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Pirates recognized for academic, athletic excellence
For one night, the athletes of Porterville College shed the sweaty jerseys, wiped off the grime and glamoured themselves up for PC’s own version of a Hollywood premier.
Complete with photo ops on a red carpet and an emcee in athletic director Eric Mendoza, the 2nd Annual Academic and Athletic Achievement Awards sought to honor the best student-athletes to don PC black and red in the 2009-10 season.
Though it didn’t have quite the budget a Mann’s Chinese Theater could roll out, Thursday’s ceremony boasted an intimate atmosphere that seemed to stress a recurring theme: these Pirates are all family.
“Many of you belonged to four-year high school programs and some of you will go on to play for other schools,” PC president Rosa Carlson said before a mostly full Performing Arts Theater, “but because of the two years you spent here, you will always be a Pirate!”
Dozens of the 69 PC athletes were recognized, starting off with Freshman Rookie of the Year, Alex Shew. The former Porterville High star earned multiple accolades throughout her record-breaking first season.
The male Rookie of the Year went to the baseball team’s Jeremy Acevedo, who batted a .318 in his first year out of Mt. Whitney High.
The two Sophomores of the Year — softball’s Kasey Nichols and baseball’s Ross Hebert — were named to All-Central Valley Conference teams.
All four of the above Rookies and Sophomores of the Year spoke of the tight-knit nature of their respective teams despite the ups and downs of their seasons.
Coaching Staff of the Year went to Del Marine and Eric Sodersten of the baseball squad. Marine, who recently stepped down as coach after four seasons with the Pirates, thanked the school for granting his first opportunity as a head coach.
“You don’t realize the impact you have as a coach on all of these players,” he said. “I’m looking at them now and how they’ve grown and it’s all just starting to sink in.”
Marine later presented the award for Sportsmanship to Josh Meadors, a freshman who entered the season as a role player but went on to exemplify what it means to be a role model.
Dave Kavern, who received the Community Outreach Award for his contributions to Porterville, spoke for PC’s other Sportsmanship’s recipient — Lisa Lopez — extolling the guard’s leadership virtues.
Though not all athletes received a plaque, this current crop of freshman and sophomores placed 25 on all-conference squads while getting it done in the classroom.
The Pirates collectively averaged a 2.78 GPA, higher than the 2.44 average of the college as a whole. In addition, 21 of the 26 sophomores have committed to play for their respective sports at four-year colleges and universities.
Five of them made the President’s List for averaging a 3.5 or better — Oscar Velasquez (basketball), Amber LeBlanc (softball), Stevie Lopez (softball), Matt Finkle (baseball) and Brian Lemke (baseball). Another 15 players made the Dean’s List.
A loud gasp was drawn when it was revealed that volleyball’s Olga Velasquez had been expecting a child for most of her season. Velasquez, who was not in attendance, received the Performance of the Year Award along with baseball pitcher Joey Duran for knocking rival College of the Sequoias out of the playoffs.
Four athletes, Stevie Lopez, Laura Lopez, Oscar Velasquez and Johnny Laygo, were given the Pirate Award for their qualities in leadership and overall impact on their programs.