Class of 2016
As Deer Valley High School’s first distinguished female volleyball player, Gabrielle Abernathy is still regarded as its greatest.
The athletic 5-foot-10 outside hitter was part of the Wolverines’ first graduating class. After a brilliant three-year prep career, she went on to earn All-Pac 10 honorable mention honors at UC Berkeley. There she was a four-year starter and still ranks as No. 10 in career kills.
Abernathy’s long list of other honors at Cal include:
• Voted the Bears’ best defensive player as a sophomore.
• Golden Bear Invitational All-Tournament member as a junior.
• Record-holder for service aces in a match (9).
• Season kill and attack leader in 2001 and 2004.
• Ace leader in 2004.
Her accomplishments never surprised her high school coach, Lou Panzella. He knew she was destined for greatness from the start.
She was “athletic, strong, great volleyball IQ and versatile,” Panzella described. “Beyond that, she just loved to play the game. It didn’t matter if it was practice or the games or just playing around, she loved the game. That’s part of what made her so special.”
She was a tremendous teammate too, Panzella noted. Deer Valley High only had a JV program in 1996, and it featured almost all beginning players except Abernathy. “She was incredibly patient and understanding,” Panzella said. “She was good enough to start on any varsity team in the region, but she was so patient. She could have easily got[ten] frustrated, but was instead simply a great leader.”
By her sophomore year, she was more than ready for varsity. She earned first-team All-Bay Valley Athletic League (All-BVAL) honors while also being voted as one of the top 50 female athletes by the Contra Costa Times.
Her junior year, Abernathy was a unanimous All-BVAL selection and easy choice as team MVP. During the offseason, she earned a spot on the USA Youth National Volleyball team that trained at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York.
This training helped her complete a remarkable senior season which included earning the United States Volleyball Association All-American honors. The organization also ranked her as the 17th best player in the country for her age group.
Abernathy was also named to the First-Team All BVAL for a third year, named “Player of the Year,” and named one of the Top 50 female athletes for the third straight year by the Contra Costa Times. Additionally, she received Deer Valley’s top senior “Female Athlete of the Year” award, alongside basketball and tennis standout Lindsay Lopez.
Abernathy showed her athleticism outside of the gym as well, giving track-and-field a try her senior year. She still holds the school high jump record at 5 feet, 6½ inches.
“She could do pretty much whatever she put her mind to,” said Panzella. “What always impressed me is that she was just a nice kid. She was confident but not big-headed at all. She always let her play do all the talking.”
He stood only 5-foot-6 and weighed barely 150 pounds, but everything about Niles Almarinez on the soccer field was big.
The relentless and hard working striker scored 47 goals in his three-year Deer Valley High School career, capping it with game-winning goals in the North Coast Section playoff, a 2-1 semifinal over San Ramon Valley and 1-0 past De La Salle in the finals.
The latter goal, with six minutes left off a rebound, put a punctuation on Deer Valley’s first NCS title in any sport and on one of the finest soccer careers in Contra Costa County history.
Consider this: Almarinez beat out future Major League Soccer MVP Chris Wondowlowski for the Contra Costa Times “Player of the Year” award in 1999-2000.
“The thing with Niles is that he always finds a way to beat you,” Deer Valley coach Dave Neal said at the time.
Almarinez led the championship team consisting of 12 seniors, 11 of whom had been on the team since they were sophomores. But Almarinez was always the leader. “He’s been a guy we’ve gone to for so long and he’s worked so diligently,” Neal said at the time. “For him to get the last one was really a beautiful end to a great career.”
There were signs early on Almarinez was headed for stardom.
As a freshman on the junior varsity team, he racked up 35 goals and was the team’s MVP. As a sophomore on varsity, he was a first-team All-Bay Valley Athletic League selection, and, in the following year, he was the league’s leading scorer while repeating All-League honors. He was also a first team All-Area selection by the Contra Costa Times and was named as North Coast Section “Player of the Year” by Sports Focus.
Even though he was a marked man by the time he was a senior, Almarinez finished his senior season in style, claiming the BVAL MVP honors and earning a scholarship to St. Mary’s College.
His final two goals will be remembered forever in Deer Valley history. In the semifinals, he trapped a pass from Serigio Maravilla, spun and rifled the game-winner into the top right corner of the net.
