Sacramento Stingrays: Local Team with Community Spirit

Photo by Oai Pham

Photo by Oai Pham

Waking up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning for a swim meet may not sound appealing at first. But if you love swimming, your swim team, the families and your coaches, it’s actually not so difficult. That’s just what Sacramento Stingrays participants will say.
One of the founding teams of the Sacramento Swim League (SSL), the Stingrays swim team has been around since 1960. The team—which invites kids ages 5 to 18 to swim to participate—has been swimming at Greenhaven Cabana Club North since the early 1990s. Over the years, the Stingrays have been a top contender in the SSL and have won several league titles from the mid to late 1990s.
But it’s not just the wins that have made the team what it is today, but rather all that it offers its members and families.

Safety and Health
According to KidsHealth.org, drowning is the second leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 5 and 24. So if your child knows how to swim, and better yet, becomes a strong swimmer, this will help she or he if faced with an emergency situation, for example, in an unsupervised pool or while swimming in an ocean or other unpredictable body of water.
In addition, swimming provides tremendous health benefits. Swimming is a rigorous cardiovascular sport, and compared to many other youth sports, swimming has a very low risk of injury.
Stingrays parent Wendi Imagire commented on how her daughters’ swimming skills were honed and strengthened after doing swim team.
“I think that the aerobic and physical training the kids receive is one of the greatest benefits,” Wendi said. “Both my girls have taken group and private swim lessons, but it is on swim team that they have really become ‘swimmers.’ There is just nothing that beats swimming for an hour every day from March until the end of July!”
Another Stingrays parent explained that they joined the team initially because their son was not yet safe in the water.
“Before joining the team, he couldn’t swim the width of the pool—not even doggie paddle,” she said. “After one week of practice, not only could he swim the length of the pool on his own, but he couldn’t wait until the first meet … Swim team is a great mix of individual and team participation. It is great exercise and demands a certain focus from the kids.”
Another great aspect to swimming is that it is a low-impact sport, making it an activity, like cycling, that can be practiced well into adulthood.

Mental Boost, Confidence, Family, and More
Another huge plus to swimming is the emotional benefit. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this water sport improves mental health by boosting one’s mood. In particular, being on a swim team provides the added benefit of giving kids a strong sense of accomplishment, confidence and belonging.

Photo by Oai Pham

Photo by Oai Pham

Kyle O’Connor can attest to that. A Stingrays swimmer from 1996 to 2009, Kyle became an assistant coach, and then later head coach for the team.
“Swimming is one of the most social sports around, and all swimmers can experience great personal success, no matter their athletic ability. The experience of beating a personal best time is immensely satisfying no matter what place you may get in a race,” Kyle said. “The Stingrays swim team is also an incredible community where I met some of the best friends in my life, and I have continuously heard the same thing as long as I have been associated with the team. It’s more than a swim team, it’s a family.”
Swim team participants wholly agreed. Matthew Lee, 13, who has been on the Stingrays since he was 7 years old, said, “I like being on the Stingrays because I’ve made a lot of good friends and I consider the Stingrays ‘home.’”
Matthew’s brother, Mitchell Lee, 17, who started at age 8, concurred: “Over the years, I have bonded with my fellow group mates and to me they have become family. There exists a strange yet familiar feeling of home whenever I am swimming or competing with these guys. I think I speak for all of us when I say words do no justice to describe the camaraderie felt throughout the Stingrays.”
So despite very early Saturday mornings at the pool, you won’t see kids and their parents complaining.
“We love the social aspect of being together every Saturday, sitting under those tents, playing games, snacking, and talking,” Wendi said. “And I think that is actually the thing that we value the most about swim team—the friendships.”
Find out more about the Sacramento Stingrays at  www.sacramentostingrays.com.

Impressive diver brings the sport back to the forefront at C.K. McClatchy

In the hours before a meet, Nevada Schultz visualizes himself performing each dive better than he’s ever done before, but as he steps onto the diving board, his mindset changes. Thinking only about the dive he’s about to perform and forgetting about the competition, the Sac-Joaquin Section Finals champion gets into a highly focused state of mind.

And then in a couple seconds, the dive is over.

