By Brandon HENSLEY
Hail to the Spartans. For those living in the Crescenta Valley, those might be fighting words considering La Cañada High School sits just several miles over to the east.
But we’re not talking about those Spartans, rather the ones who suited up for Rosemont Middle School. And for those middle school athletes, it was quite a successful 2012-13 season.
Rosemont wrapped up its sports season last month with the Spartans’ flag football team defeating Toll Middle School 13-12. Led by Coach James Mustain, quarterback Tyler Hill and running back Austin Lee, Rosemont finished the year 5-1 and won the league championship.
The league is comprised of middle schools Rosemont, Toll, Wilson and Roosevelt, with each team playing each other twice.
Flag football wasn’t the only sport the Spartans excelled in, though. During basketball season, both the girls’ and boys’ teams went undefeated (6-0) and won league.
“We played very well against Roosevelt and against Toll. We didn’t have any problems with them,” said boys’ Coach Brent Ballard. “But against Wilson, the first time we played them we won by, I think, 10 or 12 (points). The final game of the year at Wilson was tight. It came down to the wire.”
Ballard and assistant coach Michael Kachingwe guided the team to its second straight title. The teams competed in gyms that were small, but full and loud, something mostly reserved for the varsity level in high school.
“It was great for the boys,” Ballard said. “They worked really hard during the season. The special thing about this group, they’re a real good team. I think if you look at their stats, we probably had a different leading scorer each game.”
Ballard said the keys to success were a tough man-to-man defense, and a fast break philosophy on offense.
Currently, both Ballard and Kachingwe’s sons, Trey and Kudzai, as well as players Journey Shank, Max Meyer, Tyler Hill, David Heckmann and Jonathan Han are getting time on the JV squad at Crescenta Valley High School.
The champion girls team was coached by John Kwan and Norm Baun.
The nine-on-nine co-ed soccer team ended the second half of the season 3-0 to finish 4-1-1 overall. The team finished second in league behind Toll, and was led by Coach Iain Blackwood. The group featured a mixture of players from the local AYSO team and some players from other club teams.
In cross country, the runners had their day at the annual Run4Fun, put on by LA84 Foundation (the Olympics were held in Los Angeles in 1984).
The fun run program is for middle schoolers and goes from October to December. During that training period, there are timed competition interspersed every couple of weeks.
During the actual event, kids run 1.25 miles in separate age and gender races. The Rosemont runners did well, making Coach Doug Laing proud.
The Spartans’ 12-year-old boys team took second place. Logan Neil was the first place finisher in the race.
“It’s noteworthy because he’s running against a couple hundred 12-year-olds,” Laing said.
Three other teams took third overall. Collin Fitzgerald, Logan Neil, Henry Mencia and Caitlyn Couch were all top five finishers in their age/gender races.
The cross country program also allows sixth graders from other schools to compete, making it the only Rosemont sport to do so.
“It’s great for them because they get to see Rosemont,” Laing said. “They get to see what it’s like there and expose them to it.”
This was Laing’s third year coaching the team, and despite not being sure if he’ll return, he enjoys doing it.
“You can push them,” he said of the kids, “and they pick goals for themselves, so it’s kind of nice to see that. Some of them screw around, but it’s nice to see the ones who are committed and have great results.”
Along with Laing, both Ballard and Kachingwe will also most likely be out as coaches next year.
“Our sons graduated from Rosemont. I think we’ll be watching them in high school now and give someone else an opportunity,” Ballard said.
That means volunteer positions could be open for coaching, and the school has said it is looking for volunteers to help out in other positions to help maintain Rosemont’s ever-rising status as a sports school.
For those interested, email Roger Sondergaard at email@example.com.