With the high school spring sports season coming to an early end, 34 Bret Harte High School senior student-athletes will not get to finish out their final season of high school athletics. In total, 14 track and field athletes, six swimmers, six tennis players, four softball players, three baseball players and one golfer will not get to cap off their Bret Harte careers.
The 2020 spring season will be remembered as, “I wonder if?” I wonder if Olivia Lilly would break any more school records in the pool? I wonder if James Avecilla would have continued to be hot from the plate? I wonder if McKenzie Blair would be able to win a section championship on the track? I wonder if Sarah Smith would be able to go deep into the tennis postseason again. And finally, I wonder what athlete would have come out of nowhere to have a spectacular season?
Unfortunately, these senior athletes will not get the chance to answer those, and many other questions. Nevertheless, their contributions to Bret Harte athletics will not be forgotten.
The Bullfrogs were 2-4 at the time of the stoppage, yet were starting to find their stride. After losing their first two games of the year, the Bullfrogs went 2-2 with an 11-4 win over McNair and a 15-11 thriller over Mountain House. Bret Harte’s final game was an 8-7 road loss to Stagg.
Bret Harte’s three senior players are Max Berg, James Avecilla and Garrett Hampton. In regards to the season being cut short, Bret Harte head coach Michael Avecilla said, “What an unpredictable and sad ending to all the senior sports careers, with years of devotion to their favorite springs sports to come crashing down like this. It’s heartbreaking for all involved.”
Berg, a two-year varsity baseball player, played first base and also pitched. In six games, he was hitting .211 with four hits, three runs scored, was walked twice, stole two bases and legged out a triple. On the hill, he had a 0.81 earned run average in 8.2 innings pitched. In three appearances, Berg only allowed one earned run and struck out eight.
James Avecilla was a four-year varsity starter and spent his final three seasons behind the plate as catcher. After a slow beginning to his senior year, Avecilla got hot in a 15-11 win over Mountain House, where he went 5 for 5 with five RBIs, scored two runs, while smacking two doubles and a home run. Avecilla finished hitting .389 with seven hits, eight RBIs, three doubles, one home run, scored five runs and walked three times. He ends his Bret Harte career with 48 hits, 23 RBIs, 59 runs scored, 13 doubles and two home runs.
Hampton played in the outfield and pitched. In his final game against Stagg, Hampton went 2 for 4 with two runs scored, walked once and drove in one run. He finished the year hitting .211 with four hits, four runs scored, two RBIs and walked once.
At the time of the season being stopped, Bret Harte was 2-4 with a 22-12 win over Venture Academy and a 4-2 victory against Davis. Bret Harte’s four senior players are Karlee Juarez, Kinlye Apley, Samantha Gish and Hailey Rehling.
Juarez is a four-year varsity player and had her senior season been able to be played out, she may have gone down as one of the top players to ever wear a Bret Harte softball uniform. The Miami University of Ohio signee was off to a great start to her final year as a Bullfrog. In six games, Juarez was hitting .750 with 12 hits, nine runs scored, had eight RBIs, walked four times, stole 11 bags and had a fielding percentage of .929. In 59 career games played, Juarez hit .641 with an on-base percentage of .728. She recorded 93 hits, scored 84 runs, knocked in 19, had 20 doubles, seven triples, four home runs, walked 40 times, stole 113 bases and struck out only six times in 196 plate appearances.
Apley was a co-captain and played first base for the Bullfrogs. She scored two runs, walked once, stole two bases and had one RBI. Apley also played water polo and basketball during her senior year at Bret Harte.
In her final season as a Bullfrog, Gish was hitting .250 with three runs scored and one walk. The senior outfielder also played volleyball in the fall and soccer in the winter.
Rehling had her best game of the season in a 22-12 win over Venture Academy. She went 2 for 4 with three RBIs, two runs scored and had a triple.
While the Bullfrogs were able to begin practicing for the 2020 season, they weren’t able to take part in any competitions before the stoppage. Bret Harte’s six senior swimmers are Samuel Airola, Jillian Buteau, Olivia Lilly, Kevin McGee, Jeffrey Morton and Dominic Santella.
Airola is no stranger to the pool, as he also played water polo in the fall. His senior water polo season was so successful that he was named to the Mother Lode League’s all-league team and was invited to play in the North vs. South Senior All-Star game. In the winter, Airola played on the Bret Harte boys’ soccer team.
As a junior, Buteau qualified for sections as part of Bret Harte’s 400-yard freestyle relay team with a time of 4:18.83 at the Mother Lode League Meet in Sonora. In addition to swimming, Buteau is also a dancer and was a part of the Studio 4 Dance Theater’s Christmas presentation of “The Nutcracker.”
Lilly may be one of the most decorated swimmers to ever jump into the Bret Harte pool. In three years, Lilly helped set five school records. Individually, she holds records in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:11.43), the 100-yard butterfly (1:01.34) and the 200-yard individual medley (2:29.25), all of which were set in 2019. She also was part of the 200-yard medley relay (1:58.46) and 200-yard freestyle relay (1:49.08) teams, which also hold school records.
While attending Bret Harte, McGee swam and also spent time on the Bullfrog water polo team.
Morton is another member of both the water polo and swim team. As a water polo player, Morton was one of the key scorers. On the swim team, he was right at home in the 100-yard butterfly. In the league meet in 2019, Morton set a new personal record with his first-place time of 1:00.74, which was nearly four seconds faster than the next finisher.
Santella played water polo and also swam for Bret Harte. Santella was one of the boy Bullfrog swimmers who looked primed to break school records had the season played out.