“I just did what I was supposed to do,” Almarinez said after the game. “Sergio got me the ball in a good spot and I got it home. It was the biggest goal I’ve ever scored.”
Not for long.
Three days later at Diablo Valley College, the Wolverines and De La Salle were knotted in a scoreless tie when a free kick by Spencer Stanton bounced off the keeper’s hands. Almarinez was there to pounce on it, blasting home the championship-clinching goal.
“I just hit the free kick as hard as I could and Niles was there,” Stanton said. “Niles was always there.”
Almarinez had a great youth career away from the high school season as a member of the Diablo Valley Soccer Club Renegades. He led the team to the 1999 Premier Cup championship and State Cup final appearance.
At St. Mary’s College, he was named All-West Coast Conference honorable mention in 2002. He also attained a Bachelor of Science and Business Administration with a concentration in Finance from St. Mary’s. He later earned a Masters of Science in Financial Analysis at USF.
The list of dominating Panther softball pitchers is long and impressive, including previous Antioch Sports Legends Sue Cardinale (2009), Mia Rexroth (2010) and Dawn Hilgenberg (2013).
Add another to that list — Stephanie Andrews.
The hard-throwing right-handed pitcher broke the career wins record shared by Hilgenberg and Cardinale by amassing 56 victories against 8 defeats over her illustrious three-year career.
Andrews was an All-Star hurler at the Majors and Seniors level for Antioch Little League starting way back in 1985. She helped Antioch Little League’s East Seniors to a West Regional championship in Apple Valley (Calif.).
Besides softball, Andrews was a superb volleyball and basketball player, winning MVP awards at seemingly every turn, including her days at Holy Rosary and Park Middle School.
She made an impact immediately as a sophomore at Antioch in 1989-90, winning MVP for the junior varsity volleyball team and the Coaches’ Award on junior varsity basketball.
Her biggest splash was of course on the diamond where she went 11-0 with a 0.10 ERA on the varsity softball team in BVAL play and at one point threw three consecutive one-hit games.
She also had a streak of 36.1 scoreless innings and finished with an overall record of 18-2 with a 0.27 ERA. She had 103 strikeouts, 10 shutouts and two no-hitters in 102 innings, helping the Panthers to an undefeated BVAL season (14-0). They lost in the North Coast Section semifinals, but Andrews was an easy choice for team MVP and first team All-BVAL and All-East Bay.
After a solid junior season when she finished 15-3, earned a spot on the First Team All-BVAL and All-East Bay squad again and the Panthers placed second at NCS, Andrews really kicked it in as a senior.
It started with Most Valuable Player and Best Offensive Player awards while being named All-Tournament at the Queen of the Mountain Tournament in Concord. It was a precursor for great things to come.Andrews was named first team All-State (large schools) by Cal-Hi Sports and the “East Bay Player of the Year” by the East Bay Prep Writers’ Association for leading the Panthers (24-3) to a 3A NCS title.
She allowed two runs over 27 innings in NCS play and fired back-to-back shutouts in the semifinals and finals, 1-0 over Granada and 4-0 over James Logan. It was the Panthers’ third NCS title and first since 1986 when Cardinale led the way. Hilgenberg was on the mound for the Panthers when they won their 1984 title.
Andrews went 23-3 overall and was 11-1 in BVAL play with a 0.64 ERA. She also pitched four shutouts, had two no-hitters and beat 10 teams ranked in the final East Bay Prep Writers’ Poll. For good measure, she also batted .407 with a team-high 22 RBIs. It was an near perfect senior year.
Andrews continued her pitching career at St. Mary’s College, playing in the First String Softball program. She graduated from SMC with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in health and human performance, a thing she was well versed on during her high school softball days.
In the same way a stone cast into a pond creates ripples, Bob Beswick had a profound impact the Antioch community. Born in Los Angeles and raised in Sacramento, Beswick moved to Antioch in 1945, where he opened Beswick Insurance five years later. In 1955, dedicated to making Antioch a great place to live, work and raise a family, Beswick helped support the creation of the Antioch Little League.
