| Sports Year in Review: Vanden High state title tops list of memorable local sports moments in 2017
It was quite the sports year in the Vacaville area.
League, section and even a state title were won by teams here.
Many of the student-athletes who helped deliver those championships signed on to continue their athletic careers in college. In fact, this year was one of the richest in recent memory in terms of local athletes signing to play in college.
Long droughts were snapped — Will C. Wood High School’s softball team won its first Monticello Empire League title since 2002, and a pair of Dixon High track athletes snapped a nearly two decade drought by qualifying for the CIF State Track and Field meet in Clovis.
Without further adieu, here’s a look back at the most memorable sports stories from an eventful 2017.
1. Vanden Girls Basketball wins DII State Title
Down 17 points entering the fourth quarter, Vanden mounted an epic comeback to beat powerhouse Mater Dei of Santa Ana 64-61 in the CIF Division II State Championship game at Golden1Center in Sacramento.
Julia Blackshell-Fair, who goes down as one of the best student-athletes to have ever come through Vanden, scored 20 points and grabbed 21 rebounds in the win, which clinched the Vikings’ first state title in program history.
The victory put the cherry on top of the most successful girls basketball seasons in the school’s history. Co-coaches — and husband and wife — Allison and Jake Johnson steered the team to a 31-5 record in 2017, including the program’s 17th straight Solano County Athletic Conference crown and third straight Sac-Joaquin Section title.
2. Vacaville Christian Captures First Section Baseball Title
It became pretty clear early on that 2017 was going to be a special year for the VCS baseball team.
The Falcons won 17 of their first 18 games to open the spring and went on to beat rival Bradshaw Christian 6-0 in the Sac-Joaquin Section D-VI Championship game at Sacramento City College in May.
VCS ace Lucas Sweany was dominant all season and struck out 13 hitters in six innings of work to help the VCS baseball team win its first section title in program history.
Sweany finished the season with an 11-2 record and 159 strikeouts in 75 innings.
Sam Baker and Brett Huntley drove in two runs apiece for VCS in the title game.
3. Will C. Wood Softball Ends 15-Year Drought
After more than a decade of waiting, Wood’s softball team beat Vacaville 6-4 in May to win a Monticello Empire League title for the first time since 2002.
The two cross-town rivals were tied atop the MEL standings coming into the final game of the regular season, but timely hits from Wood in the late innings was the difference.
Leading 3-2 after five innings, the Wildcats broke through with three runs in the top of the sixth to take a 6-2 advantage.
Wood ace Sydney Moorehead surrendered two runs in the seventh, but induced an infield flyout for the third out of the inning to seal the win.
Wood went on to beat McClatchy 4-1 in the first round of the section playoffs before losing to Oak Ridge on the road.
4. Jurnee Woodward Wraps Up Legendary Track Career at Vacaville High
Many terrific athletes have walked the halls at Vacaville High School. Jurnee Woodward may go down as one of the best.
After qualifying for the CIF State Track and Field Meet in Clovis for the fourth consecutive year, Woodward clocked a time of 40.79 in the 300-meter hurdles to take second place behind Norco High School’s Shae Anderson, who made a late charge to win the race with a time of 40.31.
The runner-up finish was Woodward’s second podium placing of the June evening after she ran fourth in the 100 meter hurdles (13.44) final a few hours earlier.
Woodward finished an illustrious high school carer at Vacaville as a seven-time state medalist — including a 300-meter hurdles state title in 2016. She is a three-peat champion in the 100 and 300 hurdles at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters, and a section record holder in both hurdles events.
She is the only female athlete in Vacaville school history to win a state title in track and field, and just the second Bulldog to do it overall alongside Darren Stringer, who won the 100 meter dash back in 1988.
Woodward was pursued by big-time track and field college programs all over the nation and ultimately narrowed her choices down to Oregon, LSU and Georgia. Last November, she made the decision to go with LSU, a school that has won 14 national titles and finished the 2016 season as the No. 8 ranked women’s track and field program, according to NCAA.com.
Now at LSU, Woodward is studying film and media when she’s not on the track.
5. Community Rallies Behind Dixon High Icon
You’d be hard-pressed to find anybody associated with Dixon High School more beloved than Tom Crumpacker, a recently retired teacher, coach and athletic director at the school.
The community proved as much in the spring.
In April, Crumpacker was diagnosed with Blastic Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cell Neoplasm (BPDCN), a rare form of leukemia. He was admitted to the Roseville Kaiser Cancer Center and began his first regiment of chemotherapy began April 29.
In response, the school held its end of the year “Spirit Week”, where students donned bright colored workout clothes to resemble Crumpacker’s favored attire, while other students even took the opportunity to shave their heads in his honor.
Buckhorn Restaurant in Winters welcomed families to “Eat One for Crum”, donating 15 percent of sales to assist Crumpacker’s medical expenses.
A “Run one for Crum” GoFundMe.com account was created. Those who were interested in providing financial support were able to donate towards his medical procedures at Stanford Medical Center.
6. I’ll Be Taking My Talents To…..
It was a huge year for local athletes signing college scholarships.
Just a few weeks ago, Vacaville High lineman Jake Levengood signed to play football for PAC-12 Oregon State. The very same day, Wood quarterback Carson Strong inked his scholarship to play for the University of Nevada, Reno.
On the hardwood, Wood’s Jay Nagle (UC Santa Barbara) and Vacaville’s Zack Perlstein (CSU East Bay) signed in November.
Vanden girls basketball star Julia Blackshell-Fair (University of Houston) signed just before the start of 2017. As did Vacaville track phenom Jurnee Woodward (LSU).
In baseball, Vacaville’s Bryce Begell (University of Arizona) and Cole Elvis (San Jose State) sealed the deal at a signing event in November. They joined Wood’s Titus Groeneweg, who signed with college baseball powerhouse Cal State Fullerton. Fullerton made the College World Series just last year.
Many, many, many more local athletes also signed in 2017, a tribute to the talent in this area.
7. Vacaville Wrestling is Back?
Not that it ever really left, but Vacaville High co-coaches Clint Birch and Armando Orozco believe the school’s wrestling program is back to an elite level after a very successful 2017.
The Bulldogs won their 16th Sac-Joaquin Section Masters title in 2017, and qualified seven wrestlers to the CIF State Championships in March.
Three of those state qualifiers placed in the top-8. Lawrence Saenz led the way with a fourth place finish, then-senior Matt Hruby (113) closed out his high school career with a pin to capture seventh place, and then-junior Jake Levengood (heavyweight) secured an eighth place finish despite battling an injury.
This year was the first time since 2013 that a Vacaville wrestling team had three individuals place in the top-8 at the state meet.
The Bulldogs won the Monticello Empire League title again and went on to win the MEL Championship, Division 1A Championship and Masters Championship on their way to the state meet.
8. Dickerson, Phillips Jr. Snap Dixon High Dry Spell
Dixon track and field athletes Mylan Dickerson and Davis Phillips Jr. qualified for the CIF State Track and Field Meet in Clovis — snapping a dry spell that dated back to 1998.
In 1998, Dixon hurdler Melissa Ferguson, the first-ever Ram to win a section championship in the hurdles, placed 10th in the 300 hurdles at Cerritos College in Norfolk.
That was the last time a Dixon track and field athlete had competed in the state track meet until this year.
Phillips Jr. qualified after capturing first place in the 200-meter dash (21.99) at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters meet.
After placing fourth with a high jump mark of 6-03.00, Dickerson qualified for the state meet when third place finisher Jahi Corbin (Central Catholic) turned down an invite because of senior trip.
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