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Team's Heritage Is the Key to Canyon's Baseball Success

June 04, 1996|MIKE TERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The moment took all weekend to sink in with Mike Najera--his Canyon baseball team won its first Division II title in 12 years on Saturday by defeating Upland.

Now Najera, who had a couple swigs of champagne and several bites of pizza to celebrate his first title as a head coach, has to find a way to make the feeling last.

"[Former Coach] Hi Lavalle built the foundation, and we want to continue that winning tradition," Najera said. "We'd love to continue to win and send kids to college or the pros."

To do so, Najera wants to keep coaxing former players to come back to coach, as he did with this year's team.

"I was very fortunate to have former players like Scott Wolf and Joe Hoggat came back and help," Najera said. "Another former player, Wayne Elmore, was the junior varsity coach. Taylor Wilson and Jeff Kerr also came back to Canyon to help coach."

That's the kind of continuity Najera wants for his program. But as much as he likes coaching at Canyon, he can't imagine anyone putting in 20 years the way Lavalle did as the school's first coach.

"Those days are gone, coaching 20-30 years at one place," Najera said. "With the [new rules for] eligibility, fund-raising, scouts and administrative duties, so many coaches are getting burned out."

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Chris Wilson, who played sweeper on Huntington Beach's soccer team, has orally committed to UCSB, said Huntington Beach Coach Shawn Bruckler. Wilson was a Times first team All-County selection this year and was the Sunset League's MVP.

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Contrary to previous reports, Corona del Mar's Taylor Dent was not the first freshman to win the Southern Section Individual boys' singles tennis title. A few readers recalled two pretty decent freshman who won the title in back-to-back years--Pete Sampras of Rancho Palos Verdes in 1987 and Jon Leach of Laguna Beach in 1988.

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There were some rumors floating around the Jack Kramer Club Wednesday at the Division I tennis finals that Woodbridge sophomore Chase Exon was somehow related to Exxon, the oil company. A reporter for a South Bay newspaper said, "I think that's why he's so good, his parents have all that money."

The reporter was asked why Exon's name was spelled differently than the oil company: "I think they dropped the extra X in their last name so they wouldn't be noticed."

Or, maybe because Exxon is a made-up word.

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It's pretty easy to understand why Geri Gainey walked on to the diamond after Mater Dei's 3-1 victory over Camarillo in Saturday's Southern Section Division I championship game and said, "I feel pretty good about my job security."

Gainey just completed her first full year as the Monarchs' girls' athletic director. They won a state girls' basketball title (with Gainey as an assistant coach) and the softball team is ranked No. 1 in the state in the Cal-Hi Sports poll.

Times staff writers Martin Henderson and Dave McKibben contributed to this story.

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