Williams and Olsen at Their Best in Arcadia
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Running stride for stride with the strongest field she’d faced all season, Palisades High track runner Marissa Williams had a specific goal in mind at last Saturday’s 48th Arcadia Invitational: break 4:50 in the mile.
Despite entering as the state leader in both the 1,600 and 3,200, Williams wasn’t considered the favorite in either event – a testament to the quality of the competition at one of the nation’s most prestigious prep meets – and although she didn’t cross the finish line first, Williams clocked a personal-best 4:49.23 to earn the fifth-place medal. Jordyn Colter of Cherry Creek, Colorado who will be Williams’ teammate at Cal in the fall, won in 4:45.24.
In an effort to speed up the meet, seeded and invitational runners were grouped together and Williams found herself amidst a large pack with no room to run for the first lap and a half.
“The first lap was really slow – I thought I was going to fall,” she said.
After giving her all in the mile, Williams decided not to run the 3,200, in which she achieved a personal-best 10:25.02 at Arcadia last spring.
“We were pushing each other and I didn’t want to separate too early but I felt strong at the end,” said Williams, who warmed up to the songs of Nirvana and Kings of Leon. “I really just wanted to break 4:50 so I guess I’m satisfied.”
One ecstatic spectator was Cal assistant track coach Chas Davis who watched two of his future stars in top form.
“I couldn’t be more happy – Marissa ran a very strategic race and demonstrated the patience she’ll need at the next level,” Davis said. “You could tell she was familiar with the Californians. We return everyone and we may have one or two more girls coming in so I’m super excited.”
Williams bettered her 1,600 time of 4:50.77 at the Pasadena Games two weeks earlier and will likely compete at either Mt. SAC or the South Bay Invitational this weekend.
Pole vaulter Alex Olsen was on her way to the Coachella Music Festival when she found out a day before that she was entered in the Open Elite Division. She turned around, headed back, and despite twisting her ankle in warmups, cleared a personal-best 11 feet, one inch to tie for 13th place.
“I wanted to PR by more than I did, but this was last minute and it’s my first time here,” said Olsen, who trains two or three times a week with UCLA Coach Anthony Curran. “I’m hoping to do well at state and 12 feet is my goal.
Starting at 10-1, Olsen made 10-7, then cleared 11-1 on her third and last attempt. She came close on her third try at 11-7. Her previous best was 10-11.89 inches two weeks before when she won the Pasadena Games.
“Anthony has helped with everything, especially getting me to turn in the air more,” said Olsen, who wants to continue vaulting in college, her top choice being Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Olsen was introduced to the sport as a freshman at Chaparral High in Scottsdale, Arizona. “I was trying out for track and the coach asked ‘Do you want to try the pole vault?’ and I asked ‘What’s that?’”
Olsen cleared 10-6 to win the City Section title last season and is hoping to repeat.
“My goal is to win City again and break the school record this year,” Olsen said.
Winner Jenny Wilson of Clovis Buchanan and runner-up Sierra Emrick of Morro Bay both cleared 12-1 to match the Open Division record at Arcadia set by Robyn Morioka of West Torrance in 2010 and equaled by Palisades’ Jamie Greenberg in 2012.
Palisades traveled to Fairfax last Thursday for the Western League Relays and posted impressive results.
Shane Brouwer won the boys varsity 2,000 meters in 6:06, Ben Hamer was second in 6:13 and Connor Smith and Jakob Pollack tied for third at 6:14. Gabe Fuligni and Finn Cawley (both 6:27) were second and third in the JV race and Jake Greanias was fourth in 6:29.
Palisades’ boys 4×100 varsity relay won in 43.5 seconds and the JV team took first place in 46.28. The boys varsity sprint medley relay was second in 3:42.2 and Christian Fong was fourth in the varsity boys 110 hurdles in 19.63.
Shannon Lee won the girls varsity 2,000 meters and Emma Ulfvengren was third in 7:41. In the JV race, Kamia Samandi took first place in 7:34, Ariel Pollack was second in 7:38 and Anna Bohuny was third in 7:58.
Kendal Lake won the girls varsity 300 hurdles in 43.66 and Sophia Rothenberg won the JV race in 51.30.
The girls varsity 4×100 relay was second in 52.55 and the JV was second in 57.16. sprint medley relay was second in 4:28.62.
Palisades’ 8×200 relay took first in 3:24.4 and the 8×800 won in 19:16.9.
Palisades’ Ice Princess
Grace Koplin’s “Theater on Ice” Team Heads to France for Nations Cup
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Grace Koplin remembers being “4 or 5 years old” when she saw the movie Ice Princess and ever since then she’s wanted to figure skate.
