For a third consecutive season, Turlock High golfer Clark Van Gaalen was named MVP of the Central California Athletic League, commissioner Ed Felt announced this week.
The 6-foot-4 junior, who has committed to play at the University of Oklahoma after his senior season, led the league with a minus-1.748 scoring average, meaning he was nearly two shots under in all league competitions.
So, is winning the MVP award becoming blasé?
“Oh, I’d never say that,” said Van Gaalen. “It’s a cool experience, because you did work for it and you did earn it. It was my goal before coming into school to win it all four years. So, I’ve got three out of the four, so far.”
The Bulldogs dominated the first team accolades, with Sac-Joaquin Section Masters champions Christian Maggard (2.844), Harry Clark (4.39), Nihal Gill (6.646) and Aiden Salcedo (10.438) claiming first-team accolades.
Pitman’s Davis Cornell (11.905) and Gregori’s Dilan Bahadur (7.415) rounded out the first team.
The Pride’s Dylan Freeman (15.679), Roman Ciro (16.062) and Samuel Skalinder (17.355) were honorable mentions.
Van Gaalen dominated the regular season, shooting a season-low 65 against Modesto at Dryden Park.
In the postseason, Van Gaalen was 5-under par with three holes to play at the Masters tournament at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton. However, an unlucky bounce on No. 16, and two slippery putts on Nos. 17 and 18, led to bogeys on his final three holes — an opening of which Maggard took advantage by going birdie-birdie-birdie on those same holes, finishing with a 5-under 67.
“Whether it’s league or divisionals or Masters or NorCals, those all have their own meaning,” said Van Gaalen. “But winning MVP does soothe the sting of Masters a little bit.
Van Gaalen, Maggard, Clark and Salcedo all return for the Bulldogs next season, as they look to claim the school’s 18th league title in the past 20 seasons.
The Central California Athletic League does not select an all-conference team for swimming. Rather, the league merely honors its champions in each particular event.
On the girls side, Turlock High’s Kaylee Amarant (100 and 200 freestyles) and Abigail Braley (100 butterfly, 500 free), along with Enochs’ Melina Schilling (200 individual medley, 100 backstroke) were the lone double champions.
Braley and Amarant also swam a leg on the league champion 200 and 400 freestyle relay squads, joining Kallie Parker and Liz Romero on those championship quartets.
Pitman’s Megan Hall (50 free) and Heidi Lancaster (100 breast) won just one individual title, but also swam a leg for the Pride’s 200 medley relay, teaming with Natalie Davis an Taylor Bernard to win the title.
For the boys, Turlock’s Cohen Harris (200 IM, 100 breaststroke) and Pitman’s Rick Vander Veen (100 backstroke, 500 freestyle) joined Enochs’ Nickolas Wilmont (200 free, 100 butterfly) as double champs.
Vander Veen will swim collegiately at Adams State University in Alamosa, Colo., next season.
Here’s a complete list of the league’s individual and relay champions:
2023 Varsity Girls
200 Medley Relay — Natalie Davis, Heidi Lancaster, Megan Hall, Taylor Bernard (Pitman)
200 Free — Kaylee Amarant (Turlock)
200 IM — Melina Schilling (Enochs)
50 Free — Megan Hall (Pitman)
100 Fly — Abigail Braley (Turlock)
100 Free — Kaylee Amarant (Turlock)
500 Free — Abigail Braley (Turlock)
200 Free Relay — Abigail Braley, Kaylee Amarant, Kallie Parker, Liz Romero (Turlock)
100 Backstroke — Melina Schilling (Enochs)
100 Breaststroke — Heidi Lancaster (Pitman)
400 Free Relay — Abigail Braley, Kaylee Amarant, Kallie Parker, Liz Romero (Turlock)
2023 Varsity Boys:
200 Medley Relay — Enochs
200 Free — Nickolas Wilmont (Enochs)
200 IM — Cohen Harris (Turlock)
50 Free — Iain McCarthy (Enochs)
100 Fly — Nickolas Wilmont (Enochs)
100 Free — Iain McCarthy (Enochs)
500 Free — Rick Vander Veen (Pitman)
200 Free Relay — Enochs
100 Backstroke — Rick Vander Veen (Pitman)
100 Breaststroke — Cohen Harris (Turlock)
400 Free Relay — Mitchell Clark, Sam Stempson, Henry Nitschke, Cooper Harris (Turlock)