Clovis News: Sports

Garza earns chance to coach Sunnyside football

Justin Garza's second knock at Sunnyside High received a positive answer.

"We think he can pull the entire community together to help this thing grow," Wildcats athletic director Roger Oliver said after naming Garza as the school's football coach.

He replaces Shannon Pulliam, who has taken over Sierra's program.

Garza had applied for the Sunnyside job that went to Pulliam in 2004.

Garza then was hired at Reedley in 2005, launching a five-year stay that had him go 24-22 after a 1-9 start.

He won seven games three times with the Pirates, including 2007, when they advanced to the Central Section Division II semifinals as an 11th seed.

Last year's 7-4 season was actually highlighted by a loss -- a 52-42 scare of Bullard, which would go on to win the D-I title.

Garza was attracted to Sunnyside's size -- the section's second-largest enrollment at 3,200 -- and potential.

But he's not leaving Reedley without reservation after the Pirates went a combined 22-8-1 with their freshman (6-3-1), junior varsity (9-1) and varsity teams last fall.

Further, Reedley should be more competitive in the North Yosemite League, where it will shift from the County/Metro Athletic Conference next year.

Sunnyside, conversely, will move from the NYL to the CMAC, where it will compete against Bullard, defending D-II champion Edison, Sanger and Memorial.

"It was a very difficult decision -- stick around and try to win [the NYL] or go have the opportunity [at Sunnyside]," Garza said. "I think Sunnyside has the potential to be a powerhouse school."

The key to tapping that potential, Oliver said, is connecting the program and community in Southeast Fresno.

Hence, hiring Garza.

"We were really impressed with his overall enthusiasm, his approach, personality and willingness to come in and really jump in with both feet in the community," Oliver said. "We need someone to reach out and be visible, to get the kids to totally buy in to his area so we don't lose them."

Prandini out fast

Jenna Prandini, The Bee's 2009 girls track and field Athlete of the Year from Clovis, has blazed out of the blocks this season.

Last Friday at Buchanan's Veterans Memorial Stadium, the junior clocked 24.13 in 200 meters -- No. 1 in the nation this season and No. 4 all time in the section.

She trails only Clovis West's Megan DelPino (23.94, 2008), Ridgeview's Dominique Lauderdale (24.06, '07) and Centennial's Tiffaney Bennett (24.11, 2000) in section history.

Prandini, who won the 100, 200, long and triple jumps at last year's section championships, also clocked an 11.90 100 last week. Her personal best 11.81, timed last season, is third all time in the section behind Bennett (11.69, 2000) and Lauderdale (11.71, '07).

It didn't take long for Edison freshman Tia Edwards to establish her identity. Her 59.83 400 and 2:19.82 800 are Nos. 1 and 2 in the section.

Buchanan senior Sean Johnson, the section double gold medalist in the hurdles last year, smoked a 14.17 110 highs and 38.46 300 intermediates in the Golden West Invitational. The 300 mark beat his previous best of 38.59, and the 110 time is just off his best of 14.15 -- 11th all time in the section.

Ritchey signs with Westmont

Jason Ritchey, one of the leading scorers in Clovis West history, has agreed to play for Westmont College in Santa Barbara on a full scholarship.

The 6-5 guard averaged 23 points a game and had 12 games of 25 points or more, despite routinely drawing defenses geared for him.

Westmont is an NAIA school that competes against Fresno Pacific in the Golden State Athletic Conference.