Beswick was one of the first sponsors of the Little League, which dubbed his team the Beswick Bears – an appropriate moniker for the UC Berkeley graduate. Beswick even got State Assemblymember Don Doyle to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in the Opening Day ceremonies at the Antioch Fairgrounds. Years later in 1990, Beswick helped mark the League’s 35th anniversary when he donned his signature bow tie and threw out the first pitch. Wanting to do more, a year after, Beswick began sponsoring a “Challenger Division” team so disabled young people could play as well. Beswick’s contributions would reap great rewards for Antioch’s youth. Since its creation, the Beswick Bears has been a fixture in the Antioch Little League. Hundreds of boys have played for the Bears and thousands more have been a part of the League. A successful program by far, there came to be so great an interest in the League that it had to join with Antioch West to accommodate the burgeoning number of players. Among them include former major leaguers Butch Rounsaville, Jeff Pico, Alex Sanchez and Aaron Miles. Fellow Hall of Fame inductee LeRoy Murray (Class of 2013) would later coach the Bears for 22 years.
Beswick’s dedication to the community extended beyond youth athletics. He was often called upon as a political moderator, doing his best to provide citizens with a truthful and honest assessment of local issues and measures. In 1999, painters included Beswick on mural on the side of the old phone company office at West 4th and G Street, proclaiming him as Antioch’s Ambassador.
Beswick was also dedicated to helping the elderly. He later served as President of the Antioch Committee on Aging, helping to create a management tool to oversee the programs at the Antioch Senior Center– now the largest senior center in Contra Costa County. Additionally, after playing a key role in getting the hospital built, Beswick served on the board of Sutter Delta Hospital Foundation. He also served as President of the board of Hospice of East County and was an active board member of the Contra Costa County Fair.
Lastly, Beswick and his wife, Sharon, played a huge role with the East Bay Community Foundation, helping set up two community funds in Antioch. Since 2002, the Antioch Area Community Fund and the Beswick Family Fund have generously supported the Antioch Historical Museum and the Antioch Sports Legends and awarded more than $2 million in grants to nonprofit organizations in the community.
Bob believed in investing in our community and we have greatly benefited because of generous people like him. If you are interested in supporting Antioch area nonprofits, make the connection with the East Bay Community Foundation at: www.ebcf.org
On the playing field, there wasn’t anything Christine Brockett couldn’t achieve. And, she seemed to do it all so easily.
The 5-foot-8 guard received a basketball scholarship to Sacramento State, but during her early days at 1990s Antioch High, Brockett excelled at everything, helping her earn the “Senior Athlete of the Year” award in 1993-94.
Brockett excelled at volleyball. She played two seasons in the program and earned all-BVAL honorable mention honors as a junior, the same year she was picked the team’s “Most Outstanding Defensive Player”.
“She was a middle blocker, good athlete, very coachable and very quick,” said her coach Lou Panzella. “I didn’t know much about her when she came into the program, but I sure did afterward.”
Beyond volleyball, Brockett also excelled at track and field. She set the school triple jump record her junior year by going 36 feet, 10¾ inches and the long jump record her senior year 17 feet, 2 inches. The triple jump record stood for 21 years, until it was broken in 2015.
Even though she came out late that season, Brockett was named the track and field team’s Most Valuable Player as a junior.
As a senior, she qualified for the CIF State track and field meet by placing fourth in the triple jump at the North Coast Section Meet of Champions. She then named team MVP for a second straight year.
Though she was an excellent volleyball and track and field star, it was on the basketball floor where Brockett really excelled. She became an All-Bay Valley Athletic League standout, earning first-team All-BVAL honors as a junior, and being selected team Most Valuable Player.
She repeated those honors as a senior, when she averaged 15 points per game. Brockett and Keisha Johnson, a Sports Legend selection in 2015, helped the Panthers finish 10-2 in league, win two North Coast Section playoff games to qualify for the Northern California tournament. The team finished 23-5.
“Her primary sport was basketball for sure, but whatever she tried, she was very good at,” Panzella said. “Besides that, Christine was an excellent teammate and positive influence in every area.”
After high school, Brockett attended Los Medanos College and played basketball, earning Co-MVP honors as a freshman by averaging 16 points per game.
She increased that average to 17.3 pointers per game as a sophomore, when she was selected the school’s female “Athlete of the Year”. She also won the outright basketball team’s MVP award.
That landed her a scholarship to Sacramento State, where she made the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team. She was the team’s starting guard as a senior in 1997-98 when she was named the school’s Athlete of the Week.
