WHS Class of 2021 epitomizing the Warrior Way through the pandemic

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The Winters High School Warriors are known for taking care of business on the field, around the community and on campus. The Class of 2021 began the school year in a full time distance learning environment. Athletes awaited eagerly for the go-head to begin official practices, but independently stayed active. Students also found ways to actively engage with the community from a distance. Their hard work and dedication despite the challenges and constant changes during a pandemic didn’t prevent WHS students from doing what Warriors do best. They show up; they persevere; and they maintain a balance of grit, focus and resolve called ‘Warrior Pride.’ Academics Winters students had three first days of school this year as Yolo County shifted between the different tiers. Staff forged forward in a digital learning environment following a vigorous training they went through. A majority of students began attending school part time in a hybrid learning model and then shortly after went back to school five days a week. Although there were many challenges, some students put in the effort and hard work. Seven students achieved the honor of valedictorian. WHS Principal John Barsotti announced on social media the Class of 2021 valedictorian were Liliana Gutierrez Del Toro, Itzel Rodriguez Santos, Mallory Layne, Fatima Guzman Farias, Trinity Sponsler, Liliana Gonzalez and Victoria Bañuelos Bermudez. Athletics Athletics mean a lot to WHS and Winters as a whole. Not only because it brings the community together, but because the community is filled with multiple generations of Warrior student-athletes. In 2021, the Warriors went head on with an intense season of sports. As guidelines rapidly changed, the WHS Athletics program jammed in as many sports as allowed by guidelines into three, much shorter seasons. The California Public Health Department and California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) gave outdoor, non-contact sports the green light at the end of January allowing the WHS cross country team to sprint into action. In mid-February the CPHD released a new set of guidelines for youth sports allowing mens and womens soccer, the cheer squad and football teams to start competing. The last of the three sports seasons allowed athletes to compete on the baseball, softball, track and field, swim, and the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Some of the coaches took time to recognize senior class athletes who exemplified the Warrior Way this season. Our cross country season was very short, like the track season. We had half the girl’s team quit for soccer which took us out of the league meet. The only senior to recognize is Brandon Colter. He has set a high standard for others to follow. Cross country coach William Davis said Brandon Colter set a high standard for others to follow. Colter was one of the original cross country athletes when the team first launched in August 2019. “He is an outstanding, talented runner who lead our inaugural season in 2019 to within one point of the section championship and competed in the Cross Country State meet,” said Davis. “His high school career was unfortunately high jacked by COVID not being able to have a full normal junior and senior years.” The WHS swim team competed in three meets for the condensed season between April and May. Swim coach DJ Tice gave kudos to Eithyn Mello who has been on the team all four years of his high school career. He said this season Mellow has had a strong impact as a role model on the team as one of the two seniors. “Eithyn has always strives to improve himself on and off the pool deck, whether it be through completing his school work or working hard in practice,” said Tice. “He has always been a positive helper on the team across his years. Eithyn is an example of a swimmer who does his work and participates every day he is at practice. Tice also noted that Christian Gonzalez, a new swimmer on the team this year, made remarkable progress in his swimming ability for only having about one week in the water. “He was able to work on his swimming stroke and make major improvements to his technique,” said Tice. “Christian was able to step up and swim on relay teams when he had never done before. This short season was great to have Christian join the team because it gave him some good preparation for the Navy, which he is going into after high school.” Daniel Ward, WHS Athletic Director and varsity football coach, said this year’s football athletes were asked to put the health of others above their own, to show empathy on a daily basis and to sacrifice for the greater good of the community. “They did all of this without complaining while most of their senior year was lost to a virus that they did not understand. Because of this, they will be stronger, more resilient and more prepared to handle adversity than any class that has come before them,” said Ward. Ward said since there were no championships to be sought for this year, the football players played for each other, their community and for the love of the game. He said it was an honor to be their coach this season. “In the end, this was one of the best teams that I have had during my tenure at Winters High School,” said Ward. “And as much as I would have loved the opportunity to compete for a section championship and beyond, I will always remember the five games we got to play this spring in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.” Ward shared personl reflection on players who were awarded football awards at their annual end of year celebration. Carson Lowrie was recognized as the Offensive MVP. “Carson worked harder than anyone this off-season and was the one who arranged the player run practices while we could not practice,” said Ward. “He also switched from quarterback to running back this year and was having one of the best seasons in WHS history. Through five games he was well on pace to break the school record for carries, yards and TD’s in a season and feel he was one of the best football players in all of Northern California.” Aidan Cruz was recognized as the Defensive MVP. “Aidan is probably the smartest linebacker that I have ever coached. More importantly he is an extremely selfless player and is someone who leads by example,” said Ward. “After rushing for 1,000 yards as a junior, he volunteered to move to the offensive line where he became one of the best lineman in the league. He is what Winters football is all about, and it is kids like him who make this program so special.” Cooper Andres was recognized as Most Valuable Lineman. Ward said seeing Andres play his senior year made all of the hard work and struggles worth it. He said they thought they has lost him for the year with a knee injury, but Andres only ended up only missing one game. “We were undefeated with him on the field and he was the biggest and best lineman on the field every Friday night, and one of the biggest reasons that we had such a successful season,” said Ward. “Besides being dominant he was also a great leader for us on the line. Cooper has also accepted an athletic scholarship to the College of Idaho to continue playing football.” Joe Southwood was recognized with the Iron Warrior award. Ward said Southwood is the strongest football player the program has had in a long time. “He is extremely competitive in the weight room and he loves the grind. He finished his high school career with several weight lifting records. He is the only player we have ever had to squat over 400, bench over 300 and power clean over 275 lbs. His hard work in the weight room paid off and is one of the reasons he had such a successful senior year,” said Ward. Tony Garcia was recognized with the Jack Delbar Coaches Award. Ward said that Garcia is another player who truly loves the game of football and worked extremely hard this off-season. His dedication paid off in results on the field during his senior year. “He got bigger, stronger and faster than his junior year and it showed out on the field,” said Ward. “Tony was the captain of our receivers and DB’s and a lot of the time, it was like having another coach out on the field.” Alberto Lopez Acosta was recognized with the John Kammerer Coaches Award. “Alberto is a three-year starter for us and is another perfect example of what Winters Football is all about. He is not the biggest, strongest or fastest kid, but he will out work you on a daily basis and is a 2 time all league lineman for us,” said Ward. “We needed him to play both ways this year and he was dominant on both sides of the ball. More importantly, he really stepped up and assumed a leadership role during his senior year.” Jose Escobedo was recognized with the Paul Zinselmeyer Coaches Award. “This year was crazy in so many ways and Jose is a perfect example of that. He was the starting goalie and League MVP for our championship soccer team on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then an All League linebacker on Wednesdays and Fridays,” said Ward. “This is only Jose’s second year of playing football and I have never seen a player get as good as he has that fast. He is extremely coachable and one of the most polite and respectful players that I have coached.”

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Athlete of the Week Brandon Colter. Courtesy photo

Athlete of the Week - Brandon Colter

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