There were six senior athletes on Bret Harte’s 2020 tennis team, which was made up of Luvdeep Kaur, Annika Kruger, Cara Shetzline, Sarah Smith, Indigo Strange and Daniel Abando. Like all coaches, Bret Harte’s Judith Anderson was saddened to have the season come to an early end.
“To say we are disappointed in not being able to practice and play matches is an understatement,” Anderson said. “We had a terrific three weeks of conditioning and a month of solid practice. Fortunately, we were able to get in a scrimmage with Calaveras and Linden. There were 45 kids playing singles and doubles. It was truly a great day.”
In 2019, Kaur played doubles with Kruger and Shetzline. Smith had a junior year to remember, as she became a Mother Lode League doubles champion and made it to the second day of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Tennis Championships and walked away with a medal.
Bret Harte’s lone senior golfer is Baljit Singh. Singh carded a 46 in a 225-263 home victory over Bret Harte and then shot a 53 in a 265-281 victory over Argonaut. Singh was part of Bret Harte’s 12-0 Mother Lode League championship team in 2018.
Track and Field
The team that had the most number of senior student-athletes at Bret Harte was track and field. McKenzie Blair, Tyler Crawford, Brendan Dishion, Victor Gallardo, Sewell Hatcher, Sophia Licea, Cooper Morlan, Manny Nava, Drew O’Flinn, Jeremiah Paulson, Beck Ritzel, Hunter Sturm, Marissa Tosch and Katia Barboza all had their high school careers cut short.
Blair looked to improve upon an outstanding junior season. In 2019, she ran in the 100- and 200-meter dash, along with the 4x100-meter relay, while also competing in the long and triple jump.
In the 100-meter dash, Blair had 10 first-place finishes, won the Mother Lode League championship, placed second at the section finals and advanced to the CIF Masters Meet. In the 200-meter dash, she placed first seven times with a personal record coming in the section finals (25.67). She won the MLL title and advanced to masters. In the 4x400-meter relay, she was a part of four first-place finishes and advanced to masters. In the long jump, Blair took first three times. And in the triple jump, she set a personal record of 34 feet, 9.5 inches at the league championship and placed third at the section finals.
In 2019, Crawford ran in the 400 meters, the triple jump and the 4x400-meter relay. In the fall of 2019, Crawford advanced to the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section cross country championships and then in the winter of 2020, was named to the Mother Lode League soccer second team.
In his senior year, Ritzel decided to make the switch from the tennis courts to the track. After being a Mother Lode League doubles tennis champion and earning a CIF Sac-Joaquin Section medal, Ritzel decided to give track a try. Because of the shortened season, however, Ritzel was unable to officially compete in a meet. In the winter, Ritzel played soccer and made the MLL second team.
In his senior season, Nava was going to participate in the long jump, triple jump and 4x400 relay. In the fall, Nava kicked for the Bret Harte football team and earned second team honors. In the winter, he was a first team soccer player.
Dishion did quite a bit of everything on the track during his junior year. He competed in the 800 meters, 1,600 meters, 3,200 meters, 4x400 relay and the 4x800 relay. At the 2019 MLL finals, Dishion set a personal record in the 1,600 meters with his time of 4:55.07. Dishion has been on the track team all four years of high school and he also ran cross country in the fall.
Gallardo was one of the seniors who was giving track and field a shot for the first time. In the fall, he was a member of Bret Harte’s football team and transitioned to basketball in the winter.
Hatcher has thrown shot put or discus at Bret Harte since his freshman year. In 2019, he set a personal record of 101 feet, 1.5 inches in the discus throw at the Mother Lode League finals. While at Bret Harte, Hatcher also swam and played water polo.
Licea was a runner and a pole vaulter for Bret Harte’s track team. She set a personal record in the pole vault of eight feet in 2019 at the Hal Clements/Bret Harte Invitational. Licea also ran the 4x400 relay. Throughout her track and field career, Licea competed in the 4x100 relay and the 100-, 200-, 400- and 800-meter dash. In the winter, Licea was a member of Bret Harte’s wrestling team.
Morlan was all about running fast. In 2019, he competed in the 100- and 200-meter dash, along with the 4x100 relay. He set a personal record in the 200-meter dash of 24.40 at the Mother Lode League trials. In the winter, Morlan was Bret Harte’s goalie on the boys’ soccer team.
O’Flinn was primed to have a memorable senior year. As a junior, he placed third at the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section division V finals in the pole vault, clearing 13 feet, 5 inches, which was a personal record. He also set a personal record in the long jump at the MLL finals, measuring 21 feet, 4 inches. O’Flinn was also a member of the 4x100 relay team. In the fall, O’Flinn was a fullback and linebacker on the Bret Harte football team.
In 2019, Paulson competed in the 200- and 400-meter dash, the high jump, pole vault, long jump and 4x400 relay. His personal record in the pole vault is 11 feet, is 5 feet, 6 inches in the high jump and 17 feet, 3 inches in the long jump. Paulson also played football in the fall.
In his junior year, Sturm competed in the 800 meters, 1,600 meters, 3,200 meters, 4x400 relay and 4x800 relay. He set a personal record of 2:03.77 in the 800 meters while competing in the MLL finals. Sturm’s personal record in the 3,200 is 11:30.27. In the fall, he ran on Bret Harte’s cross country team.
Tosch threw the discus and shot put for Bret Harte. In 2019, her personal record in the shot put was 23 feet, 4.5 inches. In the discus, her personal best throw is 71 feet, 10 inches.
Barboza was getting ready to compete in her first year of track and field.