Brockett received her Bachelor of Science degree from Sacramento State, graduating Cum Laude in 1998 with a degree in Criminal Justice. She later earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in May of 2003. She passed the California State Bar Exam and began practicing law soon after.
When he earned a spot on the Antioch High baseball team as a sophomore, Alfie Del Favero left no doubt that he could hit.
The sophomore outfielder batted .400 in the 1988 season and was selected First Team All-Bay Valley Athletic League (All-BVAL). It only got better from there.
His sophomore season, Del Favero helped the Panthers reach the North Coast Section (NCS) 3A semifinal round.
Del Favero was terror at the plate his junior year. He had 11 extra-base hits, batted .513 with runners in scoring position and had an on-base percentage of .513―meaning the odds were better than 50-50 that he was going to get on base in any given at-bat. Additionally, he was one of three Panthers to receive All-East Bay honors that year, when the Panthers finished 20-6 and were No. 2 in the final East Bay rankings, despite being knocked out of the NCS playoffs in the semifinal round.
Much was expected of Del Favero as a senior. He responded with one of the best single-season hitting performances in the storied history of Antioch baseball, batting .453.
Del Favero made the transition from outfield to catcher during his two seasons at Los Me-danos College, then transferred to UC San Diego, where he was a standout.
As a junior he hit .391 with 10 doubles and 19 RBIs, and was dynamic behind the plate. He had a fielding percentage of .972 in addition to handling the Triton pitching staff adroitly. With Del Favero, UCSD was ranked 4th in NCAA Division III, and advanced to the NCAA D-III championships with a five-game series victory over Cal Lutheran. In the national tournament, Del Favero’s two-run single in the bottom of the ninth gave the Tritons a 3-2 victory over Wooster in a second-round elimination game.
As a senior in 1995, Del Favero led the Tritons with six home runs and was a Division III All-Region selection. He finished his career at UCSD with a .374 batting average, 5th-best in the school’s history. He also improved defensively as a catcher, raising his fielding percentage to .992 as a senior.
Overall, at UCSD, Del Favero hit .417 and drove in 31 runs as a junior, and later hit .453 as a senior. He earned First Team All-League honors every year—the fifth Panther to earn this impressive accomplishment.
Del Favero is the last of that quintet to be enshrined in the Antioch Sports Legends Hall of Fame, joining Alex Sanchez (2010), Aaron Miles (2014), Manuel Bermudez (2014) and Brian Oliver (2015).
Antioch High may have dominated high school wrestling in the 1980s, but it wasn’t always that way. Enter Bill Dupree who changed it all.
The 1979 Antioch graduate was a two-time medalist at the North Coast Section (NCS) championships and a Diablo Valley Athletic League (DVAL) champion as a senior.
But even before that, Dupree wrestled with the Antioch High varsity team in 1975 despite being a freshman, and went on to take third in the 98-pound weight class at the DVAL tournament. A week later, he became the first freshman to win a medal at NCS, taking fourth. He was third in the DVAL his sophomore year as a 106-pounder, and again as a 115-pound junior. He won the Santa Rosa Invitational tournament title at 123 pounds and was named “Contra Costa Athlete of the Week” for his efforts.
Between his junior and senior years of high school, Dupree honed in on his craft as a member of the Antioch Wrestling Club. With them, he traveled to Australia and wrestled as a member of the United States Wrestling age-group team. He took second at 54 kilograms in the New South Wales Federation Open and was third in the Sydney International Championships, both in the Open division. His first taste of international wrestling was in 1976 when he represented the U.S. at an age-group tournament in West Germany.
The 1978-79 season was Dupree’s turn to truly shine. After taking second in the Vacaville Tournament and winning the Livermore Tournament, Dupree reeled off 10 straight DVAL victories, finishing with his victory in the 129-pound title match in the DVAL tournament.
He received the DVAL’s “Martin Olivarri Award”, presented annually to the meet’s outstanding senior wrestler and team MVP. The following week he reached the NCS final, finishing second and earning a berth in the California Interscholastic Federation State Championship tournament in San Jose. He went 4-2 in the tournament and finished one victory short of placing in the top six.