Ten years and thousands of practice hours later, she’s headed to Colombes, France with the Los Angeles Ice Theater’s nationally-acclaimed team to represent the United States at next week’s Nations Cup, the world’s premiere Ballet on Ice event.
“After I saw Ice Princess I begged my mom for skating lessons and she took me to Culver City Ice Arena when I was 7. I probably started competing at 9 or 10 and I got first in compulsories in my first one and I’ve been competing ever since.”
Now a 14-year-old sophomore at Brentwood School, Koplin has been with the Burbank-based Los Angeles Ice Theater for four years and was one of the youngest girls to make the Senior team. She’s represented the USA once before in international competition –– two years ago in Spain when her team was ranked sixth in the world.
Los Angeles Ice Theater will be one of three U.S. teams at the Nations Cup, which consists of teams from across the globe, including Russia, Australia, Italy, Mexico and France. The U.S. Figure Skating Association selected Koplin’s team along with Harmony Theatre Company in Michigan and Act I Skating Club from Boston.
Koplin and her team fly across the Atlantic on Monday and the competition is April 24-25. Each team performs a three-minute short program and six-minute long program and a panel of judges awards points based on artistic quality and technical difficulty.
One of the fastest growing areas of figure skating in the U.S., ice ballet incorporates the techniques of individual and pairs skating into a theatrical performance.
“Our coach sets all the programs and I’m in a pairs group so I’m lifted a few times,” says Koplin, who went to Seven Arrows Elementary and lives in the El Medio Bluffs. “It’s different –– you have to be in sync with the people on your team –– but it’s tiring. I’m definitely out of breath at the end of the program.”
There are eight levels of skating and Koplin just tested to Juvenile. She hopes to make Intermediate (the fifth level) by the end of the year. There are competitons every weekend over the summer and Koplin is dedicated to her sport.
“I love individual competitions because if I mess up I know it’s on me. There’s pressure in Theater on Ice because you’re on a team and you don’t want to let anyone down.”
Koplin’s team qualified for the Nations Cup by finishing third at last year’s U.S. Nationals in Dearborn, Michigan.
“Every skater’s dream is to go to the Olympics and that would be great, but my goal is to get an international assignment and get to Senior Level.”
Koplin is well on the way to achieving her goal. So what does it take to be a successful skater?
“You need to have self-determination –– you can’t give up in the middle,” she says. “Everything you do is a foundation for the next thing.”
Pali High Volleyball Trio to Be Honored April 26
Former Palisades High volleyball players Randy Stoklos and Kent Steffes and longtime Dolphins coach Howard Enstedt are among this year’s inductees into the Los Angeles City Section Hall of Fame. The ceremony is April 26, at the Doubletree by Hilton in Culver City.
Stoklos (Class of ‘78) won 123 beach events, including a U.S. championship and five world titles with fellow Palisadian Sinjin Smith.
Steffes (Class of ‘86) was the National Player of the Year his senior year and won a gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics.
Enstedt coached Palisades to nine City Section titles in 30 years, retiring in 1994.
Boys Tennis Chases Seventh Straight City Section Crown
After rolling to yet another undefeated Western League campaign the Palisades High boys tennis team was awarded the No. 1 seed in the City Section Division I playoffs.
The Dolphins (21-1) had a bye in the first round of the 12-team bracket and hosted league rival Hamilton in the quarterfinals Wednesday at the Palisades Tennis Center (result undetermined at press time). The eighth-seeded Yankees advanced with a 17 1/2-12 victory over ninth-seeded Narbonne.
Palisades blanked the Yankees 7-0 twice in league but the playoff format uses round robin scoring. If victorious over Hamilton, Palisades will likely host fourth-seeded El Camino Real, the West Valley League runner-up, in the semifinals Friday (start time 1 p.m.).
West Valley League winner Granada Hills was seeded second and Valley Mission League co-champion Van Nuys was seeded third.
Rounding out the draw: No. 5 Cleveland, No. 6 Kennedy, No. 7 Taft, No. 10 Gardena, No. 11 Chatsworth and No. 12 Bell
The championship match is Monday at 11 a.m. at Balboa Sports Complex in Encino. The Dolphins are seeking a record seventh consecutive City title.
Palisadian Riders Star for Balmoral Farm
Balmoral Farm was well represented last weekend at the Blenheim Spring Classic II Horse Show in San Juan Capistrano and leading the way were three Palisades riders: Claire and Kaitlyn Van Konynenburg and Sofia Baiker.
Competing ar her first show, Claire Van Konynenburg was champion with her horse “Now How Z.”
