Randy Angel

Easy Reader’s top ten sports stories of the year

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Mira Costa’s boys volleyball team finished the season with 19 straight wins and ranked No. 2 in the nation. Photo by Ray Vidal

Mira Costa’s boys volleyball team finished the season with 19 straight wins and ranked No. 2 in the nation. Photo by Ray Vidal

Olympians and members of professional teams weren’t the only athletes in the area to gain notoriety in 2012. Following are a few of the year’s top sports stories in the Beach Cities. For month-by-month highlights, visit easyreadernews.com.

Mustang volleyball team among nation’s best

Mira Costa’s boys volleyball team finished its 2012 season with a 19-match winning streak that included CIF Southern Section Division 1 and Southern California Division 2 championships earning the Mustangs the No. 2 spot in the national Powerade Fab 50 rankings.

Head Coach Mike Ninnis’ squad went 35-4 on the season capturing its 29th league title in the last 32 years. Mira Costa entered the postseason ranked third in Division 1 after winning the talent-laden Redondo Varsity Classic where the Mustangs handed San Diego powerhouse Otay Ranch only its second loss of the season in the championship match.

Sparked by the return of Christopher Orenic from injury and stellar performances by All-CIF selections Jackson Carr, Brooks Varni, Karl Acres and Scott Stephanoff, Mira Costa was firing on all cylinders throughout the playoffs.

In the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship match, Mira Costa defeated Loyola for the first time in three attempts during the season. The 25-19, 25-22, 25-27, 21-25, 15-12 victory game the Mustangs their seventh CIF title in 12 final appearances.

Advancing to the CIF Southern California Regionals, Mira Costa faced a vastly improved Oak Park team in the championship match at Irvine Valley College.

The Mustangs staved off four match points to win its second Southern California Division 2 title in three years in a 24-26, 25-16, 25-19, 24-26, 20-18 thriller.

Manhattan Beach native Patrick Sweeney crosses the finish line at the Hermosa 24 Ultramarathon, breaking his own Guinness World Record for Distance Running in the Sand for 24 Hours. Photo by Randy Angel

Manhattan Beach native Patrick Sweeney crosses the finish line at the Hermosa 24 Ultramarathon, breaking his own Guinness World Record for Distance Running in the Sand for 24 Hours. Photo by Randy Angel

Sweeney breaks own Guinness record

Manhattan Beach’s Patrick Sweeney shattered his own Guinness World Record for Greatest Distance Running in the Sand for 24 Hours. Competing in the third edition of the Hermosa 24 Ultramarathon, Sweeney logged 87.36 miles on the 3.36-mile soft-sand course. (July 5)

“I did not stay with my game plan at all,” Sweeney explained. “I had planned on going out slow and staying between 40-45 minutes per lap and I went out and did a bunch of 30-plus laps.”

The 33-year-old distance runner from Manhattan Beach had scheduled a 10-20 minute break at midnight for some nourishment. He said he ate a few slices of cheese-less pizza and had to choose between a Coke and a Stone Ale.

As an annual participant of the Hermosa Beach Ironman competition held each Independence Day and maintaining a blog at bourbonfeet.com, his choice of beverage was evident.

The event was expected to be a showdown between Sweeney and Christian Burke, who founded the Hermosa 24 in 2010 when he set a new Guinness World Record of 83.04 miles while running solo as a fundraising event for Hermosa Beach schools.

The duel did not materialize when a foot injury limited Burke to only four laps.

More than 100 runners took part in the event which featured 30 solo racers, eight relay teams and more than 50 runners who entered the One-Lap Challenge where the runner with the fastest time was awarded a prize of $100.

Redondo head coach Tommy Chaffins gives the game plan to his team before facing Marymount in the CIF Division 1-AA championship match. Photo by Ray Vidal

Redondo head coach Tommy Chaffins gives the game plan to his team before facing Marymount in the CIF Division 1-AA championship match. Photo by Ray Vidal

Redondo girls have record-setting year

Redondo’s girls volleyball team enjoyed a record-breaking year in 2012, finishing its season with a 37-5 record, the most wins in the school’s history by either a boys or girls volleyball team.

