Top 10 Stories of the Year

By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor

As we begin another exciting year of sports in the Palisades there are many memorable plays, record-breaking achievements and storybook endings to look forward to. Before we do, however, let’s take a look back at the best sports moments of the past 12 months. Here is a countdown of the Palisadian-Post’s Top 10 sports stories in 2018…

10. Sophie Whittle Claims Last Riviera Singles Honor 

Not even rolling an ankle in the second set could preventGonzaga senior qualifier Sophie Whittle from winning her eighth match in six days—a three-hour marathon versus Duke freshman Maria Mateus—to claim the singles crown at the Women’s All-American Tennis Championships. The event moves to Tulsa next fall, ending a 34-year run at Riviera. Kansas seniors Nina Khmelnitckaia and Janet Koch beat Stanford’s Caroline Lampl and Kimberly Yee for the doubles title.

9. Pinto, Mustang Cubs and Bronco Yanks Win PPBA   

There was plenty of drama on the diamonds at the Field of Dreams for the Pacific Palisades Baseball Association’s three championship series in June. The Pinto Division came down to the Cubs and Pirates, who combined for 47 hits before Matteo Koudsi’s walkoff double gave the Cubs a 15-14 win. In the Mustang Division, the Cubs edged the Tigers 3-2 in a pitcher’s duel and in the Bronco Division the Yankees won the decider 7-2 as Thomas Wynperle got a strikeout with the bases loaded.

8. Pali High Swim Squads Continue City Finals Reign

The City swim championships might just as well have been dubbed the “Palisades

Invitational” as the Dolphins drained all of the drama out of the pool at John C. Argue Stadium on the campus of USC by sweeping to their sixth straight boys title and ninth straight girls title in May. It was the first time head coach Maggie Nance, who joined her team for a victory swim afterwards, could recall every single Palisades swimmer who competed placing in the top 16 at prelims to qualify for the finals.

7. Pali High Tennis Teams Keep City Dynasties Alive

In the spring, Coach Bud Kling led Palisades High’s boys team to its 10th City championship in a row and in the fall he piloted the girls to their second straight Open Division championship with a tense 4-3 victory over Granada Hills. Jack Harrington partnered with Tomas Huttepain to take the Individual doubles title in the spring while Alex Miller and Emma Akiyama reached the Individual doubles final and Ireland Amato reached the singles final in the fall at Balboa Sports Center.

6. Pali High Football Upsets League Archrival Venice

With stout defense and a little help from Mother Nature, the Dolphins rallied from a 10-point deficit in the first quarter to stun the Gondoliers 24-17—the second time in three years that Palisades upset Venice on its home field. The game started on a Friday night but was halted because of lightning and resumed the following afternoon. Palisades went on to share the Western League title with Fairfax and earn an Open Division playoff berth as one of the top eight teams in the City Section.

5. Okello Runs into Record Book at Will Rogers 10K

His bib number was “1” and, for a record-setting fifth year in a row, that’s the place Tonny Okello finished in the Palisades Will Rogers 10K on July 4. The 34-year-old Santa Monica Track Club member from Mar Vista covered the 6.2-mile course through the Will Rogers switchbacks in 32:51 (his third-fastest time yet) to become the first five-time men’s champion and the first runner, male or female, to win five straight times. Finishing third in the 10K was 47-year-old Highlands resident Ken Rideout.

4. Bubba Watson Triumphs by Two at Genesis Open

After being talked out of retiring by his wife Angie, 39-year-old Bubba Watson shook off

three bogeys on the front nine to post a final-round 69 and capture the Genesis Open—his first PGA Tour title since winning the same tournament (then called the Northern Trust Open) in 2016. All thoughts of trading in his clubs for a rocking chair melted in the bright sun as he became only the third golfer to win three times at Riviera Country Club.

3. Rec Center’s All-Stars Repeat as District Champs

The Banner Boys were at in again in April. A year after winning the Citywide Minor Division basketball crown, the Palisades Recreation Center’s 9- and 10-year-old All-Stars won the District title and came within seconds of repeating as City champions. Coach John Jacobs’ squad consisted of Connor Petoyan, Sean Findley, Julien Harnoncourt, Jake Vander Veen, Quincy Watson, Luke Jacobs, Henry Simon, Will Petoyan and Shayen Bhatia.

2. Pali High Boys Water Polo Wins Regional Trophy

After throttling Birmingham 13-5 to capture its seventh straight City title, the Palisades High boys water polo team made more history in November, winning three games in two days to claim the Southern California Regional Division III championship in Orange County. The No. 2-seeded Dolphins, coached by Adam Blakis, finished with a school-record 30 victories and knocked off top-seeded California from Whittier 12-5 in the regional final after beating LA Cathedral and Valley View in the first two rounds.   

1. Pali High Volleyball Teams Sweep City Open Titles

A program steeped in tradition added a few more firsts under head coach Carlos Gray. In the spring, the boys enjoyed unprecedented success, sweeping Chatsworth for their second straight City crown, then reaching the semifinals of the regional tournament. In the fall, the girls upset defending champion Granada Hills in the semifinals, then beat Taft in four sets to win their 30th City title and first in the Open Division. They then notched their first-ever win in the state playoffs and finished with a school-record 40 victories.