Bill’s style caught the eye of college coaches. His abilities earned him a place on the wrestling team at the University of Oregon. There, Dupree wrestled two seasons for the Ducks, muscling up to the 134- and 142-pound weight classes. Dupree’s induction places him as the eighth Panther wrestler to be inducted into the Antioch Legends Sports Hall of Fame, following Steve Sanchez (2007), Bob Koupeny (2009), Fred Hunziker (2010), Jason Verduzco (2011), Anthony Camacho (2013), Casey Rhyan (2014) and Kraig Walker (2015).
Bill and his wife of 31 years, Lauri, live in Cameron Park California and have 2 adult children. He made a career in manufacturing for 34 years and is currently the Client Services Manager for Snowline Engineering in Cameron Park. Yet even then, he found time to coach wrestling at Camerado Springs Middle School from 1995 through 2004.
Considered one of the top boy’s golf tournaments in the Bay Area, since 1991, the Gambetta Invitational has been known for its great tradition and quality—like the man it is named after.
Joe Gambetta, who died at the age of 95 in 2015, coached the Antioch Panthers from 1959 to 1990 and strung together 31 seasons of unparalleled success in the area for his sport.
The Panthers won at least 15 combined Diablo (DVAL) and Foothill Valley Athletic League (FAL) titles in that time, going undefeated in 1964 (16-0) and 1986 (14-0).
In the 1960s, the Panthers won five titles in seven years, taking first place outright in 1964, 1965 and 1968 and tying for titles in 1963 and 1967.
The 70’s included two titles for the Panthers and Gambetta, before the long string of success in the 1980s.
The 1983 team won the DVAL crown outright, and placed second in Northern California. That team was led by Antioch Hall of Fame inductee (2010) Larry Silveira, who won the North Coast Section (NCS) title individually and placed second at the CIF Northern California (NorCal). He went on to earn All-American honors twice at the University of Arizona.
Gambetta’s greatest coaching achievement came in 1987, when the Panthers won the 1987 FAL, NCS and NorCal championships. It was the only Antioch team in history to win a NCS and NorCal title. That 1987 squad was led by Antioch Hall of Fame inductee (2013) Scott Olds, who was a four-time first-team All-FAL member. He won the regional individual championship that season as well.
The following year, Gambetta’s team won the FAL championship behind league medalist Sam Raines. The Panthers then went on to finish fourth at NCS with a third-place finish from Jess Lyons.
It was one of seven times in the 1980s that Antioch’s golf team won a league championship.
Gambetta finished his illustrious career on top, also winning league crowns in 1980, 1981, 1988, 1989 and 1990.
According to the Antioch Herald, Gambetta was born Nov. 28, 1920, and was raised with his three siblings on a farm in Novato during the Great Depression. He served in the military in World War II, retiring with a rank of Major. A pilot, his duties included transporting supplies to France and bringing back wounded soldiers to England.
Gambetta began teaching U.S. History and Driver’s Education at Antioch High starting in 1959, a career that lasted 31 years. While he also coached football, Golf, he earned his highest acclaim leading the Panthers on the links.
To this day, Gambetta’s name and the golf teams’ successes are planted all along the Don Richardson gym wall.
From a brilliant high school career in the trenches at Antioch High School to a championship college career at the University of Arizona to a current 12-year stint in the NFL as an umpire, Rich Hall has had an illustrious football career.
It started in 1970 as a junior two-way starter on the 8-1 Antioch squad. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder was a first-team All-DVAL defensive tackle and second team All-DVAL offensive tackle. The Panthers claimed a share of the DVAL title, including a 40-32 win over arch-rival Pittsburg when Hall caught a 34-yard tackle eligible play and added a 3-yard touchdown reception.
The following season, Hall took it up another notch to become one of the most dominating linemen in Northern California for the 6-3-1 Panthers.
In a pair of shutout wins over Pittsburg (16-0) and Mt. Diablo (6-0), Hall made 21 tackles with 17 assists to earn the “Fitzpatrick Chevrolet Super Sport Award”.
Later, Hall was named the East County “Super Athlete of the Week” for his performance in a 20-18 win over Concord. He made 12 tackles that game.
His dominating play led to multiple postseason awards, including:
• Antioch High School’s “Most Outstanding Senior Athlete” for 1971-72.
• First-team All-DVAL honors on both sides of the ball.
• All-East Bay defensive line, selected by the East Bay Prep Writers group.
• Team Most Valuable Player.
• All-East County offense and defense by the Antioch Ledger.