But, it’s the adrenaline rush from the excitement of completing a difficult dive that pushed Nevada to perform his best against great competitors.

At the section finals held at C.K. McClatchy High School on May 10, Nevada performed a backwards dive in a pike position so well it gave him momentum throughout the meet. His win was the first time a McClatchy student won Sections since 1979.

At the competition each diver performs 11 dives for Sections, each with a degree of difficulty rating which is then multiplied by the judges score. Nevada’s dives ranged from a forward dive to a 1-½ somersault with two twists. Another dive included the challenging backwards (flip-toward-the-board) plunge.

Speaking about the day’s excitement, Nevada said, “The pressure to perform was heavy; so completing all my dives at a high level felt great.”

Competing against the divers on his Junior Olympic team who compete for other high schools, undoubtedly was Nevada’s toughest competition. “They are all very good divers and any of us are capable of winning any meet,” he said.

For a sport that normally doesn’t get a lot of attention, Nevada said coming home a champion to long-time C.K. McClatchy’s coach Dee Robbins was the best part this year. “The highlight of my season was making my coach, Dee Robbins, proud by winning Sections. It made all the hard work and training worth it to reach my goal for the season. It feels glorious to represent McClatchy successfully and bring home the championship after such a long drought (since 1979). Diving doesn’t normally get a lot of attention, so this really helped bring attention to the sport at my high school,” he said.

Diving for only three years this summer, Nevada said he found his passion for the sport a little later than most divers his age. Asked about his training regimen, Nevada said he jumps on a trampoline at home, dives year-round five days a week for at least two hours, and conditions on dry land with ab, leg, and stretching exercises.

Asked to describe what he likes most about diving, Robbins spoke on this very work ethic, exemplified by Nevada’s hard work. “I enjoy watching kids improve and enjoy what they are doing. Diving takes commitment and hard work, but at the same time it is very satisfying and rewarding. The skills learned in the sport of diving carry over to help kids be successful in all aspects of their lives.”

The highlights of Robbins’ career continue to be the many deep and lasting friendships he’s had with many of his divers.

Coaching for about 38 years, Robbins described how the sport has changed since then. “In 1976, there used to be many recreational diving teams. My team (The Sunrise Sharks) would compete against Park Terrace, Davis, Auburn, Placerville, Rosemont, and Arden Manor. Each team was limited to 40 participants per meet. I had about 80 kids on my team. Now, we have basically no recreational teams and very few beginning classes that teach diving. It also seems that the sport is evolving into a rich person’s sport because of how expensive it is to participate,” Robbins said.

McClatchy baseball ‘Coach D’

2012 Varsity Coaches Gordy Lahann, Coach Mike de Necocea and Kenny Munguia. Photo courtesy of C.K. McClatchy baseball

2012 Varsity Coaches Gordy Lahann, Coach Mike de Necocea and Kenny Munguia. Photo courtesy of C.K. McClatchy baseball

The baseball field of McClatchy High School has been the backyard of Mike de Necochea since he was a kid. Now as a father of seven watching his youngest child and only son preparing to embark as a freshman at his alma mater, he plans on staying around at least for a few more years.

“The joke was that I’d coach until my son got to high school, but I can’t believe that’s next year already,” de Necochea said. “With my son and his friends entering high school, I hope I can keep coaching here for another four years.”

De Necochea, graduate of 1985, has been the head varsity baseball coach for McClatchy for the past 10 years and was even a three-sport athlete during his high school days on the very same campus.

This year, he lead his team alongside assistant coaches Kenny Munguia and Steve Correa (father of previous assistant coach and player Dom Correa) to the playoffs, only to fall short of the second round with a 4-0 loss to Oakmont High School.

De Necochea said though this year was the year his team could go far in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs, the overall team effort wasn’t there.

“We expect to go far in the playoffs but we haven’t the last two years,” de Necochea said. “It doesn’t annoy me, it motivates me. To me, my goal is to always win the last game of the year. The only way to do that is to win the section championship.”

In his time as coach, de Necochea and his assistant coaches can be considered a success, winning the Metro League title five times and making the playoffs nine out of 10 years (the only time missing the playoffs was 2006).

