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California’s finest headline best sports moments

1. State Champ

Sauer pins down heavyweight title

The Union



March 8, 2004

Nevada Union senior Wade Sauer ended his high school wrestling career the best way possible – or at least one would think.




Sauer confirmed his No. 1 state ranking by being crowned heavyweight state champion Saturday night in Bakersfield, after beating San Marcos senior Alex Mack 12-5 in the final bout of the CIF State Wrestling Championships.

He is Nevada Union’s first state champion wrestler in school history.

Sauer, known by his coaches and teammates to be somewhat of a perfectionist, said he actually could imagine one better way to close out his prep career:

“With a pin,” he said. “I actually had him on his back at the very end, but the period was over.”

Mack, the state’s second-ranked heavyweight and the Southern Section champion, had met Sauer in a No.1 vs. No. 2 matchup earlier in the season, when Sauer defeated 13-3 in the Los Angeles-area Five Counties Invitational on Jan. 17.

“It was closer this time,” said Sauer, a two-time Sac-Joaquin Section champion and a third-place finisher at 215 pounds at the CIF meet in 2003. “He came out pretty hard. He made it exciting.”

Sauer reached the finals by pinning Ernie Shaw of Palo Verde in 3:20 of their semifinals matchup, earning the shot to be the last heavyweight standing in the state of California.

“As coaches, we knew Wade was the best heavyweight in the state,” said Nevada Union coach Shane Valdez, a 1994 CIF state champion at 119 pounds from Calvary Chapel. “The only question was whether Wade was going to go out there and wrestle like he was the best – and he did.”

– Brian Hamilton

California Champs

Falcons make county history with CIF State Championship

The Union

March 22, 2004

SACRAMENTO – From the sunny beaches of Southern California north to the lush forests which blanket the Oregon border and everywhere in between, the members of the Forest Lake Christian girls basketball team are the queens of all they survey.

The Falcons, who made school history with a second-straight Sac-Joaquin Section Division V title as well as a CIF NorCal State Championship crown this season, became the first team in Nevada County history to win a CIF State Championship with its 65-47 victory over Mission College Prep (San Luis Obispo) at Arco Arena Saturday.

The margin of victory was third-highest since Division-V play began 16 years ago and the largest since 1993. The 18-point difference also ranks 10th among all divisions since the modern-era began in 1981.

The win was also the first of a Sacramento-area girls team since El Camino (Sacramento) defeated Woodbridge (Irvine) 71-38 for the Division II title in 1994.

“Our goal all year was to win state. We weren’t going to settle for anything less. This is what (we’ve all) been waiting for,” said sophomore Olympia Jacobs, who was on the court when the Falcons’ season came to an abrupt end in the NorCal semis last March.

– Keith Jiron

Twice as nice – Miners earn second straight state championship berth

The Union

December 1, 2004

Just after accepting the Northern California State Volleyball Championship plaque for the second-straight season following Nevada Union’s 3-1 win over Lincoln (Stockton) Tuesday, NU head coach Bob Rogers addressed his navy blue-clad bunch huddled in front of him.

Rogers, though, didn’t really want his Miners attention. Instead, he turned to his star player Ali Daley and got the group chanting “Speech! … Speech!”

Something then struck the senior, clearly choking her up.

“It was just that I had played my last game here,” said Daley, who has led all of California in hitting – by more than 150 kills – in her final high school season. “Bob has been my coach for more than four years, really. It was my last game here with him as my coach and my last game here with my teammates.

“It’s very emotional. I’m going to miss these guys. I’m going to miss the fans. I’m going to miss Miner sports.”

Nevada Union (40-3) closed out its season with a loss to state champ Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach) in the D-I state title game at Cypress College in Orange County.

In their run to back-to-back NorCal crowns, Nevada Union racked up a stellar 75-7 record over the past two seasons.

– Brian Hamilton

‘Atta Baby!’ – Nevada Union football team crowned City Champions

The Union

December 6, 2004

SACRAMENTO -There was little doubt amidst the celebratory scene Saturday inside Hughes Stadium that Nevada Union’s Miners were enjoying not only the fact that they had just earned their first Section championship berth since 1994, but also that they were somewhat dancing on their own graves.

