Archive for Sports

Pioneering athletic excellence

The Whittier Union High School District celebrated the grand opening of the Dick Torres Memorial Stadium at Pioneer High School on May 28, 2015. Pictured are, from left, Pioneer High ASB President Robert Castañeda, Superintendent Sandra Thorstenson, Board of Trustees member Dr. Ralph Pacheco, Trustee Tim Schneider, President Jeff Baird, Trustee Leighton Anderson and Santa Fe High School ASB President Steven Nuon.

Whittier Union celebrates grand opening of

Dick Torres Memorial Stadium

By Juliette Funes

VMA Communications

WHITTIER – The Whittier Union High School District unveiled its spectacular 7,000-seat football stadium at Pioneer High School – among the largest high school stadiums in the San Gabriel Valley – to the community during a grand opening ceremony on May 28.

The $17.5 million facility, built with proceeds from the $75 million Measure W facilities bond, was dedicated as the Dick Torres Memorial Stadium in honor of Richard Torres, who died in 2010 after serving more than 30 years as an educational leader and inspiration to Whittier Union students.

“We’ve been waiting with excitement for the day when we could open this district stadium and cheer on our student-athletes from the sidelines,” Whittier Union Board of Trustees President Jeff Baird said. “That day has finally arrived and I want to thank the community for supporting the need for premium athletic facilities in our schools and enhancing opportunities for our student-athletes to achieve excellence in academics and athletic competition.”

During the celebration, visitors toured the stadium, to be shared with Santa Fe High, and marveled the many improvements it will offer to the school community, including enhanced seating capacity – with 2,000 seats for visitors and seating for 5,000 for the home team – and upgrades that include renovated soccer fields, outdoor tennis courts, junior varsity and varsity baseball and softball fields, and concession areas.

Other stadium features include an elevator and press box, as well as locker and weight rooms, an equipment storage room and coach’s office with restrooms in a separate structure below. The stadium includes a nine-lane, multi-colored synthetic track that highlights passing zones, a feature found more commonly in colleges and universities, including UCLA’s famed Drake Stadium.

Torres’ wife, Mary, expressed her pride that her husband’s legacy will reach generations of students.

“Along with his own children, being an educator here was an important part of his life and allowed him to dedicate himself to helping students succeed and achieve their dreams,” she said. “It is an enormous privilege for me, our families, our children and grandchildren to see this beautiful stadium carry the Torres name. It is more than any of us could have ever hoped for.”

Torres began his Whittier Union career in 1969 as a teacher at Santa Fe, where he led the Expanded Horizons program, serving and motivating first-generation, college-going youths. He later served as Pioneer’s Assistant Principal of Business and Activities, a post he held until his retirement in 1991.

Torres continued to substitute as a teacher and administrator at every District school until his death.

Joe Duardo, a parent and community leader, lauded Torres for his role in growing the Horizons program at Santa Fe and for stressing the importance of parent involvement in increasing student success.

“Throughout his career, Dick demonstrated an uncommon dedication, enthusiasm and passion to advocate on behalf of all of the district’s students,” Duardo said. “Just as this stadium has been transformed by the renovation project, the district’s instructional program and the lives of thousands of students have been transformed, thanks to Dick Torres and the vision that he so fervently and persistently articulated.”

The Pioneer Class of 2015 will hold its graduation ceremony in the new stadium on Wednesday, June 3.

“We are elated to open this first-class athletic facility to our students who continue to distinguish themselves in the classroom and on the field,” Superintendent Sandra Thorstenson said. “To have the stadium bear the name of a man who inspired so many and left a lasting impact on everyone will serve as a reminder to this community that demographics do not determine destiny at Whittier Union.”

Mason Tellez makes triumphant return to Whittier High

Whittier Union High School District Superintendent Sandra Thorstenson embraces Whittier High School student Mason Tellez, who is also joined by Whittier High School track coach Dan Whittington, whose heroic actions may have saved Mason’s life.