Since the 1990s, McClatchy has produced a few major league players such Steve Holm, Nick Johnson and Vance Worley – the latter being a star player under Coach de Necochea in 2005.

De Nocochea said his coaching style is relaxed and organized with a special ingredient mixed in: chemistry.

“I think the head coach sets the tone for [chemistry] early on when you pick your team and decide who the key guys on the team are going to be and who the leaders are,” de Necochea said.

He said the way he organizes groups in practice is important, even competing at practice against each other can build some solid team chemistry.

“We’ve won some amazing comeback games over the years that really stand out to me,” DeNecochea said. “There have been games where most teams would have mailed it in, but because of that chemistry, one pitch at a time, one at-bat at a time got us the win.”

He began coaching baseball when his younger brother’s Pony team needed a coach. De Necochea was only 19 at the time and got the job – better yet, they won the championship and he coached the league’s All-Star team.

“That was my first taste of coaching and I really enjoyed it,” de Necochea said.

His time coaching would take a brief pause as de Necochea started a family, attended school and worked full-time. Coaching was an afterthought.

“When I started coaching again, my daughters would be coming through McClatchy, so it was a good opportunity to get to view around the campus, get to know the boys a little better with all these daughters coming through – it was a good strategy,” de Necochea said with a grin.

Now with his youngest daughter graduating from McClatchy and heading to Sacramento State, de Necochea said he could shift his focus to his son who plans on playing baseball at the JV level as a freshman.

“I’m really excited to the future of the program with the new group of kids coming in, they already have a great chemistry, but it’ll take a little more time to build it,” de Necochea said.

russell@valcomnews.com

Far surpassing a personal best: C.K. McClatchy’s Tino Luigi hits 3 homers in one game

Tino Luigi. Photo courtesy

Tino Luigi. Photo courtesy

After 13 years of playing organized baseball, McClatchy senior second baseman Tino Luigi had better odds of beating cancer than hitting a home run in a game – let alone three.

As of April 23 during a much-needed win over Florin to keep playoff hopes alive, Luigi had done both.

When Luigi was 5 years old, he was diagnosed with stage-4 neuroblastoma, a cancer in the nervous system. Doctors said he had just a 7 percent chance of surviving.

“I remember being in the hospital and not really being told what was wrong with me,” Luigi said. “They said I was sick and they were giving me medicine to help get rid of the bad stuff inside of me. They kept it in kids terms and didn’t tell me that I could die.”

Luigi and his parents were told he had cancer in 90 percent of his body, but now that he has been cancer-free for 12 years, Luigi said he has no fear of it coming back.

Since he was diagnosed, his focus shifted from hospital beds to baseball diamonds. He has played every year beginning in t-ball up through his senior year in high school. Throughout all those years, he had hit a grand total of zero home runs.

Coming into this year, a personal goal of his was to finally round all four bases with one mighty swing.

“I told all my friends ‘this is the year I hit a home run – I can feel it,’” Luigi said. “But three in one game? I never had that feeling.”

In a 14-2 win over Florin in Luigi’s big game, his first three at-bats resulted in home runs – something neither he nor his teammates had ever seen.

After the first home run, Luigi said his teammates were excited for him, cheering loudly from the dugout.

“They knew it was my first homer so they were just happy for me, but when I hit the second one they were like ‘holy crap, he just hit two!’” Luigi said. “I did not expect a third one – nobody did.”

After the second homer, Luigi said a father of another teammate leaned over to his dad, Perry Luigi, and asked him, “Do you think he can hit a third one?” Perry said, “Definitely not.” Then he hit another one and blew everyone away.

The 5-foot-10 second baseman is not known for his power or speed, but for his defense and contact. He ranks second on the team in hits and runs, fourth in runs batted in and now first on the team in home runs.

Now that Tino’s personal goal has been achieved (three times), Luigi is focused on his team going far in the playoffs.

Last season, McClatchy left the playoffs disappointed after failing to reach past the first round. Tino and his team hope to go even further.

Recently named to the All-Metro First Team, Tino has made himself a leader on his team in the best way he knows how: quietly and effectively.