Nevada Union pounded Metro Conference champion Granite Bay 42-27, giving the Miners their third straight win and punched their ticket for an appearance in next week’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Championship against St. Mary’s (Lincoln) at University of the Pacific in Stockton.

The win not only avenged a 24-14 loss to the Grizzlies (10-2-1) in NU’s regular-season finale, but also announced to the entire section – just in case anyone in the Greater Sacramento area hadn’t noticed – that the Miners are still alive and kicking.

“There were people who gave up on us, left us for dead,” said Nevada Union head coach Dave Humphers, who has helped turn a 6-3, third-place Metro team into the Sac City Champion and section finalist. “But those people weren’t the kids and they weren’t the coaches.

“The kids kept coming to work hard and believing they would get better. And this team sure has.”

Things got better in a hurry for NU in the second half Saturday. After trailing 14-9 at the break, the Miners scored on four of their first five possessions to bring smiles to the players’ faces and fans to their feet. NU’s sideline sounded with a constant echo of the coaching staff’s favorite cheer: ‘Atta Baby!’

NU closed out its season with a 9-4 record after falling to St. Mary’s 50-45 on Dec. 11 in what section officials said was one of the best championship games in the tournament’s history.

– Brian Hamilton

5. Quadruple qualifier – Nevada Union’s Conrad heads to state in 4 events

The Union

May 29, 2004

SACRAMENTO – Steven Conrad etched his name into Nevada County sports history with his performance at the Sac-Joaquin Section Track and Field finals at Sacramento City College Friday.

The Nevada Union senior smashed two school records and came .02 seconds away from a third as he became the first area athlete to qualify for four events in the state meet since NU girls’ legend Durelle Schimek did so in 1986.

Conrad set school marks in the both the 200-meter dash with a second-place time of 21.35 and the long jump with a third-place distance of 24 feet, two inches.

The University of California at Berkeley-bound decathlete just missed the program’s best-ever mark in the 110 high hurdles with a second-place time of 14.59. He also took second in the 100 at 10.78.

The top three from each event earned a berth into the state meet at Hughes Stadium June 3-4.

“That had to be one of the greatest individual performances I’ve ever seen from any NU athlete. Ever,” long-time Miner head coach Sig Ostrom said. “He tells me what he’s going to do, but I’m always pretty skeptical. He does what I pretty much expect in the trials, but he has a way of stepping up in the finals.”

Conrad knew he was in for a big day from the moment he fell out of the rack.

“I woke up this morning feeling great. I came here and felt great. Things were perfect today,” said Conrad, who will compete in all four events at the state meet. “I felt great doing all four today. I can do it again.”

The senior took fifth in the long jump and sixth in the 200-meter dash in the state meet finals.

– Keith Jiron

6. Hitting big time – Former Miner among Butkus Award finalists

The Union

October 18, 2004

It was just a little more than a year ago that Spencer Havner shared some of his gridiron goals with The Union, outlining a few things he’d like to accomplish in his college football career as a UCLA Bruin.

“By the time my career here is over, I’m going to be the No. 1-rated outside linebacker in the country,” Havner, a 2001 Nevada Union graduate and a redshirt junior at UCLA, “and I’m going to be drafted high in the first round.”

So far, so good.

On Thursday, the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando, Inc. announced Havner as one of the 12 semifinalists for this year’s Butkus Award, which is awarded annually to the best linebacker – inside or outside – in college football.

“That’s a big honor,” said Havner, a 6-4, 236-pound inside linebacker. “That’s pretty sweet, huh? It’s pretty awesome.

“I wouldn’t say I expected it. It’s something that would be really amazing if it happened. But I’d rather win a bunch of games.”

Havner, who was the nation’s leading tackler through Oct. 9, was also a finalist for the Lombardi award, which honors the top lineman in the country. Texas senior linebacker Derrick Johnson was named the winner of both the Butkus and Lombardi awards in December.

– Brian Hamilton

7. Wheel fast – Bay Area rider earns win at 44th Annual Nevada City Classic

The Union

June 21, 2004

After a third-place finish in last year’s Nevada City Classic, it took Justin England until an hour before the registration deadline to get his name back on the Professional 1-2 men’s roster for the second time.

Far from being favored by most in attendance, especially after having competed in the 120-mile Olympic trial Saturday in southern California, he blew his competition away, finishing 45 seconds ahead of the pack on the 90-minute ride to earn the right to call himself the 44th Nevada City Classic champion.