Beloved cross country standout makes comeback after heart ailment

By Juliette Funes

VMA Communications

WHITTIER – Whittier High School student Mason Tellez got a resounding Cardinal welcome from his peers, teachers and friends when he returned to the campus for the first time since recovering from a devastating health event that at one point left him unable to walk or talk.

With the help of his parents, chants and cheers from the audience, and a standing ovation from the more than 2,400 students and staff members at Whittier High, on Friday, Aug. 29, 2014, Mason walked across the stage of Vic Lopez Auditorium on his own and gave a heartfelt “thank you” to his Cardinal family.

“Mason is known for his positive spirit and work ethic and is a true Cardinal With CLASS,” said Whittier High School Principal Lori Eshilian. “He has expressed hope of regaining his speech, walking on his own and graduating with his class, and I have no doubt that Mason can accomplish anything he sets his mind to.”

Mason has been undergoing months of extensive therapy and daily rehabilitation since collapsing in March due to an undetected heart condition while he was training with the school’s cross country/long distance track team. Mason returned to school as a senior this week.

As a prelude, Whittier High held a welcome-back assembly that brought Mason and his parents together with the people who saved his life: Dan Whittington, Whittier High’s track coach at the practice, who administered CPR until the police and paramedics arrived, and Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper and Officer Tim Roberts.

While Mason continues to make progress, including walking on his own, carrying on conversation, he is still working on regaining his vision.

“Mason is an extraordinary example of someone who has defied all odds, valiantly and courageously fighting for his own recovery and becoming an inspiration to everyone within the Whittier Union High School District and Whittier communities,” said Superintendent Sandra Thorstenson. “Mason’s return to school demonstrates his exceptional spirit and continued commitment to live and thrive.”

Whittier Union and Tellez’s peers have rallied behind Mason since the tragedy, visiting him in the hospital, writing him notes, wearing T-shirts with the supportive message, “Live Everyday Like A Mason Day,” and organizing a track team run from Whittier, Pioneer, La Serna, Santa Fe and California high schools to PIH Health, where he received his medical care.

Mason’s parents, Ellen and Chuck, said they would like to thank everyone in the Whittier community, Whittier High School’s students and staff, for the ongoing love and support their son and family have received throughout Mason’s recovery.

“The outpouring of support and affection from Mason’s friends has gone a long way to help us find strength, and this welcome celebration meant the world to us,” Ellen Tellez said. “It’s my hope that Mason’s story will touch a student who ever considered giving up. Maybe Mason, in some way, will motivate them to keep going, stay positive and keep their spirits up.”


Former Roadrunner makes it to the “Bigs”

Pitcher Andrew Morales gets drafted by St. Louis Cardinals in second round

By Ruthie Retana
VMA Communications

WHITTIER – Former Rio Hondo College Roadrunner pitcher and 2012 Foothill Conference Baseball Player of the Year Andrew Morales is headed to the majors after being drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals.

The right-handed hurler, who had just completed his senior year at UC Irvine, was called up in the second round of the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft after he led the Anteaters to the College World Series. He received a $546,000 signing bonus.

Morales is ranked fourth in the country with 17 starts and 128 strikeouts. During his tenure at Rio Hondo, Morales earned the California Community College Baseball Coaches Association All-American and Pitcher of the Year awards, and won All-Foothill Conference first-team accolades in 2011.

“It was unbelievable, actually,” Morales told Sports Illustrated’s Redbird Rants regarding the draft. “(I’m) very blessed to have the opportunity; very thankful that the Cardinals believed in me to pick me in the second round. It was an awesome experience for (me) and for my family.”

Morales attended South Hills High School in West Covina where he was 8-2 on the mound as a senior. He helped guide the team to two league championships and a California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division 3 title. At South Hills, Morales also earned All-CIF first-team recognition and was the 2010 All-San Antonio League first-team honoree.