“I’m not a leader,” Tino said. “It’s not something I do – I’m not good at getting people pumped up, I don’t have good speeches. The only thing I’m good at is leading by example and being a quiet leader.”

In practice he is almost silent, working through the drills, perfecting his swing or backhand grounders. He’s not having a bad day, or upset of any kind – he’s Tino.

In the fall, Tino will be attending Sonoma State, hoping to walk onto the baseball team, but if he doesn’t make the cut, he’s determined to join a team on campus that’s a good fit for him.

“I can’t see myself not playing a sport – I need to be doing something,” Tino said. “I’ve been playing sports all my life, so if I weren’t playing anything, I wouldn’t know how to spend my time.”

Cougars baseball clinches Metro title

The Kennedy Cougars varsity baseball beat Burbank on Wednesday, May 7, paving the way for the playoffs. The air of excitement was contagious with crowds of alumni and families showed their support. Photo by Stephen Crowley

The Kennedy Cougars varsity baseball beat Burbank on Wednesday, May 7, paving the way for the playoffs. The air of excitement was contagious with crowds of alumni and families showed their support. Photo by Stephen Crowley

A flurry of green and yellow ignited a fire of excitement amongst Kennedy baseball fans for a historic game against Burbank High School on Wednesday, May 7. The Cougars were one win away from winning the Metro League title – an opportunity that hadn’t come into play for roughly 20 years. Led by a talented group of seniors who have flown under the radar, the team did it. After the fifth inning, the Cougars led Burbank High School 18-0 and the game was over. The added excitement prior to the game clearly didn’t deter the players; the boys stayed focused and played really good ball.

“The team did really well; they were focused and played a really good game. They wanted to reach that goal, accomplish that feat and put all the efforts they could into winning,” Head Coach Marcos Pineda told the Pocket News.

Pitcher Adam Takeuchi threw a no-hitter with nine strike outs. But that was nothing out of the ordinary for the star player. “Adam has been very consistent for the team,” Pineda said.

After the big win, the Cougars are onto the playoffs with the first game against Fairfield-based Vanden High School held at American River College and set for May 15 at 4 p.m.

After two wins against the rivals, the C.K. McClatchy Lions, and a win against Rosemont early on in the season, the team’s confidence soared. After the first win against the Lions where they won 1-0, the Cougars began to play with a sense of leadership. “From that time on, we saw good baseball, then we got another victory,” Pineda said.

The quality of sportsmanship between the two teams has remained at the highest caliber.

“(C.K.M. Head Baseball Coach) Mike (de Necochea) is a great guy over there. Even though we have this rivalry, with the baseball, he has well-coached teams and to get the upper hand this year, our kids really enjoyed it. We piled up so many victories. (C.K.M.) was the team to knock off. They had won quite a few Metro-win titles. Getting those wins against them helped us set the tone to win the league and the championship,” he said.

Congratulations to coach Pineda for coach of the year, and the following players: Adam Takeuchi, Metro League Player of the Year; Chad Riley, 1st Team All League; T.J. Hicks, 1st Team All League;
Mason Fong, 1st Team All League; Joey Hernandez, 2nd Team All League; Thomas Sharer, 2nd Team All League.

To Sonny Fong, parent of freshman baseball player Mason, winning the Title means a lot to the parents and baseball community that has come before players today. “The path to winning the Metro League Title had many hurdles over the course however the individual and collective team grit and effort was rewarded with winning the Title.” Fong said Mason has inspired not only his younger brother who
plays in the Pocket Little League but also his grandfather, whose older brother was a standout baseball player for C.K. McClatchy High School and the Nisei and Japanese Baseball Leagues before being interned during World War II.

Suffice to say, the game has been inspiring to the Kennedy baseball community past and present.

Kennedy Baseball Hall of Fame
To pay the community of Kennedy baseball players before them back for paving the way for their success today, the Kennedy Baseball Team just announced they will be starting up a Kennedy baseball Hall of Fame. Honorees will be awarded at golf tournament fundraiser in September for their accomplishments. “We want to get them all out there and pay them the proper respect for all they’ve done,” Pineda said.

