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CHS sports had great success and surprises in 2018

Nationwide, 2018 is being called the “year of the woman,” and for Claremont High School athletics that certainly rang true. CHS girls claimed championships, both individual and team, in cross country, tennis, golf, water polo and track and field.

Girls cross country’s continued domination on a statewide and now national level is by far the biggest sports story of 2018. They earned an undefeated record in regular season, three straight CIF Southern Section titles, three straight California state titles and a first ever Eastern States Championship.

They have retained their competitive edge despite an ever-changing set of faces at the front. After the Pack’s first state title, team leader Annie Boos passed the mantle to Sydney Hwang, who led the girls to their second title. This year freshman Maddie Coles hit her stride mid-season, netting a Southern Section individual title as well as second place at the state meet, leading the girls to a third team title.

Last season girls golf was looking good with freshman Jett Legacion tearing up the links. It was a bit of a shocker when she did not return for her sophomore year. Before she left, Legacion hinted that an eighth grader named Kelly Xu would join the team in 2018, and that she was pretty good. 

What an understatement that was. Coach Terrance Lynch saw Xu’s remarkable potential after she shot a course record at Marshall Canyon during practice. She won the two-day, 36-hole Palomares League Championships in October by 13 shots, the only golfer to shoot under par. Next, she placed third with a two under par 71 at the Southern California Championships. Finally, she finished in a three-way tie for fourth place at the CIF Girls State Championships in Riverside.

For the second season in a row, the league title in girls tennis came down to a final round match between Claremont and Ayala. The Pack won a narrow 10-8 victory on solid performances from sophomore singles standout, Goldie La, and number-one doubles Jahday Drewery and Salma Mohideen.

La led the charge all semester, losing only one set all season in the first round match against Ayala. She went all the way to the round of 16 in the CIF Southern Section Individual Championships, but lost to Cassie Wooten. It was La’s second trip to the round of 16.

“We have done a good job preparing for tough competition and the girls rose to the occasion,” Coach Kathy Settles said.

Girls water polo was undefeated in league and sailed to a Palomares League title just three years after finishing 4-4 and in third place. The girls continued their winning streak with two victories in the CIF Southern Section Championship Tournament, defeating Dana Hills, 13-7, at home in the first round, and Downey, 16-7 in the second round. Claremont’s storybook season came to an end in the semi-final match in a 12-7 loss to Woodrow Wilson.

However, as the new season begins, the Pack is once again top ranked and undefeated. Perhaps 2019 will be the year they raise the CIF champion trophy.

The special recognition award goes to girls basketball, and Coach Mike James, who pulled off a late rally, winning their first league game in three years followed by a stunning upset of top-ranked St. Mary’s Academy in the first round of the CIF playoffs. The girls then defeated San Luis Obispo before finally losing to Saugus in the quarterfinals.

The boys also had a stellar year, with league titles for tennis, basketball and volleyball, as well as individual champions in tennis and track and field.

If not for the girls’ star performance, boys cross country could have been the year’s top story. They swept the Palomares League, won a second-place trophy in the CIF Southern Section meet and a third-place podium visit at the state championships.

Call it an air of inevitability, or perhaps just pure inertia—Claremont High School boys basketball was not going to be denied a victory when they hosted first-place Diamond Bar for the final game of the regular season.

Coach Stan Tolliver has had some good teams over the years but a league title remained elusive. However, with that final victory, the Pack, the Brahmas and the Bearcats all had identical 7-3 league records and a piece of the league pennant. It was the first league title for the boys in 18 years.

“The guys were focused, they really wanted it,” Coach Tolliver said.

Boys tennis defeated Diamond Bar in the final round, earning a Palomares League championship. Both senior Leyton Bohren and junior Jason Weisman finished the season undefeated in league singles play. Junior Andrew Weisman and sophomore Ben Stapp finished the season at 20-1 in doubles.

Bohren then went on to claim a Palomares League singles title, while Andrew Weisman and Stapp were doubles champions.

Bohren won two singles tennis matches, advancing to the round of 32 in the CIF Individual Singles Championships.

 “It has been a fun season,” Coach Settles said. “We have been so tough at the top of our singles and doubles lineup.”

The boys varsity volleyball team made it all the way to the quarterfinal match in the CIF Division 3 Tournament, but lost to a very strong Downey High School. The Pack and Damien shared a Hacienda League title with matching 6-2 records.

Despite strong performances in middle and long distance races, the girls track and field streak of league victories came to an end this year. The Pack had won eight in a row stretching back to when Claremont was still a part of the Baseline League.

Claremont did have three individual champions: senior Daniel Scheider in the 800-meter race, senior Alyssa Cantrell in the 300-meter hurdles and senior Abby Holt in pole vault title.

Lastly, CIF officials make periodic assessments of local schools to keep the competition equitable. Beginning with the fall season the Palomares League was reorganized adding Alta Loma and Colony, while reassigning South Hills and Diamond Bar to other leagues.

—Steven Felschundneff

steven@claremont-courier.com