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10 percent of class will play on in college

By Jared Green, Daily Planet Staff
Saturday June 08, 2002

St. Mary’s College High has been fertile ground for college recruiters looking to fill holes on their track & field teams for more than a decade. But this year’s senior class has broken out of that niche to place student-athletes from six different sports on Division I college campuses next fall. In all, an amazing 14 of the school’s 147 seniors earned athletic scholarships. 

Of course, track & field still led the way for the Class of 2002, with seven members of the St. Mary’s program headed for NCAA competition next season. A quartet of senior girls are leaving St. Mary’s with the school’s first North Coast Section championship as well as an undefeated record in dual meets in their four years. Kamaiya Warren, Tiffany Johnson, Bridget Duffy and Danielle Stokes each have numerous highlights to put on their respective resumés as they disperse across the country. 

Likewise, a trio of male hoopsters took the Panthers to uncharted territory during their four years together. DeShawn Freeman, John Sharper and Chase Moore were starters on St. Mary’s first state-champion basketball team in 2001, as well as the 2002 version that moved up to Division I to play with the big boys and lost in the NorCal semifinals to eventual state champ Oakland Tech. Freeman and Sharper were the consensus “best backcourt in California,” while Moore showed off his terrific athleticism on the football and baseball fields as well, earning All-BSAL honors in both sports and being drafted this week by the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

Two of Moore’s gridiron teammates, Trestin George and Courtney Brown, will don the pads once again this fall. George finished his career as the school’s all-time leading rusher, while Brown will parlay his speed into a dual role as a reciever and sprinter at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. 

Two athletes from outside the spotlight managed to draw attention all by themselves. Mikka Vrankovich has been pitching since she was 9 years old, and her years of work paid off with three MVP awards and a scholarship to St. Francis College in New York. Brian Haller started playing his chosen sport, golf, as a freshman at St. Mary’s, and his rapid ascent to NCS champion belied his meager experience. He’ll be heading down Highway 24 to Moraga as a St. Mary’s College Gael. 

Solomon Welch won the award for least-suspenseful, most-drawn-out signing process. He gained early acceptance to Stanford in the fall, but put off the official signing until the school year was almost out. He erased any lingering doubts by beating his best triple jump effort by nearly a foot at the last Northern California meet and is now officially a Cardinal. 

Chris Dunbar battled hamstring injuries all year and never really gained top form, but UCLA saw enough of his blazing speed in the 400-meter to offer him a scholarship. He will join Warren on the powerhouse Bruin squad. 

Rudy Vazquez is a three-time BSAL cross country champion and will soon be an Anteater. He signed with UC Irvine and will run track as well as cross country.