“It’s just very well deserving for a guy who works so hard,” said Rio Hondo College Baseball Coach Mike Salazar. “He was 21-0 his two years at Rio Hondo until the last game, and 10-0 in his first year at UC Irvine. In three years he was 31-1 and during that time, he stood by his sister as she overcame cancer. Through all that adversity, it is very good to see him succeed.”

During his career at Rio Hondo, Morales made 28 starts and struck out 135 batters in 182 innings. He logged three complete games and a save, and with an ERA of 2.42, he walked only 42 players his freshman year. By the end of his sophomore year, Morales had walked just 23, earning an ERA of 2.01.

In 2012, Morales made the All-Pacific Association Division first-team. He went on to UC Irvine and racked up an impressive list of accolades, including the National Collegiate Writers Baseball Association pre-season first-team All-American; Collegiate Baseball “Louisville Slugger” pre-season second-team All-American; and College Sports Madness pre-season third-team All-American and first team All-Big West.

“Andrew Morales follows in the steps of great baseball players who got their start playing at Rio Hondo College,” said Rio Hondo College Superintendent/President Teresa Dreyfuss. “The District is surrounded by great talent and it is an honor that they want to play with the Roadrunners. We are all very proud of Andrew and wish him nothing but the best in his professional baseball career.”

Other notable Major League players who got their start at Rio Hondo include slugger Evan Longoria from the Tampa Bay Rays and pitcher John Urrea, who pitched for the Cardinals and the San Diego Padres in the 1970s and ’80s.


Rio Hondo plays on World Cup stage

By Ruthie Retana

VMA Communications

WHITTIER – It seems that every pub, restaurant and household in the United States has fully embraced World Cup fever, but did you know that Rio Hondo College has been a launching ground for some of the sport’s professional athletes?

The Rio Hondo Men’s Soccer program is one of the best in the Foothill Conference and Southern California. Coach Orlando Brenes, who is Costa Rican, has helped the Roadrunners win the conference title from 2002 to 2009 consecutively.

In the 2013 season, Brenes led the Roadrunners to a 13-5-5 overall record and a 7-1-0 conference record, clinching the Foothill Conference championship yet again.

“Many of Rio Hondo’s players have gone on to collegiate and professional careers,” Brenes said. “Soccer is by far the most popular sport on the planet. Because of that, scouts from around the world are always interested in players we produce here at Rio Hondo College.”

Such players include:

Marvin Quijano, Los Angeles Galaxy, pictured above

Marvin Quijano led the Rio Hondo Soccer Team to many victories while securing a slew of top honors, including All-Time Conference Most Valuable Player. He caught the attention of professional soccer recruiters and in 1999 Quijano found himself starting for the L.A. Galaxy. Quijano played for the Galaxy until 2002 when he began his tenure with the Colorado Rapids, where he finished his professional soccer career.

Luis Aguilar, Montreal Thunder A League

Luis Aguilar played on the Rio Hondo College Men’s Soccer Team in 2002 and 2003. In 2004, he transferred to the University of San Francisco where he completed his collegiate career in 2005 after winning back-to-back West Coast Conference (WCC) Division I titles with Second and First Team All-WCC awards. He has played with the Ajax Orlando Prospects of the United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League, the California Cougars of Major Indoor Soccer League and San Francisco Seals. In 2007, he signed with the USL First Division expansion team, California Victory, and later the Montreal Impact, where he made the starting squad for the playoffs.

“Our athletics program is definitely a crown jewel for the College,” said Rio Hondo College Superintendent/President Teresa Dreyfuss. “Men’s soccer, particularly, has a long and illustrious record of producing quality teams with quality players who go on to play on the world’s stage.”


‘New Frontier Players’ take to the stage July 1

The “New Frontier Players,” members of a baseball and soccer club for developmentally challenged children based in La Mirada and Whittier, are turning their sports acumen toward the stage when they perform in a play/talent show at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 1, 2014 at the Whittier Community Playhouse, 7630 S. Washington Ave. in Whittier.
Coached by Ray and Jolene Marrero, the New Frontier Players promise to dazzle. Come laugh, cry, cheer and most of all applaud their efforts.