Coach Tommy Chaffins’ squad began its season with a second-place finish in the highly-competitive Ann Kang Invitational in Hawaii in August. The next month, Redondo placed third in the prestigious Durango Fall Classic in Las Vegas, losing only to a Torrey Pines team that was ranked No. 1 in the nation at the time.

It was the last loss Redondo would suffer until its loss to Marymount in the CIF finals on Nov. 17.

The play of UCLA-bound Skylar Dykstra, three-year starter Hannah Mosebar, libero Katie Rotondo, junior Brianna Lanktree and freshman setter Norene Iosia propelled the Sea Hawks to a 30-match winning streak.

During that span, Redondo won the championship of the Dave Mohs Memorial Tournament in Orange County and swept each Bay League foe including rival Mira Costa, which saw its 27-year run as league champion, come to an end.

After defeating Marymount twice during the regular season, the tables turned when it mattered most. Redondo lost in five sets in the CIF Southern Section Division 1-AA championship match before losing to the Sailors again in the CIF Southern California Regional championship.

Marymount went on to defeat St. Francis of Sacramento for the state title. The Cubs had seven South Bay players on its roster including seniors Tori Jasuta, Chandler McGrath and Cassie Zimnoch and sophomores Kelly Byrne and Mia Mason from Manhattan Beach.

A spike in pro beach volleyball

Despite the absence of its top players who were overseas qualifying for – and competing in – the Olympics, professional beach volleyball continued to attract multitudes of fans, spearheaded by the Jose Cuervo Pro Beach Volleyball Series.

The Hermosa Beach Open ran July 20-22 with the top seeded teams reigning as champions. Sean Scott (Redondo Beach) and John Hyden captured the men’s title while Jenny Kropp (Holly Glen) and Whitney Pavlik won the women’s crown.

The prestigious Manhattan Beach Open (Aug. 24-26) featured repeat winners when the third-seeded team of Scott/Hyden won the men’s title and the top-seeded duo of Kropp/Pavlik were champions in the women’s bracket.

Kropp and Pavlik completed a sweep of the six Jose Cuervo Pro Beach Volleyball team tournaments by winning the women’s title at the National Championships in Huntington Beach on Sept 23. Redondo Beach native and Hermosa Beach resident Sean Rosenthal teamed with Jake Gibb to capture the men’s title after finishing in fifth place at the London Olympics.

Sea Hawk switches

Despite posting a 197-111 record in his 11 years as the head basketball coach at Redondo Union High School, Tom Maier was unexpectedly fired in March.

In May, the school’s administration hired Reggie Morris to take over the program. Morris enjoyed a successful two-year stint at St. Bernard where he won a Southern California Regional title in 2010 and a CIF Southern Section title last year. Morris went 50-17 with the Vikings.

After months of searching, Redondo hired Matt Ballard as its new head football coach in April. Ballard left his alma mater at Half Moon Bay High School where he enjoyed many successful seasons.

He replaced longtime Redondo head coach Gene Simon who was abruptly let go in Dec. 2011.

Ballard compiled a record of 57-48-1 while leading Half Moon Bay to Ocean Division titles in 2005 and 2011. His team won the Central Coast Section Small School championship in 2005.

In his first season at the helm of the Sea Hawk program, Redondo finished third in the Bay League. The Sea Hawks fell to Quartz Hill 38-21 in the first round of the Northern Division playoffs, finishing the season with a 5-6 record.

Redondo runners

Numerous athletes had standout prep seasons in cross country and track, but Redondo Union’s distance running program highlighted the year.

In the spring, Redondo’s girls track and field team won the 2nd annual Redondo Nike Invitational. The boy’s team placed second behind Loyola.

Redondo’s Kayla Ferron was named the Ed Austin Female Athlete of the Meet at the Mustang Relays after winning the 1,600 meter race and joining teammates in setting meet records in the 4×400 and 4×800 relays.

At the Arcadia Invitational in April, the Sea Hawk’s 4×800 relay team of Amber Gore, Ferron, Rachel Bush and Lyndsey Mull recorded the fastest time in the nation at that time with a mark of 9:05.85.

Redondo’s girls team placed second at the Beach Cities Invitational behind the first-place 4×400 relay team.

Rachel Bush won the Bay League title in the 3,200 meters and Cara Ulizio finished ninth in the State Championships.

In boys competition, Evan Malone-White won the league championship in the 1,600 meters and finished sixth in the same event at the State Championships.