In other sports news, if you’ve been to campus lately, you’ve undoubtedly seen the progress of the school’s stadium. Contractors are working full force; their trailers have taken root; the offices are in and excavation equipment has been used. “Everything has been on schedule. We’ve been working with all the groups. Hopefully if everything goes smoothly, we’ll have a very nice facility beginning early next year. It’s coming along really well. There’s a big air of excitement. Both the faculty and the students are happy to see it,” Pineda said.

Editor@valcomnews.com

Jesuit’s Anthony Wesley wrestling his way to a top university

Photo by Da Vigo Photography.

Photo by Da Vigo Photography.

Jesuit High School’s Anthony Wesley is on pace to be the most successful wrestler in the school’s history. This year, the junior had 42 wins and 8 losses, just two losses shy of the school record of 44 wins. With more than an entire year to prepare for college, Anthony has already received letters from the Air Force Academy and Stanford University and Harvard University requesting transcript information.

While wrestling for Jesuit, Anthony has made two Sacramento All-Star teams, two national teams, received three national medals, is a two-time league finalist, and a two-time masters qualifier. He became the sixth wrestler in school history to qualify for the CIF State Championships. The first preseason state rankings in November placed him in the honorable mention section, but Anthony went undefeated in the month of December, winning four tournaments and winning the outstanding wrestler award in three of them.

His father, August Wesley, the current wrestling coach at Sacramento State University and former Jesuit High School wrestling coach, has been coaching high school, college, and international level teams since he was 20 years old.

Father and son spoke with the Arden-Carmichael News about memories of the last 10 years, and their mutual admiration for each other as wrestling family members.

Anthony began his wrestling journey at age 6, and now 10 years later, some of the people he trained with when he was younger are close friends now, even though some of them have been his greatest competitors.

Anthony said as he grew up watching his dad coach, he naturally started to enjoy watching it. “I wanted to try it, so he let me. If it weren’t for my Dad coaching all those years, I probably would not have competed at such a high level now. We, as a family, are a wrestling family; I wrestle practically year-round with many weekends allocated toward wrestling.”

And about his son, August described the pride he has as his son’s mentor, coach, and father. “This season has been a very exciting season to say the least. I enjoy watching my son compete and reach his current goals…His hard work is paying off. He started training early this season with my college wrestlers from Sacramento State. I saw the look in his eyes, very determined and clearly focused. His motor just does not stop.”

Photo by Da Vigo Photography.

Photo by Da Vigo Photography.

When coaching at Jesuit, August had wrestlers compete at state competitions, securing spots in the top 10. Then he left to coach at Sacramento City College. As his son got older, he started a year-round wrestling club, called the California Elite. He focused on the youth (grades five through nine). Most are in high school now, and, “kicking butt,” he said. With California Elite, he’s had kids venture from Vacaville, El Dorado Hills, Lassen, just to practice with him. Ninety-five percent of them are ranked in the state, some are in contention for medals. Then in 2011, Sacramento State University offered him coaching job. “That was weird because they didn’t have a wrestling team for 28 years, and I thought, Sac State does not have wrestling.”

Asked what his most memorable wrestling experience has been thus far, Anthony said it has to be back when he was in eighth grade. “(The California Elite) went down to Los Angeles. We were the underdogs at that tournament, but we beat everybody. Then we went to Six Flags. Even the car ride there was fun.”

Added August: “A lot of people didn’t know who I was training when I put the team together. We were the only team this side of Bakersfield. We represented a lot of people.”

Although top universities have inquired into his son, August still would love to see Anthony attend Sacramento State University, where he could play with athletes he’s grown up with and train under a coach he’s learned so much from.

But, Anthony has another agenda. “I don’t really want to (play for dad). I have seen those practices. They are really, really hard. My Dad’s been my coach for 11 years already. He’ll always be there even if not in my corner. My plans are focusing on getting into a good college,” he said.

editor@valcomnews.com

Kennedy High School to get a new stadium!

Shown here is the current state of the track at John F. Kennedy High School. Come April, the scene will improve as the school will get a brand new stadium. Photo by Monica Stark

Shown here is the current state of the track at John F. Kennedy High School. Come April, the scene will improve as the school will get a brand new stadium. Photo by Monica Stark

Editor’s note: Look for ongoing updates on this continuing story.