Donations are $5 and help support the baseball and soccer teams.

For more information call 714-253-6312 or 562-567-9470.


Rotary turns to 18th All-Star Baseball Classic on June 11

The Rotary Club of Whittier is hosting its 18th Annual All-Star Baseball Classic and 11th Annual All-Star Softball Classic to be held on Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at York Field in Whittier.

York Field is located at the southeast corner of Santa Fe Springs Road and Slauson Avenue in Whittier. All-Star Coaches for Baseball are Bobby Ramirez, of Pioneer High School and Anthony Gonzalez, Jr., of La Serna High School; and for softball are Jim Maier of St. Paul High School and Mike Reed of La Serna High School.


The All-Star Softball game will commence at 3 p.m., and the All-Star Baseball game will follow at 6 p.m. The Home Run Derby will precede the baseball game. Admission for both games and the Home Run Derby will be $5 for adults; $3 for high school students with valid student ID;  and, free for children 12 years and younger.

A luncheon to honor the selected All-Star Baseball and Softball players will be held at 11:45 a.m. on Tuesday, June 10 at the Radisson Hotel Whittier. The luncheon will feature former Major League Baseball player Al Martin as the guest speaker. Tickets for the luncheon are $15 and include a ticket to the game day events. Luncheon tickets can be purchased at the door. Reservations can be made by emailing or via the website at:

Many community-minded organizations support this event including: Home Run Sponsor, Toyota of Whittier; Triple Play Sponsor, Rose Hills Memorial Park & Mortuary, and All-Star Sponsors: Brookfield Residential, Consolidated Disposal Service, PIH, Popular Community Bank, and San Gabriel Valley Medical Center. The Snack Shack Sponsors are Orchard’s Fresh Foods and Sprouts Farmers Market, and the Banquet Sponsor is Radisson Hotel Whittier. Proceeds from the event will benefit local charities and fund projects in the community.

The thirteen area high schools represented in the Classics include:  California, El Rancho, La Mirada, La Habra, La Serna, Montebello, Pioneer, Saint Paul, Santa Fe, Sonora, Schurr, Whittier and Whittier Christian.


The Rotary Club of Whittier supports numerous charitable organizations in the Whittier area including the Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, American Red Cross, The Whole Child and First Day Coalition.  In addition, the Rotary Club recognizes teachers from the Whittier Union High School District, donates books to the Whittier City School District and provides scholarships to students at Whittier College and Rio Hondo. Contact for more information or contact Rett Rasmussen, 562-822-0755, or or Jeff Nickell, 562-692-2255, or


Third time a charm for CIF champions La Serna

La Serna High players and coaches celebrate after their victory over Norwalk.

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Lancers capture CIF title with double overtime win over Norwalk

By Eric Terrazas

Staff Writer

FULLERTON – The old saying, “the third time is a charm,” rang true for La Serna High School’s football team on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013.

La Serna senior quarterback Frankie Palmer threw a 19-yard game-winning touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Matthew Rosales, lifting the Lancers to a thrilling 41-38 double overtime victory over top-seeded Norwalk in the CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division championship game in front of a packed house at Cal State Fullerton.

Saturday’s triumph marked the second CIF-SS divisional title for La Serna, which won its first crown in 1967. It was the third consecutive divisional championship game appearance for the Lancers, who fell short in 2011 and 2012 before breaking through on Saturday.

La Serna’s winning score came on a fourth-down-and-4 play, which started with Palmer rolling out to his left. Palmer then went back to his right before launching the decisive throw to Rosales.

“I saw one of my best friends open, threw it and he made the play,” Palmer said of Rosales.

Palmer added, “It feels great to end my career on a high note. Our team deserved it. We worked really hard for it. We finally got it done.”

Said Rosales, “Frankie rolled out left and came back out. I saw him launch the ball. I made a play for it and I caught it. (The hard work) finally paid off.”

Palmer also ran for three touchdowns for La Serna, which ended its historic 2013 season with an overall record of 12-2.