Claire’s daughter Kaitlyn won championships on three different horses, riding her new mount Comissario to victory in the Small Juniors Hunters, riding “Homestead” to victory in the Large Juniors and riding “Wish List” to the Reserve title.
Sofia Baiker was champion in the Children’s Ponies on “Toblerone.”
Softball Rallies Past Fairfax
STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Patience is a virtue, especially at the plate, and Palisades High sophomore Paulette Ely showed why with two outs in the final inning of last Thursday’s Western League softball game against Fairfax.
Determined to make the most of a second chance, Ely drew a bases-loaded walk to force home Monika Swanson with the winning run to finish off a 9-8 comeback victory at Stadium by the Sea.
Ely worked the count full, then laid off a ball out of the strike zone, trotting to first base as her teammates began to celebrate.
“Standing on deck I was really nervous but it helped when we tied it because I knew even if I struck out we’d have another inning,” Ely said. “I kept thinking ‘Make her throw a strike. Even when we were behind I knew we could do it. We wanted it more.”
Ely faced a similar situation in the sixth, coming to bat with the bases loaded and two outs, but she flied out to right field to end the inning and the Dolphins still trailed by three runs.
Ely had a hit, walked three times and had two RBIs. She also relieved Talia Hunter in the circle in the third inning and allowed only one run on three hits in four and two-thirds innings.
Swanson went five-for-five (all singles) with three RBIs and three runs scored, Jaylene Navarro hit two home runs and Sasha Vanley added two hits for the Dolphins (5-6 overall, 4-1 in league).
Palisades trailed 8-0 after four and a half innings and was behind 8-5 heading to the bottom of the seventh. Vanley led off with a single, Hunter reached on an error and Navarro walked to load the bases with no outs. After a strikeout, Swanson singled up the middle to score two runs. A ground ball moved the Lions (5-8, 2-4) within one out of a win, but Calia Hunter hit a hard line drive to third to score the tying run. Daisy Jones followed with a walk that loaded the bases and set the stage for Ely.
“It was very dramatic,” Swanson said. “It was a big win for us.”
Two days earlier Palisades led Westchester 11-2 when the game was called after three innings due to rain. It will likely be completed when the teams play again April 30 at Westchester.
“You don’t learn a whole lot from blowouts so it’s nice to have one like this,” Coach Tori Dario said. “I told the girls going into the last inning to just be smart hitters. It’s now or never, it’s do or die – and they came through.”
Pali High Golf Team Dealt First Defeat
The Palisades High boys golf team has dominated the City Section for several years now but the opponent that has given the Dolphins the most trouble has been Granada Hills.
For the second straight season the Highlanders dealt Palisades its first league defeat, winning last Thursday’s 6A League match 210-217 at Knollwood Country Club.
“Just like last year we lost to them at Knollwood but we went on to win City last year so let’s hope history repeats itself,” Pali High Coach James Paleno said. “Maybe it’s that they didn’t play much over spring break, but 217 is a high number for us. Four guys shot way above their averages.”
The Dolphins (5-1) won by eight strokes at Rancho Park in the schools’ first meeting but this time only one player, sophomore Ray Yang (39), shot under 40.
Max Hagar shot 42, Jason Simon shot 44, Grant Ebner shot a 45, Michael Lerner shot a 47 and Ethan Rautbort and Will Holbrow each shot a 49 for Palisades.
Jake Rosen fired a two-over par 38 to earn medalist honors and Liam Cavanaugh shot a 42 for the host Highlanders (5-1), who moved into a first-place tie.
Pali High Hoops Players Make All-City Squads
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
The CIF Los Angeles City Section has released its All-City boys and girls basketball teams for the 2014-15 season and Palisades High players have made both lists.
Two Dolphins are on the girls’ All-City first team: senior forward Bianca King and sophomore guard Chelsey Gipson. Another Pali High guard, junior Kayla Merrill-Gillett, is on the second team. All three also made the first All-Open Division squad.
“I’m so proud of these young ladies,” Pali High head coach Torino Johnson said. “All three were instrumental in us winning the Open Division.”
King was chosen Most Valuable Player in the Western League after averaging 17.6 points, 13.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 3.5 steals and 2.5 blocks per game and was joined on the All-League first team by Gipson (19.2 points, 5.0 assists, 2.6 steals per game), Merrill-Gillett (17.8 points, 3.5 assists) and freshman Sammy Spanier., who played in all 34 games and averaged seven points and 3.9 rebounds.
Latecia Smith of Open Division runner-up Narbonne was voted City Player of the year.