When voters passed Measures Q&R in the November 2012 election, they made way for exciting projects that will improve our local schools, one of them being Kennedy High School! Principal Chad Sweitzer told the Pocket News there have been several meetings and plans are ready for a new stadium, a new track, bleachers and concessions with improvements beginning in April.“I have designs as well,” he said.

One of the projects that have been completed district-wide so far is a new batting cage at McClatchy High School. (Visit  www.valcomnews.com for more information on that controversial project.) The average age of Sacramento City Unified District schools is 50 years. Schools built years ago need significant updating.

To follow the district’s projects, visit: www.scusd.edu/bond-projects

Batting cage debacle brings other maintenance issues to light

C.K. McClatchy varsity baseball coach Mike de Necochea sat down for an interview with the Land Park News to discuss maintenance issues on campus, including problems with the sprinkler system, dog waste and litter.

Because the school doesn’t have a gardener on staff and because the Sacramento City Unified School District has had to cut janitorial and maintenance services by nearly 50 percent over the last two years, it recommends coaches and staff fill out and submit a work order form to the maintenance department.

“Just turn in the forms into to Tommy they would always tell me, but no one knew he retired,” de Necochea said.

District spokesman Gabe Ross said the district prioritizes what the work is. “If there is a fire sprinkler that goes out, that may get to the top of the list,” he said, adding that SCUSD Landscape/Labor Supervisor said Tommy Greer has been using vacation up until he retires and there has been a temp in for him. “Given limited resources, it’s an all automated system. Somebody may have called, but it’s all prioritized by need,” he said.

Just in the 2011-12 school year, the district had 209 custodians and plant managers, compared to the 125 on staff today. Meanwhile district-wide maintenance staff (service repairs and gardeners) has seen a 42 percent decrease since the 2010-11 school year, amounting to a cut of about 90 people.

Regardless many of the maintenance problems have gone by the wayside. For instance, problems with the sprinklers have been going since at least before school started at around the same time the previous batting cages were torn down.

“It’s been since at least August when I noticed (the sprinklers) turned off. I think it was due to the construction,” de Necochea said. More recently, he said after district staff installed the new batting cage, they happened to put in a workable sprinkler system for a small plot of sod around the structure, but failed to fix the sprinklers through out the rest of the baseball field, resulting in very dry grass.

“While the City (of Sacramento) has required residents to reduce water usage by 20 percent, we’ve been conserving since summer,” de Necochea quipped.

As part of the cuts the district has to make to the maintenance department, they’ve eliminated gardeners at individual school sites and have instead consolidated and have created district wide work crews that visit various schools on set days each week. Gardening crews man the lawns and most of the watering is automated.

“We now have a crew that works at several schools and I guess the front yard is a priority,” de Necochea said.

Undoubtedly this has affected the appearance and general cleanliness of the campus – dirtier locker rooms, irrigation problems with the fields and pool maintenance.

While the district does have an employee drive a large mower to cut all the grass on campus each Tuesday, de Necochea said the worker drives over the trash, which exacerbates the garbage clean up problem – one that he said the baseball team has to clean up. On the bright side, de Necochea said this encourages players to take pride in what they have, adding that he’s used trash clean up as a punishment for being late to practice.

“It is important for the boys to help with the upkeep. But at the end of the day, we’re the ones paying for it, using it,” he said.

So, as the new baseball season gets underway, he and his team have taken other gardening and maintenance matters into their own hands. With a hose and a lawn mower, they’ve sometimes done the watering and the trimming themselves, side skirting the bureaucracy of filling the necessary forms, which some have argued can backfire.“I’ve had people tell me, ‘if you don’t do anything, you’re just allowing (the district) to get away with it’, but I just couldn’t let (the grounds) get that bad,” de Necochea said.

The head baseball coach said he has been mowing the grass twice a week, even though staff mows the lawns once a week. Also, to help out with the manual labor, de Necochea said the team twice has solicited help from Sacramento County Sheriff’s Work Project, where certain sentenced inmates can be recommended by the sentencing judge to be assigned to one of more than 25 work sites throughout the county.