“I’m proud of my boys,” La Serna coach Margarito Beltran said. “The third time is the charm. I’m so proud of them.”

Things looked bleak for the Lancers in the later stages of the fourth quarter.

Norwalk, whose nickname is also the Lancers, was leading 29-21 and was looking to put the game away.

After forcing a La Serna incompletion, Norwalk took possession at La Serna’s 22-yard line. Norwalk moved the ball to La Serna’s 4 before senior kicker Jorge Perez attempted a 21-yard field goal with just more than three minutes remaining.

La Serna senior defensive back Tony Ceron, however, blocked Perez’s attempt. Junior running back/linebacker Kevin Ramos then recovered the ball and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown. Palmer’s successful run on the two-point conversion tied the game at 29-29, setting the stage for overtime.

Norwalk, which won the toss and elected to go on offense first, cast the initial blow during the extra session. Junior quarterback Jacob Carr gave Norwalk a 35-29 advantage when he scored on a 1-yard run.

La Serna then successfuly countered with Palmer’s 2-yard run before Perez’s 21-yard field goal put Norwalk back ahead 38-35. Norwalk’s lead would not last long, however.

It was the first defeat of the season for Norwalk, which finished 13-1.

After Palmer’s 4-yard run gave La Serna a 21-14 lead at halftime, Norwalk responded by scoring 15 unanswered points.

Carr’s 18-yard touchdown toss to senior running back Rashaad Penny, followed by Carr’s successful two-point conversion run, gave Norwalk a 22-21 lead in the third quarter.

Norwalk then extended its lead when Penny ran for a 61-yard touchdown, which came with 7 minutes, 10 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.



La Serna gridders advance to Saturday CIF showdown

La Serna High players shake hands with Burbank after the Lancers’ 28-21 win on Friday, Nov. 29. (Photos by Eric Terrazas)

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By Eric Terrazas

Staff Writer

WHITTIER – La Serna High School senior quarterback Frankie Palmer scored on a 4-yard run with 23 seconds remaining in regulation, lifting the host Lancers to a thrilling 28-21 victory Friday, Nov. 29, 2013 over Burbank in the CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division semifinal.

The game-winning touchdown capped an impressive day for Palmer, who accounted for three touchdowns in front of a packed house at California High. He ran for two scores and threw for another.

Friday’s triumph lifted La Serna (11-2) to the CIF-SS divisional championship game against Norwalk (13-0), which is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7. Site is to be determined.

It marks the third consecutive trip to the divisional finals for La Serna, which is attempting to win its first CIF-SS football divisional crown since 1967. The Lancers, who fell to West Covina in 2011 and Downey last year, are hoping the third time is a charm.

La Serna, trailing 21-14 in the third quarter, tied the game on Palmer’s 1-yard run that came on a quarterback rollout. Palmer’s score, which came with 3 minutes, 3 seconds left in the third quarter, capped a 15-play, 60-yard drive.

After a strong defensive stand forced a short Burbank (10-3) punt, the Lancers regained possession with under four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Palmer’s winning touchdown completed a 7-play, 44-yard drive.

Palmer finished with 165 yards while completing 12 of 22 attempts. His one touchown pass, which went 42 yards to senior wide receiver Matt Rosales, came on the game’s opening drive.

The Bulldogs quickly recovered by scoring 14 unanswered points before the end of the first quarter.

After senior running back Joseph Pendleton’s game-tying 45-yard scoring run, Burbank grabbed a 14-7 lead on junior quarterback Ryan Meredith’s 49-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Oharjee Brown. The Bulldogs’ go-ahead score was set up by a recovery of a La Serna fumble.

La Serna, however, received a defensive boost when senior defensive back D’Andre Sanchez intercepted a Meredith pass and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown, which tied the game at 14-14 before halftime.

The Bulldogs grabbed a 21-14 advantage in the third quarter’s early stages when Meredith threw a 38-yard scoring pass to Brown, which was caught on a deflection.

