Escondido, CA

Putting a wrap on local prep sports

With high school sports in Escondido having run their course for the 2021-22 school year, that allows us the luxury of backtracking a bit and getting caught up on some meaningful accomplishments that previously went unmentioned.
Also, we offer a final word on Escondido Charter’s remarkable softball season.
Let’s start with the CIF San Diego Section Boys and Girls Swimming and Diving Championships that were held May 4-7 at Granite Hills High. Bear in mind that reaching a final in any event at this prestigious competition is a huge achievement and all of the following Escondido-based athletes did that.
Without question, Escondido High’s Riley Baldwin proved to be an aquatic dynamo as she stroked her way to an impressive first-place finish (1:53.72) in the Division I 200-yard freestyle. But that wasn’t all. Demonstrating that she could definitely stretch things out, this talented junior also delivered a notable result by coming in fifth in the 500-yard free. Having long since proven her proficiency in the pool and driven to continually improve, look for Baldwin to rise to even greater heights during her final season at Esco.
Another girl who certainly distinguished herself in the DI ranks was San Pasqual senior Megan Dang. After knifing her way to a nifty fourth-place spot in the 50-yard freestyle, Dang then displayed her enviable versatility with a boffo effort in 100-yard backstroke where her time of 57.68 was bettered by only one competitor.
Displaying that versatility clearly runs in the family, Megan’s younger brother Caden also showed that he possessed a multiplicity of skills. Following a commendable sixth in the testing 200-yard individual medley, Caden was a factor in the 100-yard breaststroke as his fifth-place result would attest.
And as for getting it done in the DII class, kudos must be extended to Escondido Charter’s Lars Thorogood and Classical’s Solange Vaz. The senior Thorogood made his mark with an eighth-place finish in the 100-yard butterfly while Vaz earned her stripes by finishing seventh in the 100-yard backstroke.
Having covered the waterfront, let’s transition onto solid ground to get the lay of the land there. And in this case, we’re talking track and field. Specifically, the CIF SD Section Finals at Mount Carmel High on May 21.
In Division 1 competition, two local athletes made their presence felt. Stellar senior Oskari Rantamaki concluded his fine prep career with a 40.88a clocking in the 300m hurdles that netted for him a fifth-place result. Meanwhile, his teammate Rasha Badrani established a personal best of 45.73a in the very same event which placed her sixth on the girls’ side of things.
Turning to D2, another duo generated some notice. In the glamour event of the 100 meters, Orange Glen senior Jonathan Littlejohn sped his way to a splendid 10.89a effort that translated into a third-place finish. And then later, at the challenging 800-meter distance, Escondido’s Damian Bonds culminated his notable senior campaign by coming in an admirable ninth.
At the D3 level, it was clearly Esco Charter’s Mallory Fickas who shone the brightest. Setting personal records in both the high and long jumps, the junior Fickas authored impressive fourth and third-place finishes in those respective events.
Adding some icing to her efforts was the fact that Fickas, running the pivotal final leg in the 4×100 relay, combined with teammates Isabella Markow, Elise Manzke, and Elissandra Favela to help secure an eighth-place result.
In another relay, this one of the 4×400 variety, Classical’s Sophia Lin, Sophia Dann, Jordyn Bobbit and Grace Gavin neatly meshed their talents into a fine third-place effort. Gavin also stood out on her own by virtue of a best-ever clocking of 2:26.02a in the 800 meters which brought her home fifth in that race.
Now, let’s cover some diamond action where a magical softball season finally ran its course. Fresh off a coveted Division IV SD Section championship, the White Tigers of Escondido Charter tried to keep their magnificent mojo going but it just wasn’t to be.
Pitted against host and third-seeded Hilltop of Riverside in the first round of the CIF SoCal Softball Championships, Charter (the No. 6 seed) hung tough early but eventually came up short by a 7-3 count.
Forced to play without cornerstone shortstop Julia Shepherd, the White Tigers (23-5) fell behind by 1-0 and 3-1 margins but immediately responded the following half-innings to knot things up. However, when the Trojans pushed across three runs in the bottom of the third, that created a separation that would never be closed.
In the victory, Hilltop rapped out 13 hits and got timely offensive production from freshmen Nicole Riddle (2H, 2RBI, 2B) and Melody Acevedo (2RBI, 2B) in addition to the exploits of senior outfielder Emma Martinez (3H, 2R, RBI, 2B).
Once staked to a 6-3 lead, starter Mattison Beliveau held EC scoreless over the final four frames en route to a complete game, four-hit performance. Indicative that the sophomore hurler’s stuff was clearly working was her hefty total of 13 strikeouts.
For Charter, catcher deluxe Lacey Bainbridge gave her club a huge lift by mashing a two-run homer while Shelbie Van Slyke singled and scored a run. EC’s other hits came off the bats of youngsters Marianna Bedolla and Gionna Mehrtens. And senior Jaylin Alvarado proved to be a factor by coaxing a pair of walks, scoring once and stealing a base.
And in the final outing of her stellar prep career, workhorse righthander Hailey Alspach competed hard to the very end, going six innings while fanning six and giving up four earned runs.
So a terrific season full of great achievement and lasting memories is now officially in the record book. For coach Jeff Johnson and his spirited crew, it certainly has been one heck of a ride.

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