Joining her on the All-City first team are Fatou Semebene and Keri Alexander of View Park, Ijeoma (Brianna) Anugwom of Westchester, Marguerite Effa of Fairfax, Monica Garcia of Garfield, Tybriann Jones of Narbonne, Precious Nwaba of University and Terrin Sullivan of Douglass.
Joining Merill-Gillett on the All-City second team are Sankia Braxton of Animo South LA, Yolanda Ealy of Fairfax, Dominique Godbolt of View Park, Allissa Gomez of Roosevelt, Christina Hilton of Eagle Rock, Taylor Jackson of Douglass, Esther Mensah of Granada Hills, Alizé Niko of Carson, Monica Perla of Poly and Sylmar’s Marina Rojas.
Johnson was named City Coach of the Year (see story Page 14) after guiding the Dolphins to a 23-11 record and a state Open Division playoff berth.
King, Gipson and Merill-Gillett all made the All-Open Division team and Johnson was voted Coach of the Year.
“The All-Open team actually means more to me because Bianca, Chelsey and Kayla are all on it, as they should be,” Johnson said.
For the boys, Pali High senior guard Joseph Robinson has been named to the All-City second team after leading the Dolphins in scoring. He and junior guard Will Johnson also made the City’s All-Division I squad.
Robinson and Johnson were both All-League first team picks.
“I’m excited for Joe and Will,” Pali High Coach Vejas Anaya said. “They both deserve it.”
Senior Lindsey Drew of Open Division champion Fairfax was voted City Player of the Year. Also on the All-City first team are Evan Battey of LACES, Shane Carney of Narbonne, Lorne Currie and Donald Gipson of Fairfax, Cameron Evans and Tommie from Dorsey, Keith Fisher and Ellis Sallahudin of Westchester, Chris Kendrick of Crenshaw, Cesar Reyes of Poly, Chris Terry of El Camino Real and Tramel Wilson of Washington Prep.
Joining Robinson on the All-City second team are Josiah Breda-Nixon and Samoore Riley of King Drew, Sean Fernandez of North Hollywood, Adrian Gutierrez of Verdugo Hills, Darius Henderson and Damian Wilson, Jr. of Taft, Tyler Hooks of Sylmar, Brandon Russell of El Camino Real, Christopher Tovar of Huntington Park and Bernard Wolfe of Middle College. Hooks was named Player of the Year in Division I after leading the Spartans to the title.
Baseball Resumes League Play
Heading into the teeth of its schedule the Palisades High baseball team hopes its challenging tournament schedule will pay dividends as the Dolphins try to defend their Western League title.
Palisades played only once last week, suffering a 5-1 defeat at West Torrance in the Redondo Tournament.
The Dolphins were held to four hits, but pitcher Charlie Carr kept the game scoreless into the fifth inning. He went five and two-thirds innings, allowing two earned runs on four hits with two strikeouts.
The loss dropped Palisades to 7-9 overall while West improved to 11-5.
“We’re playing better now than we were at the start of the season,” Coach Mike Voelkel said. “We have to win the league.”
The Dolphins resumed league play Tuesday at George Robert Field and Jed Moscot pitchered six strong innings in a 10-2 victory over Westchester, which dealt Palisades its only league defeat last season.
Palisades traveled to East Los Angeles College for a nonleague game against Roosevelt yesterday (result undetermined at press time) and travels to Westchester today (first pitch at 3 p.m.)
On Saturday the Dolphins will host Covina Northview in a Redondo Tournament game at 11 a.m.
Next Tuesday starts a home-and-home series with league frontrunner Hamilton (18-2), which is off this week.
Lacrosse Teams Net Decisive Wins
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
The best way to shake off a disheartening loss is with a huge win and that’s just what the Palisades High varsity lacrosse teams did against City opponents.
Coming off a 6-5 loss to Birmingham, the girls were in attack mode from the start last Wednesday and built a 10-2 halftime lead on their way to a 15-3 victory over Huntington Park.
Mariam Zafar-Khan led the charge with three goals and Liesel Staubitz, Gigi Staubitz, Lily Wollman, Zohya Parmar and Anna Lewis each added two goals. Mia McArthur and Laura Sussman also scored.
“I was pleased with the way we passed the ball and played as a team,” Pali High Coach Betsy Economou said. “We need to play as many games as we can.”
Palisades’ boys varsity shook off a 15-12 intersectional loss to Brentwood with a 19-1 rout of visiting Hawkins on Monday.
Nate Galper had six goals and three assists, Macchio Rissone added four goals and five assists. Jake Takakjian and Andrew Davidson each scored twice.