SUNNYSIDE It’s been a year of success for the Sunnyside High School Grizzlies athletic program.
Among the teams are four Big 9 athletes of the year, three coaches of the year, four conference championships, a state titlist, at least one district championship and eight teams to compete at 4A state championships, as well as individuals.
The year started with a buzz about the Grizzlies football program, which garnered its first state berth in 35 years.
The team ended the season 8-3 overall with Big 9 Coach of the Year John Lobbestael at the helm.
Lobbestael was recently named the recipient of the Jack Cleveland Award by the Yakima Valley Sports Commission for turning the football program around in his two years.
The commission named him football coach of the year earlier this week, as well.
The team had nine all-league selections.
Isidro Diddens-Maldonado was unanimously selected to first-team special teams. Linebacker Lorenzo Sanchez was named Defensive Most Valuable Player of the Year.
And defensive back Fernando Cid-Reyes, linebacker Andrew Gallagher, and linemen Will Bowman and Alexis Valdez all made first-team defense.
Defensive back Hugo Reyes received second team honors, Diddens-Maldonado and Franklin Barron received honorable mention for their roles as defensive back and linebacker, respectively.
Offensive players named with first team honors included wide receiver Hugo Reyes and lineman Andrew Diddens.
Quarterback Nico Valle, running backs Myles Alvarez and Carlos Ramirez, wide receiver Nate Maltos and lineman Jector Ramirez earned second-team honors. An honorable mention went to offensive lineman Anthony Cuello.
There was one cross country team member to compete at state — Dallas Borrego. The junior finished in 19:54.4.
The winter season netted the Grizzlies two coaches named Big 9 Coach of the Year — George Paulus and Rick Puente.
Paulus has been wrestling coach for nearly 40 years in Sunnyside, starting with eight years at the middle school level. In 2013, he was inducted into the Washington State Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
This past season, he coached state champion and three-time state competitor Josiah Rodriguez, four-time state competitor, second-place medalist Elias Romero and eighth-place finisher Jose Campos, who has also been at the Mat Classic three years in a row.
Romero was named the Big 9 Wrestler of the Year.
Puente has been the girls head basketball coach since 2010. He served 3 years under the leadership of Eric Berg before getting the chance to mold the program.
For the past four years, he coached some of Sunnyside’s leading basketball players, including the season’s Big 9 girls basketball Player of the Year Emilee Maldonado.
Maldonado, who graduates tonight, racked up a few other accolades. She surpassed her cousin’s school record 1,243 points, scoring a total of 1,405 points during her four-year varsity career.
She was also chosen for the Washington State Girls Basketball Coaches Association 4A basketball team and named the Yakima Valley Sports Commission’s girls basketball Player of the Year.
The girls basketball team finished its season sixth in state, the second trophy for the core group of that included seniors Maldonado, Jessica Mendoza, Destiny Salinas, Adriana Salmeron and Alexis Garcia.
The team ended its season with a 20-5 overall record.
A couple of girls in the wrestling program also shined this past winter.
Aylin Bautista was second at the Mat Classic and Stephanie Blankenship was fourth. Maggie Torres also stood on the podium for the Grizzlies, placing eighth.
Bautista made her fourth state appearance, Blankenship placed for the second year in a row and Torres made her debut.
As the snow from a long winter melted, athletes in spring sports also showed they mean business.
The boys soccer team won the league championship and appeared at state.
There were three district track championships, as well as a few school records broken by Big 9 female track Athlete of the Year and senior Jessica Linde and junior Nathon Maltos.
Linde set the 300-meter hurdles record of 45.09 on May 20 to win the district championship. She bested the her own record of 45.50 set April 23, 2016. Before that, the record was 46.10 set in 2004 by Hillary (Van de Graaf) Cullen.
Linde only last Saturday set a new record in the heptathalon at the Washington State Multi Events meet in Lake Stevens.
She was eighth with a score of 3,758, besting her own record of 3,494 set last year. She competed in the 100-meter hurdles, 200-meter dash, 800-meter run, long jump, high jump, javelin and shot put to set the mark over a two-day period.
“There are not a lot of marks historically for Sunnyside athletes in the heptathalon,” head track coach Dustin Crowe said. “I expect this record to stand for a while.”
She is also a member of two relay teams to set new school records.
The 4x200 relay included Linde, Janessa Frank, Sierra Cavazos and Dallas Borrego. Together, they set the school record at 1:45.48 for the district championship May 20. The previous record of 1:46.10 has been on the books since 1985. Lisa Richardson, Jennifer Lindquist, Erika Arvidson and Debbie Sinner were the record holders.
“The girls had the school record on their mind all year,” Crowe said.
With the district championship title, this year’s team qualified for the state track and field championships, placing 14th overall in Tacoma.
Linde and Borrego combined efforts with Cecelia Guillen and Jeniya Guillen two years ago to set the school record in the 4x400 relay. That time is 4:04.04.
Maltos made history on the track team this season in the 200-meter dash. He initially broke the 1992 record of 22.40 set by Dustin Liefke on March 11.
Maltos’ time was 22.37. May 20, he surpassed that time in 22.27 for third place at district. The time was good enough to qualify for state, at which he matched his time exactly for 12th place.
Maltos also placed fifth in the 400-meter race at state, becoming the school’s first medalist since joining the 4A classification. The junior’s time of 49.37 is currently the second fastest on school record, “... just off the mark of 49.10,” Crowe said.
The boys soccer team ended its season in the first round of the state playoffs against Camas. The team had a 13-4-2 overall record and is the Big 9 league champion.
In the postseason, the team had to battle through a district bracket and defeat Eisenhower for the second seed to state.
“Overall, between behavior and grades, the athletes did awesome,” Athletic Director Reed Hornung said.
He noted the average grade-point average of all athletes combined was 3.03.
Of the teams competing at the state championships, the dance and cheerleading teams also shined for the Grizzlies, Hornung said.
“It was a fun year,” he said, noting he isn’t certain if there has been a class as successful as the Class of 2017.
“They took ownership and leadership... they answered the call,” Hornung said.
The coaches also deserve credit for their hard work and dedication to the program.
“One of the best traits in coaches is creating trust and building relationships,” Hornung said. “The coaches have been able to achieve that.”
The first-year athletic director said the athletes have worked hard and had fun since he started at Sunnyside.
“They did a good job bringing this community together and have a lot to be proud of,” Hornung said.