Ten of the 441 wrestlers in the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters tournament have first names beginning with G. There was Gabe, Gabriel, Gavin, Gilberto, two Giovannis, Gordan, two Grants and Guryann. It sounded as if Vacaville High had one among its 14 competitors because of the cheers for “G” whenever Thomas Sandoval was on the mat.
Vacaville coach Armando Orozco admits he usually gets confused when he looks at tournament brackets and cannot find his 182-pound entrant. There is never one with a first name of Geronimo, which is Sandoval’s middle name. Nothing against the junior’s parents, but Thomas has been tossed aside like many of their son’s opponents.
The five who faced Sandoval at the Masters meet know how that feels. Three pins propelled Sandoval into the semifinals, where he defeated Oakdale’s Wes Burford by a 14-5 majority decision. Sandoval scored another majority decision in the finals with a 12-4 victory over Scott Beadles of Calaveras to take down the championship.
Sandoval is one of eight Bulldogs to qualify for the state meet, which will begin Thursday in Bakersfield. The others are sophomore Elijah Almarinez (106), freshman Wyatt Sandoval (113), sophomore Landen Borchers (120), senior Casey Roberts (126), junior Qusai Marini (138), junior Arjun Nagra (152) and senior Caleb Borchers (170).
This is Sandoval’s second trip to Bakersfield. He qualified in 2020 by finishing third at 170 at the Masters meet and then placed fourth at the state tournament. He was one of Vacaville’s four state medalists last year. Medals are awarded to the top eight finishers in each weight class. The other Bulldogs to earn medals were Isaiah Kainoa Medina (sixth at 106), Tyler Riley (eighth at 113) and Eric Almarinez (sixth at 138).
The Bulldogs will practice Wednesday morning and then depart for Bakersfield. They will have a workout in the evening at Mechanics Bank Arena. Sandoval’s bid for a second state medal begins Thursday against Noel Cellabos of Monache High (Porterville). Sandoval is the No. 3 seed, one spot higher than his state ranking by CalGrappler.com.
Tye Monteiro of Bakersfield High is seeded and ranked No. 1. Fountain Valley’s T.J. McDonnell is seeded second and ranked third. Sonny Kling of Canyon Springs is No. 2 in the rankings but fourth in the seedings. If the top four seeds hold true through the quarterfinals Friday, Sandoval will face McDonnell is the semifinals on Saturday.
Monteiro and McDonnell finished second and third, respectively, at the 2022 state tournament.
Finishing second in the 200-meter dash May 5 at the Monticello Empire League track and field championships might have been just what Lily Holman needed. The Vacaville High School junior was reminded that anything less than her best will not be enough to survive two Sac-Joaquin Section meets and qualify for the state championships.
Holman made it through the section Division III meet last week and qualified in four events for the Masters, which begins Friday at Davis High. She won the 100 and 200, avenging her loss to Fairfield’s Mikelia Strong at the MEL meet. She contributed to the Bulldogs’ second-place finish in the 4×100 relay and placed fourth in the long jump.
The top six finishers in each event at Weston Ranch High in Stockton qualified for the Masters. That number will be cut in half this week with only the top three in each event earning tickets to the state meet May 27 and 28 at Buchanan High in Clovis. Holman deserved to go last year in the 4×100 relay with her sister Maya and the Oliver sisters, Aspin and Makayla. The four ranked first in the state, but they never had an opportunity to qualify for the state championships when the Masters was scratched.
And on top of that, Vacaville’s girls team was stripped of the MEL championship after it was determined a member of the team was ineligible. Last season was not a lost cause for Holman, however. Her sister and the Olivers counted on her to hold her own in the relay. The three seniors taught the sophomore what it will take to compete with the elite.
Holman will need to put those lessons to good use Friday when she competes in the preliminaries for the 100, 200 and 4×100 relay. Her best shot to reach the state meet should be the 200. Holman ranks third in the section with a time of 24.72 seconds, according to www.Athletic.net. She is ranked fourth in the long jump and is tied for fifth in the 100. The relay team has little chance of advancing despite setting a season-best time of 49.84 seconds at the Division III meet. Three teams have cracked 48 seconds – Lincoln (46.60) and St. Mary’s (47.09) of Stockton and Lodi (47.68). Armijo is ranked fourth at 48.17, a school record.
By comparison, the Holmans and Olivers sat atop the state rankings in 2021 with a school-record time of 47.55. That was then. This is now for Holman, who can count on just one person to reach the state meet. That would be the same person she sees in the mirror each morning. Barring a miracle in the relay, she will have to make it on her own.
That actually suits Holman, who thinks of a race as a competition against herself as much as against Strong or any other runner. She knows what to do and if she does it, the results will take care of themselves. Holman admits to having a bad habit of starting slow. She keeps her head down for the first 20 meters or so. If Holman is leading when she lifts her head and opens her stride, the only race after that is for second place.
