Rick’s Sports Corner: Local Athletes Ready For Season

There is a light at the end of the tunnel as sports can commence.


By Rick Assad

It’s been slightly more than a year since high school athletes have taken the field and the court.

The reason, of course, is the presence of COVID-19, which wreaked havoc seemingly everywhere and caused a worldwide shutdown.

Now there is a beacon of light shining in the form of the recent announcement by the CIF Southern Section that said it was okay to commence prep sports this month.

Jessie Virtue (in the middle) is a defender on the Burroughs High girls’ soccer squad. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Having time off because of the coronavirus has taken a toll on the athletes’ bodies and minds, but after polling seven local athletes, they seem more than ready to begin play, even if it isn’t a full schedule and perhaps without playoffs.

Each one is thankful for the opportunity to get back on the field or court and play the sport or in some cases the sports they love.

Ryan King plays shortstop and is a pitcher for Burbank High. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Burbank High baseball standout Ryan King, who was selected Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore and has been tabbed team captain as a junior and senior, can’t wait for the hardball season to start.

“I feel like I’m definitely ready for the season both mentally and physically,” said the four-year starting shortstop and relief pitcher. “Over the last year I’ve continued lifting weights and conditioning on my own as well as going up to the field a couple of times a week to hit and get some fielding work in with my dad [Brett].”

King continued: “I was also able to go play in a couple of tournaments in Arizona towards the end of summer,” he explained. “The one area I feel like me and many other kids might be struggling in at the moment is pitching. My arm endurance is not built up right now, so my velocity isn’t where I would like it to be.”

King wants to eventually get to full strength. “I can also feel my arm tiring out a lot quicker than when I was playing games often,” he noted. “It’s hard to recreate game situations in practice, but I’ve started to throw longer and more in-depth bullpens to hopefully help get my endurance and velocity back up.”

Lauryn Bailey plays forward on the Burroughs High girls’ soccer team. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Burroughs girls’ soccer defender Jessie Virtue is keeping a positive attitude with respect to the potential upcoming season.

“I was very excited going into this year’s soccer season, and I am still hopeful that we will get back to a little bit of normalcy on the soccer field again towards the end of the year when things begin to calm down. With that said, my fingers are crossed tight that we will get our season back!,” said the senior, who was named All-Pacific League first team the last two seasons. “I miss playing more than I can express in words, but we are staying as positive as we can.”

Virtue believes she and the team will be prepared for the campaign in fairly quick fashion.

“To get ready for the season we would need a few practices to get back in the rhythm again,” she stated. “But we have a really great team chemistry and I think we could get going again in no time.”

Burbank softball player Elizabeth Zamora is looking forward to the season and what it will bring.

Dyani Del Castillo is a leader on the court for Burroughs High. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“Our season has arrived and is right around the corner for us athletes. We practice every day and continue to follow CDC [Centers For Disease Control] guidelines with our current circumstances. We make sure we social distance, check temperatures, sanitize softballs consistently and wear masks the whole time,” said the junior second baseman, who was named Defensive Player of the Year on the junior varsity squad as a freshman. “This is a big challenge for us, since we usually have a full eight months to prepare for the season.”

Zamora realizes what’s at stake for herself and her teammates.

“But, I know we can do this because it’s already looking great. Even before we started practices, our coach, Melissa Sanchez, made us work out, hit and throw every day,” she added. “This helped us stay in shape, which is especially helpful right now, since we have a small time frame until the season starts. Staying active made it a smooth transfer from staying home all week, to being on the field all week.”

Dyani Del Castillo plays hoops and softball for Burroughs and is thrilled to soon be back in action.

Kayla Wrobel can score, rebound and defend for the Burroughs High girls’ hoop team. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“I have stayed prepared for a potential season by working out on a daily basis by running a couple of miles daily and working out regularly. Both coaches from the Burroughs basketball [Vicky Oganyan] and softball [Doug Nicol] programs have done a good job keeping us in shape as a team and requiring us to complete specific workouts to improve our fundamental skill set,” said the senior shooting guard and pitcher and outfielder, who has been named All-League first team, All-League second team, honorable mention and the Student-Athlete Award winner.

Del Castillo went on: “All in all, I don’t feel as in shape as I would’ve been at this time if we were given a regular high school season, but I do feel prepared enough to get the job done on the court and the field when called upon to do so,” she said.

Daniel Neria is a pitcher and a utility player for the Bulldogs. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Junior Daniel Neria can’t wait for the moment when the plate umpire declares, play ball!

“I have prepared for the season by lifting [weights] and doing cardio[vascular] so I can get into the proper shape to play,” declared the junior pitcher and utility player. “I have also focused on my strengths and making them even better on top of focusing on my weaknesses. I’ve also focused on eating right and getting proper sleep so my body can feel energized and ready to play.”

Lauryn Bailey, a senior forward on the Burroughs girls’ soccer team is optimistic that she’ll be on top of her game when the season begins.

“Personally, I’m physically and mentally ready for the season, if we were to have one,” said Bailey, who has tallied an incredible 67 goals and 31 assists across three seasons and has been selected Co-Player of the Year, All-Area first team and All-League first team as a junior. “With my club team still active and working hard on my own at home, I couldn’t be more ready to get on the field again!”

Elizabeth Zamora stands ready with a bat in her hands. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Burroughs basketball star Kayla Wrobel has kept in tip-top condition knowing this moment was on the horizon.

“Exercising is one of my passions. I do anything and everything to stay active because I love it,” said the senior power forward. “I start every day with a mile run to wake up my body. I just finished all of my training to become a lifeguard, so to keep in swim-shape, I make sure to swim at least once a week.”

Wrobel, a fierce rebounder and defender along with being a dependable scorer, has found a different avenue to get in shape.

“Another thing that I do is participate in my dad’s [Eric] bike group,” she said. “We bike once a week. Now we are lucky enough to be able to practice on campus which encourages me to be ready for whatever our season may have in store.”

It’s clearly been a long time since the two local high schools have played a meaningful game, but the wait has also been a mixed blessing because it’s allowed for deep thinking and an opportunity to contemplate about what’s truly important and that’s family and friends during this unprecedent time.