In 2021 the local sports scene was again shaped by COVID-19, with restrictions on gatherings forcing an overhaul of high school sports schedules. The result was shortened or incomplete seasons as teams that typically compete in the fall, winter and spring all playing abbreviated springtime schedules, with no playoffs and few leagues declaring league championships.
By summertime youth teams were back into a routine that resembled previous years, with the exception of 2020 when just about everything was put on hold. When the new school year began in the fall teams and leagues got back into their traditional schedules, and as 2021 comes to a close the traditional season of winter sports is well under way.
On Jan. 15 student-athletes across California, including many from Tracy, West and Kimball high schools, joined in the #LetThemPlayCA rallies. Their message was that athletes had done everything they could to comply with health and safety mandates to stop the spread of COVID-19. After some false starts the previous fall, athletes, coaches and parents said they were ready to return to their respective sports, with effective measures in place to keep COVID-19 in check.
A reduction in COVID-19 cases statewide and in San Joaquin County has made it possible for some outdoor sports to resume. On Feb. 9 the cross-country teams from Millennium and Delta Charter high schools participated in their first meet in nearly 11 months.
“While the season is very shortened and will only include four to five meets, the oppor tunity to compete has been greatly anticipated,” Millennium High Athletic Director Stevi Balsamo reported. By the end of the month tennis and golf teams would be back in action for shortened seasons as well.
More outdoor sports, including baseball and softball, started up practice at the start of March. Soon football, swimming, water polo and soccer would be back as the state further loosened restrictions on sports teams.
Millennium completed its cross-country season with both the boys and girls teams at the top of the Central California Athletic Alliance, and Mountain House High made the most of the shortened season with tennis and golf teams that went undefeated against their Western Athletic Conference opponents. Junior tennis player Sana Patal was the repeat WAC singles champion and sophomores Lizzie Su and Cheon Dela Cruz were the WAC doubles champions.
The Mountain House swim team started the month with the boys completing a 7-0 season, which included a virtual swim meet, where teams ran their races at their home pools and compiled results in an online forum.
Football competition included the 24th Crosstown Classic game, a 54-8 win for Tracy over West on April 16, concluding a five-game spring season. Another crosstown game was Millennium’s 22-20 win at Delta Charter, the only game that Millennium got in for the 2020-21 football season.
Crosstown matches also included a Tracy vs. West volleyball match dedicated to West volleyball coach Christine Toon, who died of COVID-19 in 2020. Toon had been named the Sac-Joaquin Section Model Coach earlier in the year. In addition to coaching the girls team and founding the Valley Rebels club team, she also started the West boys volleyball team, which went undefeated for the 2020-21 spring season.
The basketball season began as the baseball and softball seasons came to an end, with the Mountain House baseball team claiming their Western Athletic Conference title. Track and field is also in full swing.
The Mountain House High boys tennis team completed another perfect season, with junior Shuv Chakravarty the Western Athletic Conference singles champion and senior Davide Clo and sophomore Daakshesh Thangavel the WAC doubles champions.
The soccer season concluded with Tracy High’s girls finishing with the best record in the Tri-City Athletic League, though Coach Nate Perry wouldn’t count it as a league title considering that other TCAL teams didn’t play everyone in the league because of COVID restrictions.
The Millennium girls basketball team claimed a Central California Athletic Alliance title after they went 10-0 against their league opponents during the spring season.
As high school sports draw to a close, youth sports, including wrestling, gymnastics and the Tracy Tritons Swim Club prepare for a busy summer.
Back for 2021 is the Keena Turner Golf Tournament, an annual benefit for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tracy, where former San Francisco 49er linebacker and four-time Super Bowl champion Keena Turner invites teammates for a round of golf. It was 25th tournament and the 26th anniversary of the event, as the 2020 event was canceled because of COVID.
More youth sports have become active for the summer. The 5 North track and field team is preparing for the 2021 AAU Junior Olympic Games. Tracy Little League’s 10-and-under All Stars played for a District 67 title at the Tracy Sports Complex, finishing as district runner-up.
Youth football is also back for a full season. The Tracy Raiders, Tracy Rampage and Tracy Buccaneers reported full rosters at all levels after their 2020 seasons were postponed and then cancelled.
Practices for the 2021 high school fall sports season have begun. A lot has changed since the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, mostly with new coaches now leading local programs. Four schools have new football coaches, including Tracy High (Jeff Pribble), Kimball High (LaTe’f Grim), Millennium High (Jamani Woods), and West High. West, which almost did not have enough varsity players to start the season, was led by interim coach Scott Behnam, who stayed with the team through the full season.
Many football teams had to cancel their Week 1 football games on Aug. 27 because the smoke from wildfires had settled in the San Joaquin Valley, making air qualify especially hazardous.
Youth sports continued to get back into their routines, with Tracy Youth Soccer League and West Coast Soccer becoming active. TYSL opened its season by dedicating 6-and-under fields to late coach Steven Cox.
The fall 2021 sports season is back into a regular routine. Highlights for the month include the Mountain House High girls golf team again winning all of their league matches and claiming a repeat Western Athletic Conference title.
By the end of the month it was clear that the Kimball High football team would have its best season in the 12 years that the school has had varsity football. The Jaguars defeated Oakdale 63-56 on Sept. 24, putting them at 5-0 and matching the most wins the Jaguars have had in a season with half of the season left to go.
After more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions some local athletes were back on the marathon circuit. Betty Topping competed in the London Marathon on Oct. 3, and Noel Colina and Dave Cutforth competed in the Boston Marathon on Oct. 11. Colina and Cutforth had competed in a virtual Boston Marathon in 2020 when the in-person event was shut down because of COVID-19.
Playoffs began later in the month, with the Tracy and Delta Charter volleyball teams going into the post-season.
Local schools also produced some champions, including Mountain House senior Sana Patel, winning her third Western Athletic Conference singles title, and the Mountain House doubles team of juniors Lizzie Su and Malvika Seth, also winning the WAC title.
Millennium High had two cross-country championship teams as the boys and girls both finished at the top of the Central California Athletic Alliance, and senior Carson Edwards was the CCAA boys individual champion.
The Mountain House High girls tennis team, which had already won its fourth consecutive Western Athletic Conference title this fall, won the school’s first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section title, defeating Placer High 9-0 to claim the blue banner for SJS Division 4.
The Tracy High volleyball team has made another run through the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 2 playoffs, and went for a repeat section title, having won the blue banner in 2019. This time the Bulldogs would fall to Granite Bay, losing 3-0.
The Kimball High football team would advance as far as the SJS Division 4 semifinals, where they would fall to Merced, 51-50, on the final play of the game. The Jaguars finished the season at 10-2, 5-1 in the Valley Oak League, the program’s best season yet. Senior quarterback Nicholas Coronado led the state in passing yardage with 4,315 total yards, 359.6 yards per-game on average, and in touchdown passes (56). That put five Kimball players among the top 10 receivers in the VOL, with senior Willie Clifton (1,450 yards) the No. 1 receiver in the SJS, and senior Mason Rivera (1,259 yards) at No. 3 in the SJS.
The Tracy Rampage Youth football team would send all four levels of its program to the Delta Youth Football League Super Bowl. The varsity team defeated the Northwest Stockton Trojans 22-20 to win the league title.
Winter sports, including basketball, soccer and wrestling, are getting into their first regular season since 2019. The month ends with the traditional basketball tournaments, the West Winter Classis Boys Tournament at West High, and the Tracy Breakfast Lions/Tom Hawkins Girls Basketball Tournament at Tracy High, with league play to ramp up in January.
• Contact Bob Brownne at email@example.com, or call 209-830-4227.