-up finishes. He finished in fourth place or better in all 14 races in the Super Trucks season.
April 20: The Valencia boys volleyball team set a state record with 97 league wins in a row. Valencia beat Saugus in four games to break the record set by Loyola High School. Kurt Fults led Valencia with seven kills in the record-breaking match against Saugus.
Follow Tim Haddock on Twitter @thaddock.