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Randle's comeback tops list of Courier stories
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Compiling a list of the Ceres Courier's 10 top sports stories of the year was a difficult task because there were plenty of deserving teams and athletes. With that in mind, here's the countdown for 2005.

1. Triumphant Return

Ceres High varsity girls soccer coach Randy Cerny broke the heartbreaking news to the Courier in February. Brittany Randle talked about her ordeal while watching her teammates practice in the morning at Walter White School on Feb. 21. The popular Ceres High senior was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) on Feb. 17.

Randle's cancer went into remission with help from Gleevec, a medication specially tailored to combat CML, and she was cleared to play in March. She started at sweeper against the Downey Knights on March 24. Randle was just as effective despite her lack of stamina. She asked for her first and only breather midway through the first half.

On May 10, Randle concluded her career with the Bulldogs.

Ceres lost 3-0 to Grace Davis at Ceres River Bluff Regional Park and finished in fifth place in the Modesto Metro Conference standings at 4-9-2.

Randle started at the varsity level all four years. The defensive standout earned all-league honors three times, including second team this year and in 2003, and third team as a junior.

Randle is currently a freshman at Fresno State. If her health improves, she will in all likelihood tryout for the women's soccer team during her sophomore year.

There's still a possibility Randle might need a bone marrow transplant in the future.

2. Mission Accomplished

The Ceres High varsity girls basketball program produced a memory that will last for decades. The Bulldogs won their first-ever section title, defeating Vacaville 57-46 in the Division II finals, in front of more than 500 Ceres fans at Arco Arena in March.

Jessica Mazza had a career-high 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulldogs. The junior guard hadn't reached double figures in scoring or rebounding the entire season.

Krystle Brown and Jennifer Arnold also contributed. Brown, a senior forward, had 12 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block. Arnold, a junior guard, had 12 points, six steals, five rebounds, two assists and one block.

Down by 14, Ceres closed the second quarter with a 10-1 run to get within five, 31-26, at the break.

The Bulldogs took control in the second half after Vacaville senior guard Tamar Gruwell, the Monticello Empire League MVP, suffered a knee injury while driving to the basket in the third quarter.

Vacaville missed 12 straight shots with its leader on the bench. Ceres scored 20 unanswered points, which helped turn a nine-point deficit into an 11-point lead with 5:41 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Ceres got back into the game with stellar defense. Vacaville was held scoreless for more than 10 minutes.

Kayla Montalvo, Vacaville's leading scorer, wasn't a factor after intermission. The senior guard scored 13 of her team-high 16 points in the first half.

The Bulldogs finished the season with an astounding 25-7 record. They also hosted a NorCal playoff game.

3. Making History

The Ceres High softball program competed in the Central California Conference for eight years. The Bulldogs won and/or shared the league title seven times.

Coach Mike Corsaut vowed to let his players shave his head if they claimed the inaugural Modesto Metro Conference crown in 2005. He kept his promise.

Corsaut cut his hair the day after Ceres won the conference title outright with a 7-0 win over Beyer in Modesto in May.

Everyone contributed against the Patriots.

Jennifer Arnold pitched a no-hitter. The junior had four strikeouts. She carried a perfect game into the fifth inning.

Heidi Eisenbeis' game-ending, diving catch in center field preserved Arnold's no-hitter.

Ceres' offense didn't do too bad either. The Bulldogs scored seven runs on nine hits.

Arnold went 2-for-3 with a triple, single, two runs and three RBI. Monica Hall went 2-for-3 with two runs and one RBI. Jessica Hunter singled and drove in two runs. Jordan Nash singled, scored once, walked twice and drove in a run. Eisenbeis, Heather Russell and Heather Silva all had one hit.

Ceres finished first in the league standings at 13-2 and secured a berth in the playoffs for the 20th straight year.

Corsaut was named the MMC Coach of the Year. Six of his players were selected to the All-MMC Team, including Eisenbeis, Arnold, Hall, Russell, Nash and Meghan Franksen.

4. Super Sophomores

Ceres High grads Omaira Estremera and Michelle Jara guided the Modesto Junior College softball team to its first league championship and into the playoffs for the second year in a row. The Pirates went 25-14 overall and 17-4 in the Central Valley Conference.

Estremera earned all-state honors and was named CVC Pitcher of the Year. The southpaw compiled a 16-3 record with 119 strikeouts and a 1.34 ERA in league play.

Jara garnered all-NorCal and CVC honors. The second baseman hit .351 with four homers, four doubles, four sacrifices, 17 runs and nine RBI.

Estremera and Jara earned scholarships to Cal State Stanislaus and Chaminade University, respectively.

5. Repeat Winners

For the second year in a row, Ceres High's Bailey MacArthur and James Carswell placed first at the league diving championships. MacArthur, a sophomore, and Carswell, a senior, won in convincing fashion.

MacArthur took first in a field of 11 with a score of 353.05 in the varsity girls competition. She finished ahead of Johansen's Ali Stuyt (295) and Leslie Niel (287.90). MacArthur dedicated her performance to Jannet Valencia, a classmate and friend that died in a car accident in Dec. 2004.

Carswell took first in a field of 11 with a score of 390.75 in the varsity boys competition despite being hampered by an inflamed ligament in his right shoulder. He finished ahead of Johansen's Matt Webb (316.65) and Davis' Clayton Johnson (298.40).

Carswell and MacArthur both took first at the Sac-Joaquin South Section trials.

6. Sensational Career

Sacramento State pitcher Brianne Ferguson capped off her collegiate career in impressive fashion on May 1. The 2001 Ceres High graduate picked up a win and a save to lead the Hornets to a doubleheader sweep over Loyola Marymount at Shea Stadium.