With the dominating victory, England, 25, kept the Classic’s curse of having no Nevada County rider win on Broad Street intact.

Jason Moeschler, the lone local rider in the professional division, showed early signs of breaking the unfortunate trend, but was quickly reminded of history as he went from fourth place to the middle of the 24 riders in a matter of laps.

Moeschler finished 18th.

Whether or not a local rider would win this year was the last thing on England’s mind Sunday.

“I took third place last year,” he said. “I couldn’t wait to come back and give it a shot again. All year I’ve been waiting for this.”

– Jeff Miller

8. Bruins bow out – Bear River baseball ends historic season

The Union

May 24, 2004

SACRAMENTO – The best baseball season in Bear River school history came to an abrupt end Saturday in the first round of Sac-Joaquin Section Division III play, as a Bruin three-run, seventh-inning rally wasn’t enough to catch East Union (Manteca) in a 6-5 defeat at Dan McAuliffe Memorial Park in Sacramento.

And as they close the door on a year that saw the first league championship in the program’s history, the Bruins say goodbye to a group of seniors that helped put Bear River baseball on the map.

“It’s tough. It’s really tough. This is the first group to ever win a league championship. This being the last time I cut ’em loose, it’s difficult,” said Bruin head coach Mike Viola. “But the fact that we lost by striking out 14 times, that kind of takes a lot of the emotion out of it.

“Fourteen strikeouts. We lose – plain and simple.”

Though the fastball from Lancer left-hander Ben Fleckenstein was popping the catcher’s mitt throughout the afternoon, it was the 5-foot, 10-inch senior’s placement and off-speed pitches that had the Bruins off balance and coming up empty at the plate.

Bear River closed the season with a 16-7 record, including a 10-2 mark to share the PVL crown with West Campus. This marked the second straight playoff appearance – and second in school history – for Viola and his Bruins.

– Brian Hamilton

9. Flores earns third All-American spot

The Union

October 7, 2004

Due to NCAA recruiting rules, UCLA’s coaching staff is not able to comment on prized recruit Erik Flores until he officially signs a national letter of intent in early November.

But rest assured the Bruins know what caliber of a golfer they’ll be getting next fall when Flores, a Nevada Union senior, arrives on the SoCal campus.

An All-American – or, rather – a three-time All American.

Flores was named by the American Junior Golf Association to its Rolex Junior All-American second team earlier this week. The honor is the third of its kind for Flores, who accepted the recognition as a fitting end to his junior golf career. Although, he joked that it could have ended just a bit better.

“Well, first team would have been good,” he laughed. “But I don’t really mean that in a bad way.

“It was nice to see all my hard work and all my parents’ sacrifices and patience pay off. I really appreciate the support of this community, every one at Alta Sierra Country Club – all the members there and (PGA pro) Jeff Chleboun – and also DarkHorse (Golf Club) and my coach Dave Atchison.

“It’s a good way to cap off a junior career and also a good way to, I guess, to jump into college golf.”

-Brian Hamilton

10. Bruins’ season ends at Oakdale

The Union

November 27, 2004

OAKDALE – Scott Savoie broke up his post-game press conference to grab one of his swollen-eyed seniors by the shoulder pads and look him in the eye.

“You worked your butt off,” Bear River’s head coach told the Bruin. “And I promise you, that will always pay off.

“Think about what we accomplished. Think about that.”

Unfortunately for Bruin fans, that senior had played his final football game in a Bear River uniform, as host Oakdale broke away from the Bruins in the second half Friday night for a 38-14 win and a berth in the Dec. 4 Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship game at the University of Pacific in Stockton.

Despite the disappointing defeat, Savoie said his team – especially the seniors – had plenty of reason to be proud after turning a 1-3 start to the year into a season that saw the Bruins vie for Pioneer Valley League championship and earn a spot in the D-III playoffs.

“I really think we had to lean on our seniors a whole bunch early on this year,” Savoie said. “Especially because we put ourselves in the situation we did with that start.

“We didn’t have a lot of seniors returning in starting positions, so to have them step up to the plate early and carry us, that had a lot to do with our season and had a lot to do with us being in the semifinals.”

– Brian Hamilton


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