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CHS coaches reward multi-sport athletes Johnson, Pata
Julia Pata (pictured left) and Conner Johnson earned a combined 20 varsity letters during their prep athletic careers with the Bulldogs. Johnson and Pata were named Ceres Highs Male and Female Athletes of the Year, respectively, this past month. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Conner Johnson and Julia Pata earned a combined 20 varsity letters during their prep athletic careers with the Bulldogs.

Johnson and Pata were named Ceres High Male and Female Athletes of the Year, respectively, on May 24.

"I'm super excited to receive the award for the second year in a row," Julia said. "I was surprised because there are girls that have done amazing things in their sports this year and last year."

"There are so many great athletes in my class," Conner said. "It's such an honor to be labeled the best. It's a big accomplishment. My brother (Caden) got the same award during his senior year in high school."

Pata earned 11 varsity letters, including four in water polo and swimming, two in track and field, and one in wrestling.

"The most challenging part of doing multiple sports is trying to juggle school work and practice and being able to have a social life," Pata said. "Once I had a set routine, it got a lot easier. I had a great athletic career. Without my coaches, I wouldn't have made it this far. I give a huge amount of credit to them. They had a lot to do with everything I was able to accomplish. They taught me a lot."

Pata tops Ceres High's list of greatest swimmers.

She qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Swimming Championships every season.

Julia won eight individual Western Athletic Conference titles.

She took first in the 100 free and 50 free as a senior, sophomore and freshman.

Pata swept the 200 free and 100 breast in 2016.

"She changed the direction of our program," said Sue Garcia, Julia's coach. "There hasn't been anyone else that has been able to complete what she has. It goes beyond what she does in the pool. She leaves behind a great example of how you treat your teammates. She wants the best for others, not just for herself."

Julia placed first in the shot put (33-2) and discus (90-4) at the 2017 WAC Track & Field finals.

She qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters meet her junior year.

A newcomer to the sport of girls wrestling this past winter, Pata compiled an impressive 23-8 overall record. The 160-pound grappler qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters meet and finished sixth at South Regionals. She took first at the WAC Championships.

"Being a part of the Ceres High wrestling team was a great experience," Julia said. "I loved it. It's a very physically demanding sport. It taught me a lot about myself."

Pata propelled Ceres High's water polo program to record heights last fall.

The Bulldogs compiled a program-best 16-3 overall record, finished second in the WAC standings (7-2) and returned to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs following a three-year absence.

Julia earned first-team all-conference honors for the third consecutive season.

She led the Bulldogs in scoring with 31 goals.

Julia will be remembered as one of Ceres High's best all-round athletes.

"Being put on that level still bewilders me," Pata said. "It wasn't a goal of mine. I did work hard at everything I did."

Johnson earned nine varsity letters, including three in football, track and field and wrestling.

"In English class, we wrote a letter to ourselves at the beginning of the year," he said. "I pretty much met all of my goals. I'm proud of myself. I worked so hard."

Conner's brother Caden (class of 2013) earned six varsity letters.

"One of my biggest fears in high school was living in Caden's shadow and never making a name for myself," Conner said. "There's a big standard he set. He was the first person I texted when I won the award. He was super excited for me. It's a great feeling knowing I have great support from my parents and brother. Even if I fell short, they still were going to cheer me on and love me. That definitely took pressure off."

Seeded ninth, Johnson finished fifth with a personal-best toss of 51 feet, 43/4 inches in the shot put at Masters.

He just missed securing a berth to state as the top three individuals advanced.

Caden also successfully defended his WAC title.

"I was never satisfied," Johnson said. "I was always looking for more."

A three-year starter on the gridiron at tight end, Johnson totaled 103 receptions, 1,246 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Conner was named to the WAC First Team following his final season with the Bulldogs.

Johnson ranked second in the conference in catches (31), yardage (392) and TDs (4).

"Football's my main sport," Johnson said. "I loved practice and Friday night lights. The one thing I'll miss the most is running out of the Bulldog during home football games. Win or lose, we had unconditional support from the school and community."

Johnson experienced individual and team success in wrestling.

The 2016-17 Bulldogs claimed the blue Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV championship banner.

Ceres High also won WAC overall, tournament and dual-meet titles as well.

Johnson took first while competing in the 195-pouond division at the conference championships.

He finished third at Divisionals.

"It's been a journey these last three years," Johnson said. "I knew we'd be special by the time we were seniors. This was our year to do great things. It was amazing to be a part of that."

Conner will continue his football career at Southern Oregon University.

He'll team up with Caden, who will be a senior.

"I'm definitely going to miss high-school sports," Johnson said. "These are memories that are going to last forever."

Julia will attend Cal State East Bay in Hayward.

"I've been in contact with the coaches," Pata said. "I have a tryout with swimming the second week of school. Water polo doesn't start until spring. I'm excited to see how well I do."