The only remaining hurdle that separates La Serna from a CIF-SS divisional title is Norwalk, which defeated Muir 35-28 in Friday’s other divisional semifinal.


CIF State Division II second round

Santiago 3, Whittier Christian 0

Whittier Christian’s thrilling 2013 season came to an end when it lost Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013 to top-seeded Santiago High of Corona, 19-25, 21-25, 24-26.

The Heralds, which recently captured their second consecutive CIF-SS Division 2A crown, finished with an overall record of 33-7.

Senior outside hitter Deanna Blaine recorded a team-high 15 kills while fellow senior outside hitter Kylee Wolfe added 10.


Heralds volleyballers continue a storied run

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By Eric Terrazas

Staff Writer

LA HABRA – Whittier Christian High School continued its thrilling postseason ride by delivering a 25-22, 21-25, 25-16, 25-15 opening-round victory Tuesday, Nov. 26 over La Costa Canyon in the CIF State Division II playoffs.

The host Heralds (33-6), coming off their second consecutive CIF-SS Division 2A crown, stepped things up in the third and fourth games en route to the win. Up next for fourth-seeded Whittier Christian is a second-round match against top-seeded Santiago High of Corona, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30. Santiago (38-0) won its Tuesday first-round match against Taft of Woodland Hills, 25-13, 25-18, 25-10.

Senior outside hitter Deanna Blaine led the Heralds attack by recording 20 kills. Outside hitter Kylee Wolfe and middle blocker Stephanie Stevenson, both seniors, also played major roles by posting 15 and 10 kills, respectively.

Brittany Abercrombie made 18 kills to pace No. 5 seeded La Costa Canyon, which finished its season at 25-10.

Heralds head coach Shawn Hunter praised his team’s effort.

“I definitely thought we needed to be aware of their opposite (hitters),” Hunter said. “We wanted to shift away from them as much as possible. We did a good job of controlling the contact.

“We felt we let up a little bit (in the second game). We played better in the third and fourth (sets).”

After splitting their first two games against the Mavericks, the Heralds seized control during the third and fourth sets.

The Heralds, trailing 10-9 in the third game, recaptured the advantage by scoring five unanswered points. Three of those winners came on kills by Blaine.

After Abercrombie’s kill reduced Whittier Christian’s lead to 16-13, the Heralds grabbed mometum and went on a 9-3 surge to capture the third game.

Whittier Christian kept up the pressure on the Mavericks during the fourth game. The Heralds, leading 7-5, pulled away by going on a decisive 18-10 run. Stevenson’s kill provided the match-winning point for the Heralds.

Heralds senior setter Jennifer Washle recorded 47 assists and 12 digs. Wolfe and senior libero Nicole Santos each added 14 and 10 digs, respectively.


Whittier Christian volleyballers defend CIF 2A crown

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By Eric Terrazas

Staff Writer

ORANGE – The Whittier Christian High School girls’ volleyball team successfully defended its CIF-Southern Section Division 2A crown on Saturday, Nov. 23 by sweeping Mayfield 25-19, 25-19, 25-19 at Santiago Canyon College in Orange.

The Heralds (33-6), after capturing their second consecutive CIF-SS divisional title, will direct their focus on the CIF State Division II Tournament. Fourth-seeded Whittier Christian will host No. 5 seeded La Costa Canyon (25-9) in an opening-round match scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013.

Heralds coach Shawn Hunter expressed happiness about his team’s achievements during the 2013 season.

“It was a lot of fun,” Hunter said. “It’s great to play at a high level. We’re excited to see what we could do in the state championships. I’m really proud of my players and their accomplishments this year.”

The senior trio of Kylee Wolfe, Deanna Blaine and Stephanie Stevenson starred in the Heralds’ triumph over Mayfield. Wolfe recorded a team-high 15 kills while Blaine and Stevenson added 13 and 12 kills respectively.

La Costa Canyon finished as the runner-up in the CIF-San Diego Section’s Open Division. The winner of tonight’s game will face either Santiago or Taft in a second-round game scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 30.