De Necochea said they did a great job. “They cut out around the bases. They trimmed and weeded. They picked up trash and helped build a mound. We just filled out a form and got work done twice. The district could be requesting those guys. It’s free. I asked them (the inmates): do you like coming to schools? They said they felt like they were making a difference compared to just raking leaves at a park, which could be pretty tedious.”

But are the team’s Good Samaritan efforts to keep the fields clean taking away from contracted union jobs?

“It’s always hard,” Ross said. “We never want to discourage parents from volunteering at school sites. We also know we have less staff than we need. Have a system in the district where community members fill out ’special projects process’ for the school site and district to participate in. Generally it’s not about violating union contract, it’s about protecting parents and students from harm,” he said.

Prior to the massive budget cuts that have plagued the district for years now, the campus had a gardener Terry Stowers, who de Necochea said worked together with the team to keep the field looking its best. “It was great. They were out there with us, supervising us to make sure it’s right.”

While it may seem like de Necochea is at odds with the district, it’s not the case at all. He wants to work with the district to brainstorm solutions on making the fields and the school, by extension a more inviting place.

To that end, he’s started to connect with alumni who might want to give back to their alma mater. He argues that the Booster program is not his preferred avenue. “We’re putting band aids on a big project. We need to reach out to alumni and get Boosters for life,” he said. De Necochea, who lives near the school, added: “I look at my neighborhood, parents have to have funds available.”

Asked how the community can work with the district to create a better environment, Ross said in a variety of ways. “We want to make the right process. We want parents to find solutions. Hopefully in a few years, we will be back to the funding areas and help supplement what is going on at the schools. For the sports fields and at the school, it’s critical we are all involved.”

He said as a result of new funding from an accountability measure known as LCAP (Local Control and Accountability Plan), the community will have a larger voice in terms of how to spend and allocate resources. There will be a survey on the website for parents to document their priorities.

editor@valcomnews.com

Congratulations to Jonah Eldridge CKM rugby star


Jonah Eldridge, a senior at C.K. McClatchy High School, is a nationally-ranked rugby star. Eldridge made the USA Sevens Rugby Tournament, the largest rugby competition in North America, and performed so well he was selected to captain the second side, shocking tournament organizers by taking third place in the Jan. 24-26 Las Vegas event. Jonah is certainly in the mix to move on to London if there are circumstances, like unforeseen injuries, that prevent one of the boys who played on the undefeated first side from going.

In a recent interview with the Land Park News, Eldridge described the competition “Sevens” referring to having only seven people on the team. “It’s meant for smaller people, unlike the usual set up with 15 versus 15 on the field at a time. So it’s a lot more running, benefiting the smaller, quicker people, me I guess.”

Jonah plays the position of scrumhalf, which, in rugby, is the link between the forwards and the backs. They’re similar to halfbacks in football. A difficult position to master, scrumhalves have to be able to pass with both hands, which Jonah likens to a “quarterback doing a 10-yard up and out play on passing it 10 times perfectly with his right hand and doing the exact same play, throwing it with his left hand.”

Is the young man gifted as being ambidextrous? Well, it’s hard to tell. “Past rugby I can’t write with my left hand; I can’t hold sticks with my left hand; I can’t do anything with my left hand but I’ve been doing rugby for so long, it’s like second nature at this point,” he said.

Jonah has been playing since sixth grade when he turned 10 years old, which was a much frowned upon thing to do since most of the players were at least in the seventh grade. But he joined the Land Park Motley anyway. “I was a 10 year old playing against 14 year olds, so, that’s how it all started.” Then Jonah went to McClatchy where he “kept on playing, kept on playing. Then, if you play well, you get invited to All Star Teams and that’s where you get sucked into the next level.”

Asked if competition has been too easy for him, he said: “NorCal has the best in the nation, so the competition is great.” And he said it’s not just that but the sport itself is very much a team sport. “Not just one person can take over a game.” As such, he explained how typically there are 15 players on the field, lending itself to a lot of action between multiple players. “It’s not like basketball where the best player of the team can score 30 points, rugby is a team sport contributes their part.”

