Lincoln’s Isaiah Garcia and Vacaville’s Jurnee Woodward take our top honors for the season as SportStars SJS Spring Athletes of the Year.
SPRING MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Isaiah Garcia | Lincoln | Baseball | Senior
Isaiah Garcia is a believer in the line that baseball, like all sports, is a business. But the 2015 SportStars Male Athlete of the Year for spring does not see the business side of sports being cut-throat endeavors where finances dictate actions. Garcia believes in a simpler bottom-line mentality.
It is no surprise the blue-chip baseball star, who batted a Sac-Joaquin Section-best .627 while leading his team to its first section baseball championship, did so with a quiet, business-like approach.
Lincoln entered the season with high expectations after reaching the Div. IV section final in 2014. With a new coach and plenty of returning players, the Zebras set three primary goals: Win 20 games, win the Pioneer Valley League title and claim the program’s first SJS baseball championship. The year-end report showed excellent yields with a 23-6 record, a PVL crown and the section title.
Garcia spent four years on the varsity baseball team, and in his senior campaign he led the section in hitting and was also a top contributor with 44 runs, five home runs, 33 RBI and 34 stolen bases. But personal numbers were never his focus.
Garcia played a large role as a team leader, sharing his baseball knowledge as well as his work ethic. The end result was a shared determination that culminated in an undefeated playoff run to win the section championship for more than just themselves.
“It was great for my teammates, the school, the community and alumni,” said Garcia, whose parents also attended Lincoln High School. “To see how proud everyone was really put things into perspective.”
Garcia will be competing all summer long as a member of the Auburn Wildcats, a college wooden-bat league baseball team that plays its home games at James Field in Auburn. “It’s always been a goal to play professional baseball,” Garcia said. “It’s every kid’s dream. I hope that I can develop my game and win a spot at CSUN early to get drafted after junior year.”
— Jim McCue
THE GARCIA FILES
• THE STATS: Garcia batted an SJS-best .627, which included a .750 batting average (9-for-12) in the postseason, while leading the Fighting Zebras to their first section championship. He also was in the top 10 in the SJS in home runs, stolen bases, runs and hits. A four-year varsity starter, Garcia compiled a career .474 average.
• SIGNATURE PERFORMANCE: In Lincoln’s 9-7 win over Placer in the Div. IV final, Garcia was 2-for-3 with a triple, two runs and two RBI. His high school finale was his fifth consecutive multi-hit game.
• WHAT’S NEXT: Garcia signed on with Cal State Northridge. After playing a full slate of summer ball with the Auburn Wildcats, he will leave for Southern California in August.
SPRING FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Jurnee Woodward | Vacaville | Track | Sophomore
Jurnee Woodward’s story is far from finished. The aspiring screenwriter penned a thrilling finish to the second act of her high school track and field career, winning her second CIF State Track & Field Championships medal with a second-place finish in the 300-meter hurdles and being named SportStars Female Athlete of the Year for spring. But what’s left to write is what drives Woodward.
“Track is what inspires me to go after my dreams of being an entrepreneur in the movie/film industry,” she said.
The sophomore was 0.44 seconds short of a state title in the 300 hurdles and was eighth in the 100-meter hurdles (she was sixth as a freshman). Other highlights of her sophomore year included her first sub-42 seconds (41.99) in the 300 meter hurdles at the prestigious Mt. SAC Relays, and Sac-Joaquin Section Masters titles in both hurdles events with a Masters-record time of 41.10 in the 300. “There is always room for improvement, always that little thing that can be tweaked or perfected,” she said. “Nobody is a perfect hurdler, but I think that perfection is the goal for my junior year.”
While that might be a tough script to live up to, Woodward has shown the ability to improve by leaps and bounds. Despite participating in track and field since age 11, Jurnee did not get serious about the hurdles until eighth grade. After taking a liking to hurdles while goofing around after a high-jump camp, Woodward started training with 1976 Olympic Trials semifinalist Janet Benford to learn technique, but joining the hurdling sorority at Vacaville High provided a new perspective as well.
Woodward practiced, ate lunch and hung out with Bulldogs’ hurdlers Pattriana Perry, Daria Cook, Nia Vance and Hannah Davis, and soaked up the knowledge and experience of her older teammates. “It was a community or family with those girls last year, and I had a lot to learn about what to expect, especially at state,” Woodward said.
Seeing, hearing and feeling the thousands of fans packed into Buchanan High School’s Veterans Stadium for the 2014 state meet prepared Woodward for 2015.
“I had good technique with no ‘wild arms,’ and was getting my feet back on the ground quickly,” Woodward said, “but I did a lot of speed training and it all came together this year with technique and speed.”
That combination led to unparalleled success for the Bulldogs’ top hurdler. With two years left in high school, Jurnee Woodward’s story is not close to being done.
— Jim McCue
THE WOODWARD FILES
• THE STATS: Woodward was among the fastest hurdlers in the state all season, posting top times in both the 100 and 300 hurdles. She was the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Champion in both events, and finished second in the 300 and 8th in the 100 at the state.
• SIGNATURE PERFORMANCE: Her time of 41.10 in the 300 hurdles at Section Masters was a meet record, the fastest in the state and second-fastest in the nation at the time.
• WHAT’S NEXT: Woodward has medaled twice in two years at state (sixth in the 100 hurdles as a freshman, second in the 300 hurdles as a soph). With the graduation of Roosevelt-Eastvale hurdler Jasmyne Graham — who needed a national-best 40.73 to beat Woodward in the 300 hurdles — Woodward’s path to state gold seems wide open.