Rudd and Paniagua

Righetti's Zach Rudd, left, and VCA's Perla Paniagua pose for photos after being named athletes of the week at Monday's Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Round Table.

Spring break in the Lompoc and Santa Ynez Valley led to a smaller school lineup for this week’s Round Table on Monday.

The weekly luncheon at Giavanni’s Pizzeria in Orcutt was predominantly Orcutt and Santa Maria heavy – as Orcutt Academy, St. Joseph, Righetti, Pioneer Valley, Valley Christian Academy and Hancock College represented this week’s contingent.

But the theme wasn’t just focused on taking a week off from school. The central theme was acknowledging oneself as a role player – which was round table emcee Charles Sommer opening statement for the luncheon.

“You always have a role,” Sommer started out. “We all can’t be in the spotlight because we’re not always the star player. It’s nice to see that coaches don’t always bring in the star players every time. They bring in the role players who know their role.

“It’s always really nice to see the athletes who know their role. Just because you’re not the star doesn’t mean you don’t need to give it your all. Remember, you are an important part of your team, regardless.”

Two key pieces for their respective teams this week were acknowledged as the Athlete of the Week winners: Zach Rudd of Righetti baseball – who smashed two home runs and drove in eight RHS runners last week – and Perla Paniagua of VCA softball – who doubled as the top pitcher and hitter for the Lions last week including taking two wins on the mound and blasting one home run.

“It’s a privilege to win this award,” Rudd said. “I’ve always wanted to win it during my senior year. I have to give credit, though, to my coaches and teammates.”

Added Paniagua: “It’s really nice. I was not expected it at all. But it’s a nice surprise to win this award. Everything is happening fast, but it’s really nice.”

Other highlights


Boys tennis head coach Jen Haskell took the stage first to introduce two of her top players Cesar Hernandez and her No. 1 player Kalin Corral.

“Cesar is a great person to have on our team. You never know when he’s losing or winning. He always has a great smile on his face and we’re really happy to have him in the program,” Haskell said. “Kalin is doing fantastic this year and is looking at fourth place this year in the PAC-8. He’s beaten a lot of guys this year who didn’t see him coming.”

Baseball head coach Brian Toomoka was also in attendance.

Pioneer Valley

Panthers athletic director Greg Lanthier brought out one of the deepest lineups at the round table – as he went with a softball, track and field and boys volleyball group this week.

His athletes were: Alyssa Sally Gonzalez (softball), Mariah Arellano (softball), Vanessa Navarro (softball), Jose Aguilera (boys volleyball), Emerson Ritualo (boys volleyball), Juan Guzman (track) and Lilibeth Cervantes (track).

“They have a lot of new players. But they’re getting better as the season goes,” Lanthier said of boys volleyball. “Both Guzman and Cervantes are our best throwers on our track team and our coach says they have an outstanding work ethic.”

Lanthier concluded that softball has a big tournament on the horizon: The Best of the West Tournament featuring the likes of San Luis Obispo and St. Bonaventure starting on April 21.

Orcutt Academy

The Spartans went with a four-sport representation: boys volleyball, track and field, boys golf and softball.

Boys volleyball head coach Jim Milton introduced his duo of Stephen Lees and Thomas Casazza.

“Both of these guys are role players, as Charles was saying before. They may not be definite standouts, but they’ve had standout games,” Milton said.

Track and field coach James Barr then took the stage to talk about the fun and growth of the track program.

“We’re having a fun season. It’s a big team – the biggest we’ve had,” Barr said.

He then pointed to his top thrower Kevin Lopez, who Barr said “is always flirting out there with our records.” He also introduced Brooke Stewart, who went from sprints to hurdles and set a school record in the 300 meter hurdles last week. Freshmen Joslynn Allen and Josiah DeBruno filled the rest of the track roster at the pizzeria. Barr said the athletes aren’t just competing in two events on the track.

“We challenge the team to pick out a third and fourth event to help the team. And we’re competing a lot better because of that. Our students are picking up that challenge,” Barr said. “They make us proud as a school and as a program.”

Golf head coach Lincoln White then grabbed the microphone to introduce his assistant Raul Birch and shined a light on his young golfer: Freshman Robbie Birch.

“He’s already the anchor of our team,” White said. “He has gotten his scores down from the 90s to the 80s.”

But White said that wasn’t Birch’s best accomplishment. He executed a hole-in-one at the Spartans’ last meet on Thursday.

“At the sixth hole, he pulled out a four iron from 200 yards and put the ball in the hole in one shot. We believe he’s the first golfer in Orcutt Academy history to have a hole-in-one,” White said, which drew a loud applause from the crowd.

Athletic director Chad McKenzie concluded things for OAHS by introducing key softball player Cielo Ruvalcaba, who is only a sophomore. 

“Cielo hits the snot out of the ball,” McKenzie said. “She already broke the school record for five home runs this season – one of them against a Templeton pitcher who has one scholarship offer from an NCAA Division I college.”

Valley Christian Academy

Lions softball head coach Randy Stanford kept the focus on the diamond by introducing his two players Paniagua and Kyra Tullos.

“Kyra has been doing a great job for us as a first-year player,” Stanford said. “Perla had a big week last week pitching and hitting.”

Stanford concluded his brief speech by sharing the Lions three-game winning streak over Bishop Diego, Coastal Christian and Shandon – scoring an average of 22 runs in that winning march.

St. Joseph

Before boys golf head coach James Fosdick introduced his lineup, he first praised Birch’s significant golf accomplishment.

“I’ve been playing this game for 60 years. I haven’t had one hole-in-one yet,” Fosdick said, which drew laughs from the crowd.

Fosdick introduced his freshman Isaiah Rocha and James Porter.

Softball head coach Jon Valencia then took the stage to share the team’s best start in his tenure at 7-7 overall, then brought out players Seyenna Cavazos, who is overcoming a leg injury that wiped away her season a year ago, and Nikki Cervantes, who he described as a speedy player.

Track star Michael Powers then spoke on behalf of SJHS, as he introduced teammates C.J. Cole and Corby Burress.      

“We’ve had a pretty good week so far. We just came back from the Arcadia Invitational, running our season best in the 4x100 relay, which was a 43.67. C.J’s times are also getting better and Corby won all three of her events. For a small team, we’re doing really good,” Powers said.

Debbi Wegemer then grabbed the microphone to introduce volleyball players Matt Plummer and Jack Blackburn.

Plummer, a setter, said the season has been going rough but “we’re having fun with it. We’re just looking to have a great rest of the season.”

Hancock College

Track assistant coach Nick Puckett brought out his trio of runners from the men’s and women’s side: Steven Youngblood, Theodore Solis and Rachel Naugle.

The last athlete he introduced, Solis, was described as “one of those team players. He fills in anywhere. The 100, 200, 4x400 and any other place we need him. He’s willing to be a part of the team.”

He said all of his athletes are now preparing for the Western Prelims, which starts April 21.

The round table won’t meet next Monday due to Easter and other schools going on spring break. The luncheon resumes on April 24.


Sports Reporter