More recently, the girls team from Mira Costa and Redondo’s boys and girls teams all had successful cross country seasons.

Mira Costa’s girls cross country team won the Laguna Hills Invitational and finished tenth at the Stanford Invitational before winning the Bay League team title

Redondo’s boys and girls teams each placed second in the Great Cow Run in Cerritos and second and fourth, respectively, at the 27th Annual Roy Griak Invitational at the University of Minnesota.

Ferron and Malone-White won the girls and boys Bay League titles for the Sea Hawks

In the State Division 2 finals in Fresno, Mira Costa’s girls team finished fifth, edging Redondo on a sixth-runner tiebreaker. Redondo’s boys team reached the podium with a third-place finish

Ferron ended her prep cross country career competing against the nation’s top runners at the Footlocker National Championships in San Diego. The Redondo senior qualified for the event with a 10-place finish in the West Regional.

Standout on the Sand

Hermosa Beach’s Zana Muno became the first player to win the Amateur Athletic Union’s “triple crown” of beach volleyball. In the span of sour weeks, the 16-year-old won the AAU National Championship, the AAU Junior Olympics and the Best of the Beach tournaments – all with different partners.

Muno is a sophomore at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks.

Super Bowl striders

Redondo Beach’s Chris Foster, a two-time winner of the Redondo Beach Triathlon, added another title to his resume by winning the 34th Annual Redondo Beach Super Bowl Sunday 10K with a time of 30 minutes, 34 seconds. Mary Akor, of Hawthorne, won the women’s competition.

Joe Nitti, of Calabasas, won the 5K with a time of 16:12. Anaheim’s Rocio Pelayo was the top female finisher at 18:12.

Over 7,000 runners, almost evenly divided between the 10K and 5K, competed with another 194 competing in the baby buggy race. Alan Grant, of Long Beach, and his child finished the 10K course in 37:47.

Sand and surf

The mid-summer event drew thousands of participants and spectators beginning with the Charlie Saikley 6-Man beach volleyball tournament that began mid-week for the first time.

Friday’s lifeguard events saw Venice winning the Bud Stevenson Intracrew Medley Relay and the 6-Lifeguard Run Relay; Zuma winning the 6-Lifeguard Board Relay and Dockweiler capturing the 4-Lifeguard Shallow Water Sprint Relay.

On Saturday, Jeff Atkinson outpaced fellow Manhattan Beach resident Patrick Sweeney in the Dick Fitzgerald 2-mile Run. Later in the day, Venice won the Girls Junior Taplin Relay; Central won the Boys Junior Taplin Relay; Shane Scoggins of State Southern captured the Beach Flags title and L.A. Country Central Team won the Judge Irving Taplin Medley Relay.

Sunday’s winners included Adam Buckley in the Velzy/Stevens paddleboard race; David Schlesinger and Dawn Hickman won the men’s and women’s divisions of the Dwight Crum Pier-to-Pier Swim and, in the Charlie Saikley 6-man beach volleyball tournament, Spyder won the Men’s Open division while Rusher Air Bacchus captured the Women’s Open title.

In top gear

Utilizing the talents of his three teammates and past knowledge of the course, Ken Hanson, of Santa Barbara, capitalized on a late sprint to win the 51st annual Chevron Manhattan Beach Grand Prix in front of thousands of cheering spectators.

Riding for Optum Presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies, the 30-uyear-old Hanson held off Ricky Escuela, of Argentina, and Hilton Clarke, of Santa Monica, to collect a $3,140 check for the winner of the Men’s Pro National Criterium Calendar (NCC) race.

In the Women’s Cat 1-3 race, Long Beach State student Shelby Reynolds, 21, earned her first victory of the year after several top-three finishes.

Cory Williams, 18, of Los Angeles captured his third straight Cat 2 race at the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix and Richard Meeker won his second straight title in the Masters 45+ after finishing second in 2010.

Riding for the Bahati Foundation, Steven Salazar won the Cat 3 competition and Chad Moston, of Velo Club LaGrange, took top honors in the Cat 4 division.

Charon Smith, 38, of Signal Hill won the Masters 35+ competition and Michael Birditt captured the Masters 55+ divisions while racing for Spy Swami’s Cycling Team.

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