A look back at 2012: a year of ups, downs, triumphs and tragedies in Nevada County sports | TheUnion.com

A look back at 2012: a year of ups, downs, triumphs and tragedies in Nevada County sports

From left to right: Jennifer Meylor, Trevor McGhee, Tanner Vallejo and Sara Schell have all been faced with making a choice between playing one sport or several sports in their high school careers.
Photo for The Union by Walter Ford |

With 2012 coming to a close and a new year about to dawn we here at The Union Sports desk put together a compilation of what we feel were the top-five local sports stories of the year.

Transfer travesty, originally published Sept. 7, 2012

In August, the Sac-Joaquin Section received 524 transfer requests from student athletes looking to change schools, according to the section’s communications director.

Of those, 465 were granted outright, 53 athletes were required to complete a “sit-out period” and six were denied eligibility to play any sports they participated in at their previous school for a full school year.

Two of those six are seniors at Nevada Union High School.

Cole Hannum and Owen Sparks, who transferred to NU from Marysville High School, have received letters from the Sac-Joaquin Section barring them from competing on the school’s football team for the entire season.

Sparks was also denied eligibility to compete on the track team this spring.

Sac-Joaquin Section Commissioner Peter Saco said he declines to comment on specific cases.

“I do not talk about student eligibility cases with the media,” Saco said.

Hannum is a 6-foot, 2-inch, 225-pound running back who tallied 1,827 yards and 16 touchdowns in his junior year at Marysville.

His attempt at a hardship transfer was denied, despite his family moving from Loma Rica to Penn Valley over the summer.

The section’s ruling was one that NU head coach Dave Humphers said he was shocked to read.

“I respect Pete Saco, but I disagree with his decision,” Humphers said. “I think they got this one wrong.”

— Walter Ford

For the rest of this article click here . For commentary on this topic see Jim Adams’ article , and Walter Ford’s article.

Destined to play, originally published May 3, 2012

When Aaron West was born, he had a Chicago Cubs nursery waiting for him at home. As his dad, Chris, put it, it’s a baseball family.

Though Aaron was born without a fully formed left hand, that did not stop him from hitting the ball field like his dad and his older siblings.

“As soon as he started walking, we couldn’t keep him off the field,” said Chris West. “I was on a softball team, and when he was 2, he would grab a glove and go out and try to take my spot on the field.”

Now, at 6 years old, Aaron doesn’t have to take anybody else’s place and can run out to his own position on the diamond. With his dad as one of the coaches and his mom, Tina, on the bench as team mom, Aaron plays for the Penn Valley Little League Farm Cubs.

Though it took some time to adjust to his own style of play, Tina West said he started early and picked up the fundamentals quickly.

To watch him play is to watch any young boy with a love for the game – tenaciously chasing down ground balls and patiently waiting for his pitch so he can swing for the fences.

While well-adjusted, Aaron’s parents said he tended to be self-conscious about his hand and did not like people looking at it or touching it.

Then came Jim Abbott.

Abbott rose to fame as a one-handed Major League pitcher who threw a no-hitter in 1993. While his professional career was up and down, he became an inspiration for kids who were born a bit different – kids like Aaron.

— Anthony Barstow

For the rest of this story click here.

Bruin dynasty, originally published

Sacramento — Duane Zauner and the Bear River softball team couldn’t have written a better ending if they had scripted it themselves.

With timely hitting, dominant pitching and stellar play in the field, the Lady Bruins trampled Whitney 9-3 to capture the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III Championship.

“It won’t really hit me until midnight,” Zauner said. “It’s a dream, it’s something you drive for, something the kids drive for, and it’s just awesome.”

The Lady Bruins tore through the playoff bracket, never dropping a game on their way to a fifth section championship in six years and first since being bumped up to Division III in 2011, solidifying the Lady Bruin softball dynasty.

Bear River didn’t have to wait long to strike the first blow as Stephanie Ceo led off the bottom of the first with a solo home run over the left-center field fence.

“It all started with (Ceo),” Zauner said. “She bangs the homer and then goes out and fields two ground balls cleanly. Texas has got a peach. She’s done great all year, and she talks with her play.”

The University of Texas-bound shortstop went 3-for-4 with two home runs, including a grand slam in the fourth inning to bust the game wide open for Bear River. Ceo also scored three times and stole a base to go with her five RBI.

“I really focused on seeing the ball into my bat today,” Ceo said. “Everyone knows I can drop a bunt, but not everyone knows I can hit home runs, so I took advantage of that.”

— Walter Ford

Striking a balance, originally published May 5, 2012

High school is a juggling act that lasts four years, and the penalties for dropping a ball can be severe.

Each activity, each night out with friends and each family obligation is another ball in the rotation, and the choice to be a high school athlete adds another complication to the mix.

To play one sport is a commitment. After-school hours devoted to practice, workouts and games have the potential to distract even the most devoted student from his studies and the most social person from his friends.

Yet there is another group — the multi-sport athletes who perform their juggling act on the high wire.

For any athlete, but especially the multi-sport athlete, balance is a key word. Sports, school, work, friends, family — it is the challenge of the high school athlete to find an equilibrium, to find a middle ground and to find what makes him happy.

Josiah Paye wishes his jump shot were better. The wish is simple enough, and Paye, a senior at Nevada Union, is the type of athlete to spend as much time as he can perfecting it.

Time to practice his 3-point shot, however, is not something Paye has much of in the spring when he runs for the Miners’ track and field team. Summer and fall — those were devoted to football workouts and games. Come winter, though, he is on the court, practicing his jumper, his layups and his defense, too.

Paye is a three-sport athlete who also spent two years on the NU baseball team. Of his six senior year classes, five are advanced placement, and he has already signed a letter of intent to attend Stanford University in the fall.

— Anthony Barstow

An epic life, originally published July 20, 2012

For Govinda Jaya Bonderov, life was a series of smooth transitions — whether with a career change, on a skateboard or anything else in life, he made it look good.

The professional skateboarder turned photographer, who once hailed from Nevada City, made his final transition June 25 at the age of 40, when he was found dead after an auto accident in Hawaii.

But before Bonderov’s tragic death, there was an epic life lived.

Early days

Those lucky enough to be part of Nevada County’s skateboarding scene in the mid-’80s were fortunate to catch Bonderov ripping up local parking lots in Grass Valley and Nevada City, most notably the lot outside the former Free Flight Sports.

Bonderov first started skateboarding when his family moved to Nevada City in 1984, Bonderov’s mother Chris Bryan told The Union in a phone interview from Kaua’i, Hawaii.

“He liked the mainland,” Bryan said. “He liked the sports. He was into soccer, he was into skating, and he could see there was more potential there.

“He really loved Nevada City, and he loved the kids there and he made some really good friends very, very fast.”

— Walter Ford

For the conclusion of each of these stories and more on each topic visit TheUnion.com

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