On May 12, Ferguson was named to the all-Pacific Coast Softball Conference First Team for the second-consecutive year. She led the Hornets to a second-place finish in league at 12-7 and 30-23 overall record. Sacramento State won 12 of its last 18 games.

Ferguson compiled a 16-10 record with 18 complete games, six shutouts, 153 strikeouts and a 1.19 ERA. She limited the opposition to a .203 batting average.

Ferguson had a memorable senior campaign.

She earned PCSC Pitcher of the Week honors twice.

On March 3, Ferguson tossed her first career no-hitter. She struck out three and walked two over seven innings in a 3-0 win over UC Davis. Ferguson retired the side in order in the second, third, fifth and sixth innings.

Ferguson played for Sacramento State for three years. She ranks in the Hornet Division I career record book in every pitching category, including third in wins (44) and shutouts (19), and fourth in strikeouts (345) and complete games (56).

7. CUSD Renames Gym

Thunderous applause broke out after the Ceres School Board approved a recommendation to rename the Ceres High big gymnasium in honor of Phil de la Porte, teacher, athletic director and coach, in April.

A unanimous vote was cast after former students, current colleagues and members of the community addressed the board of trustees.

De la Porte retired as a full-time teacher at the end of the 2004-05 school year. He started his career at Ceres High in 1974-75.

De la Porte taught U.S. History for more than 30 years.

He has helped coach the varsity girls basketball team for more than seven years. He also coached boys basketball and tennis.

De la Porte dedicated 10 years of his life to traveling softball, which helped spawn a winning program at the high school.

8. Standout Player

Ceres High grad Ryan Thornberry had a stellar junior season for the Cal State Stanislaus Division II men's golf team.

He was named to the Ping All-America Second Team by the National Golf Coaches Association on May 24.

On April 19, he claimed the 2004-05 California Collegiate Athletic Association Men's Golf Most Valuable Player award after finishing in fourth place at the conference tournament.

In 11 tournaments, Thornberry finished in the Top 10 nine times. He placed second three times. Thornberry averaged 71.9 strokes per round.

9. MMC Champs

The Ceres High boys and girls track and field teams tied for first in the league standings with Modesto High during the regular season. The Bulldogs and Panthers compiled identical 4-0 records.

Ryan Leazer, Benny Perez, Kevin Dupree, Ross Tate, Chris Gregg, Brandon Hale, James Gmachoswki, Dingko Luangchai, Charlie Cunha, Daniel Munoz, A.J. Ball and Marques Castrejon led the boys squad.

Leazer totaled a team-high 47.50 points in league. He placed first in the 100 meters, second in the 200 meters and ran a leg on two second-place relay teams at the Modesto Metro Conference championships.

Dupree won the triple jump and placed second in the long jump.

Tate placed second in the high jump. He posted a 4-0 mark in the event during the regular sea-son.

Karrah Brown, Heather Jones, Jessica Mazza, Vanessa Graham, Melanie Casey, Laura Morales, Vicki Morales, Melanie Vega, Nicole Laranjo, Juliana Trejo, Beverly Hernandez, Katie Lutes and Marissa Cabusas led the girls squad.

Brown totaled a team-high 44 points in league. She competed in the 3,200 meters, 1,600 and 800. She placed third in the 3,200 at the MMC meet.

Jones ranked second in scoring with 42.50 points. She placed first in the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles at the conference meet.

Mazza went undefeated in the high jump.

10. Perfection

The Ceres Falcons JV football squad compiled a perfect 11-0 record and captured the National Youth Football League Super Bowl championship.

Vince Lopez claimed the league's Most Valuable Player Award. He had 2,086 all-purpose yards and 24 touchdowns. Lopez amassed 63 tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles, two recovered fumbles and one sack at safety.

Other notable stories:

Nick Wilcox was named the MMC Co-MVP after leading the Ceres High boys golf team to a second-place tie with the Johansen Vikings at 10-5.

Members of the Ceres High basketball programs practiced for the first time on Nov. 15 at newly renovated Phil de la Porte Gymnasium. The gym's oak floor was refinished and remarked. The floor features a pair of large red Bulldog logos inside each of the 3-point arcs with the word “Ceres” spelled out in white cursive letters at midcourt.

The Ceres High JV girls basketball team claimed the MMC title with a 14-1 record. .

Gerald Garcia's 30-yard interception return TD proved to be the difference in the Central Valley High JV football team's 21-20 title-clinching win over Whitney High School on Nov. 3 in Ceres.

Members of the Ceres Cowboys and Falcons varsity, junior-varsity, novice and junior-novice football teams battled for bragging rights in the Bulldog Bowl on Dec. 11 at Ceres High School. The two youth football programs renewed a once fiery rivalry that had been dormant for five years.

The Cowboys won three of the four games, including varsity, novice and junior novice. All proceeds went to Ceres and Central Valley high schools.

Athletic director Jeff Rocchi helped hire coaches, set up schedules for fall, winter and spring sports, and purchased jerseys and equipment for Ceres Unified's second high school. Approximately $350,000 was allocated to Central Valley's athletic department.

Members of the Central Valley High football program found out in August that they'd have a place to call home next season. A 3,000-seat stadium is supposed to be completed before the start of the 2006-07 season.

The estimated cost of the project is $1.4 million.

The Ceres High varsity boys and girls water polo teams placed third and fourth, respectively, in the MMC standings this year.

The boys advanced to the postseason.

The girls finished one game shy of making an appearance in the playoffs. - By DALE BUTLER /Staff reporter of the Ceres (Calif.) Courier