The mistake she made against Strong in the 200 at the MEL meet was letting Strong use the curve to her advantage. Strong is is the top-ranked 400 runner in the section, so she is adept at navigating the curves. Holman prevented that from happening again at the Division III meet by bolting from the blocks and attacking the curve to get out front. As in the 100, there is little chance she will be caught once her legs shift into high gear.
The 200 is tricky with the staggered start. There will be four heats Friday and the winner of each will advance to the finals along with the four runners with the next best times. Holman does not need win her heat to advance (she is the only runner in her heat to crack 25 seconds), but doing so will put her in a middle lane and allow her to keep an eye on the inside runners trying to overcome the stagger before the straightaway.
Holman will plenty of time between her three events Friday to plot strategy for each. Her heats are at 4:08 p.m. for the 4×100 relay, 5:46 for the 100 and 7:33 for the 200. She prefers to keep to herself between events and rarely sits down on the field or in the bleachers.
“I try to be alone,” Holman said. “I just want to think about my races. I try to get my head in the right place.”
Shawna and Brad Humphries waited with open arms Feb. 25 for their daughter Brianna to emerge from the locker room at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. Brianna had just led Dixon High School’s girls basketball team to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship. Her proud parents were eager to embrace the 6-foot-1 senior for a once-in-a-lifetime celebration.
Brianna blew right past her parents, however, just as she did with any Calaveras player who dared to get in her way during the Rams’ 48-42 victory. Her first celebratory hug other than with a teammate or coach was reserved for her biggest fan and tiniest relative. Brianna hoisted her 6-year-old cousin, Sebastian Fernandez, into her arms in much the same manner she had lifted her teammates with 27 points and 16 rebounds.
According to Brianna, her bond with Sebastian stems from each being the only child in their respective families. It also might be because their birthdays are one day apart and make for a perfect time to have a family get-together. And when Sebastian began to play baseball, Brianna shared the fundamentals she learned in softball.
“I don’t have many cousins living near me,” Brianna said. “(Sebastian) has always been there for me. It’s always been me and him. We’re two peas in a pod.”
Sebastian is just old enough to remember when Brianna was down and out in her junior year after tearing the meniscus in her right knee. She sustained the injury with her AAU team, which kept her active when the 2020-21 high school basketball season was postponed to late April and then shortened to just 10 Golden Empire League games.
Such a setback was nothing new for Brianna even though she said the pain was far worse than when she tore two ligaments and the meniscus in the same knee as a freshman. The brace she now wears on her right knee suggests she is not 100 percent, but anyone fortunate enough to have watched Brianna during the section playoffs will say that nothing appears to be wrong with her.
Her reconstructed knee is why Brianna has decided to play softball in college at San Diego Christian instead of opting for basketball or water polo. She received three scholarship offers for softball, but two came from small colleges in the Midwest and she would rather stay closer to home. UC Davis offered her a scholarship for water polo, but Brianna ranks water polo as her No. 3 sport even though she was the starting goalie for the Rams last November when Dixon won the section Division III championship.
Brianna is not breaking up with basketball because no college showed enough interest in her to offer a scholarship. The words of the surgeon who repaired her knee are still ringing in her ears. He told her matter of factly that her knee would not withstand four years of college basketball. She also remembers the toll of playing as many as five AAU games in a weekend took on her knee last year and likely led to her meniscus tearing for a second time.
Her left knee was an issue in the section championship game. Brianna fell in the third quarter and scraped her knee on the hardwood. Not only did she have to leave the game so her knee could be bandaged, but she also made mistake of touching the scrap and then wiping her hand on her shorts. It took some time for those in charge at Golden 1 Center to find a person with enough medical merit to patch her knee and clean the stain on her shorts.
“They were taking like forever. It was a whole fiasco,” said Brianna, who sprinted to the scorers table once her knee was bandaged and returned to the court at the next break in the action. There was just one slight problem, however. Brianna was in such a hurry to re-enter the game that she did not think of checking with head coach Mike Gilliard as she sprinted by him to find out which teammate she would be replacing.
There are plenty of folks in Dixon who will say Brianna is irreplaceable, but she does not act as if she is. She does not clamor for attention even though she was the center of it after Dixon defeated Calaveras. As her teammates made their way to the press conference room, Brianna was stopped on the court by the Sac-Hi Sports camera crew for an interview. Once she rejoined the team, reporters wasted no time in asking her about everything from her upbringing and parents (Brad played football at Vacaville High and Shawna was a swimmer at Dixon) to her knee injuries and college aspirations. She did not expect or want to be thrust into the spotlight.
“I didn’t want it to be all about me. It was a team effort,” Brianna said. “We knew from the beginning (of the season) that we were aiming for something much higher than league. We were shooting for state. That was our whole goal. We all know we can do it.”
It was not meant to be for the Rams, however. Dixon defeated Chico in the first round of the Northern California Division III playoffs for its 19th consecutive victory, but the Rams were no match against Oakland Tech in a 78-38 rout. At least Humphries and her teammates can say they lost to the best Division III girls team in the state after Oakland Tech claimed the championship with a 39-33 victory over La Salle.