So rugby being such a team oriented sport lent itself to the obvious question: How do officials choose who will be on the U.S. Rugby Team? That’s a good question, said Jonah. “You have to be invited to the camp in Arizona and then they just pick people from there. If you have what they’re looking for you’re invited or if you fit their mold, then you get invited.”

His grandmother Paula Ridgeway had a different explanation: “He’s just the best, that’s all there is.” She went on to describe her admiration for the way he plays. She said, “He can control that ball. It’s like a flip ball. Jonah throws it in a tight spiral.”

Among the more memorable experiences Jonah has had playing rugby, was when he was in the eighth grade when the Land Park Motley had a great season, as he recalls making it to the finals. “The team worked on a sequence where one of the players kicked the ball deep into a corner and our big four tackled him out of bounds and we balled in and scored. That’s what we worked on in practice. In the opening kick off, it happened. There was a feeling that went right so how much worse can the rest of the game be? We went out winning the game, so I went out in eighth grade as a NorCal champion, so that was fun. It was a good experience.”

The fact that Jonah started playing in sixth grade didn’t seem to matter too much as the coach and his teammates knew his age. “There wasn’t a rule against it. If your parents signed a waiver, you could do it but it was frowned upon because I was only 60 pounds at the time, so the average seventh or eighth grader weighed maybe 120 (pounds). They were double my size,” he said.

No, he didn’t double his weight in a year, in fact he has always been small, but just recently he has been able to slightly catch up. His second year, he was maybe 80 pounds tops and he came in as a freshman at 105 pounds. “I’ve never been on the big end; I’ve always been the little guy and not much has changed.”

A senior at McClatchy, Jonah wants to continue playing in college, though he’s undecided where. He’s talking to colleges, seeing what his options are. As he said, “I am just feeling it out.”

Restore the Roar sponsors athletic awards for long-time principal

Restore the Roar and the C. K. McClatchy athletic department have created the BILL MORGAN ATHLETIC AWARDS for a male and a female senior athlete who have excelled as team leaders and in sportsmanship while at McClatchy. The awards will be made next May along with the S. A. Pepper Award for outstanding male athlete and the Woody Adams Award for outstanding female athlete.

The importance of the BILL MORGAN ATHLETIC AWARDS will be to recognize team leaders and those athletes who represent the best ideals of sportsmanship as senior Lion athletes. The male and female athletes will be chosen by a committee from Restore the Roar and the McClatchy coaching staff.

Bill Morgan was born in Missouri in 1928 and moved to Sacramento as a boy. He graduated from McClatchy High in 1946. He loved sports and particularly McClatchy sports.

Bill went on to Sacramento State College where he played on the first baseball team and was a member of the first graduating class. He spent time in the army during the Korean War but never left the US.

Bill returned to teach history at McClatchy from 1954 to 1962. He could often be seen after school playing basketball along with coach Del Bandy with many of his McClatchy students.

Leaving McClatchy for awhile, Bill returned as the third McClatchy principal in 1967 when Kennedy opened. He could often be seen behind the backstop watching the champion 1970 and 71 baseball teams. In 1971 Bill was appointed Assistant Superintendent of secondary schools for the SCUSD.

As a district administrator Bill couldn’t stay away from his Freeport school and would often drop by before school in the morning to have coffee with the staff and custodians. Finally in 1978, he returned to McClatchy for 10 more years as principal.

He enjoyed watching McClatchy rise as a football power again in the 1980’s and McClatchy’s dominance in basketball and baseball throughout the decade. His 14 years as principal is the second longest in McClatchy history.

In 1987, Bill was moved to Kennedy where he finished his career as principal. However, his heart was always with McClatchy and he would keep in touch with former staff and his many Lion friends. During the 1980’s Bill came across students whose parents he had taught and grandchildren of friends from his generation at McClatchy.

Along with sports, Bill loved history and particularly the New Deal and Harry Truman, a fellow Missourian who was his favorite president. Bill’s aunt was Truman’s secretary for many years so he actually met President Truman and spent time with him discussing Truman’s presidency. Bill is survived by son Derek and daughter Delynn.

To make donations to the BILL MORGAN ATHLETIC AWARDS fund go the Restoretheroar.org and log on. Information about where to send your donation will be on the website.