Eye On Preps: Falcons on track for coronation

May 12, 2011 

The Central California Conference has its share of track stars.

Buhach Colony's Rebecca Hammar is one of the top throwers in the state.

Merced's Misha Strong has a strong chance to join Hammar at the CIF State Meet in Clovis.

Golden Valley's Teresa Mallory also has put up some impressive times.

Meanwhile, it's the Atwater boys who were celebrating another 5-0 run through the CCC duel meets.

The Falcons' success doesn't come from star power. It comes from their depth and versatility.

"Everyone does their part," said Atwater coach Paul Shirlock. "Our motto is attitude, heart and sacrifice, and the kids have bought in.

"It's been great. It's nice to see us do it without any superstars."

Atwater isn't doing it without some of its top talent.

Andrew Morgan would be one of the top hurdlers in the Sac-Joaquin Section if he wasn't still making his way back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered during football season.

Still, Morgan has contributed this spring by running the 200- and 400-meter events along with the relays.

Naheem Hunter is one of the top sprinters in the conference.

Dallas Hoofard has the second best time for a sophomore in the state in the 300 hurdles at 40.03 seconds.

Ben Finister recorded a leap of 20 feet, 8 inches, in the long jump and 40-8 in the triple jump last week against BC.

It also helps when you have an athlete like Cory Maxwell, who can compete in the discus, shot put, high jump and pole vault.

It just depends on how Shirlock wants to fill out his lineup.

"We try to score in every event," Shirlock said. "We try to plot out everything before each meet. It's a lot like a chess match, deciding where we want to match people up.

"We've been successful."

It helps that Atwater has 80 boys out for track.

The girls also have had a successful season, finishing 4-1 in conference.

The Falcons will try to continue their success at the CCC Championships on Friday at Turlock High.

•  •  •

Speaking of Rebecca Hammar, the Thunder senior uncorked the top throw in the state in the shot put last week against Atwater with a throw of 47 feet, 1 inch.

The throw is the No. 8 mark in the nation. She previously had the 35th mark in the country.

•  •  •

When the Merced baseball program retires a jersey something special happens.

Seven years ago, the Bears retired the No. 12 and No. 7 jerseys belonging to twin brothers Brian and Kevin Nannini.

On that night, brothers Kevin and Kory Vitato, wearing those same jerseys, both homered in a win against Golden Valley.

It was quite a coincidence.

Last week Merced retired the No. 18 jersey belonging to former player and coach Grant Kuhr.

Senior Andrew Jaurique, who usually wears No. 5, asked to honor Kurh that night by wearing 18.

Not only did Jaurique come in relief to get the win on the mound over Buhach Colony, but he was also 2 for 2 at the plate with three stolen bases and three runs scored. Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at sjansen@mercedsun-star.com.

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