• All-American honorable mention by the Scholastic Coach 21st Football Magazine.
All of that led to invitations to not only in the Seventh Annual Contra Costa All-Star football game, but also the 1972 North-South Shrine All-Star game in Southern California.
Even more, it helped Hall land a full ride athletic scholarship to Arizona, where he was a three-year starter at defensive tackle.
Hall helped the Wildcats win two 2nd place finishes and one Western Athletic Conference title under coach Jim Young. Those teams went 9-2 in each season and the Wildcats finished the 1975 season ranked as high as No. 13 in the country.
Hall later graduated from Arizona with a degree in public administration in 1976.
Hall began officiating football that same year at the youth and high school level, working his way up to the junior college level in 1982. From 1985 to 1998 he elevated to the Big Sky Conference, earning his way to 14 Division I-AA playoff games in 1988 and the national title game in Chattanooga, Tenn.
That vaulted Hall to the new Mountain West Conference, where he was hired as the organization’s first official. He worked in the MWC until 2003 and during that time he officiated four different bowl games: Alamo, Holiday, Humanitarian and Outback.
In 2004, he was hired by the NFL and, like the rest of his life, Hall worked his way up the ladder, eventually earning the league’s highest honor in 2011 as an alternate for Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington (Texas).
Since then, Hall has officiated 228 NFL games over a 12-year career, including the 2007 NFC championship game between the Saints and Bears, and the 2016 AFC title game which pit the Broncos against the Patriots.The Broncos’ 20-18 victory in Denver will go down as one of the most historic games in NFL history between future Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
Rich is happily married to his wife Johnna, and when not officiating in the NFL, he is a perfecting his craft of cabinetry at his homes in Arizona and Connecticut.
Looking back, Hall remembers returning home after every Friday night Antioch High game to talk about the games’ outcomes with his parents before going out with friends. He thanks wants his parents Dave and Joy Hall for all their love and support.
Larry Lentz II was something of a volleyball pioneer for East Contra Costa County. The 1995 Antioch High School boy’s volleyball squad won their first North Coast Section (NCS) volleyball crown and Lentz was one of the reasons why.
The high-flying and versatile 6-foot-4 outside hitter did it all for the 26-2 Panthers that year, leading the team in kills (471), blocks (76), digs (300) and aces (52).
In the championship match, a four-game win over College Park, he had a match-high 22 kills and 7 blocks, vaulting him to a college career at Brigham Young University (BYU), Los Medanos College (LMC) and Utah Valley University.
“He’s one of the best all-around players I’ve ever coached,” said his high school coach Lou Panzella. “He arrived (at Antioch) at just the right time.”
The sport was dominated by schools from Central County, but Lentz and his twin brother, Lawrence, pushed the Panthers to new heights.
A good athlete who also starred in water polo, Lentz immediately took to volleyball. By his sophomore year, he not only earned the team’s most improved player award, he was first-team All-Bay Valley Athletic (All-BVAL) League.
As a junior, Lentz took it to another level, leading the team in kills (380), blocks (145), digs (110) and aces from his middle blocker position and the Panthers all the way to the NCS semifinals. “You could see he was real special then,” Panzella said. “But he really stepped it up a notch as a senior, especially as a leader.”
It didn’t help when the team’s primary setter got hurt late in the 1995 season, thrusting sophomore Jon Tiernan into the role. “Larry calmed him down and got him to totally relax,” Panzella said. “He’d tell him ‘just get the ball up there anywhere close and I’ll do the rest.’ "
Lentz did. In a four-game NCS semifinal win over Acalanes, Lentz had 13 of his game-high 17 kills in the third and fourth games. “He carried us,” Panzella said. He did in the championship match too, helping Antioch avenge an earlier loss to Foothill while winning its 22nd straight match to finish the year.
Awards poured in for Lentz, who was named the NCS Most Valuable Volleyball Player and the Antioch High School “Male Athlete of the Year”. The Contra Costa Times named him one of the Top 50 Male Athletes for its circulation area.
According to Panzella, he was the first volleyball player from Antioch to be recruited by major colleges and Lentz picked BYU. Eventually, he played National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association volleyball at Utah Valley and was a 4-year team captain.
The team won a national NIRSA championship in 2001 and Lentz was a first team national championship All-Tournament selection for three straight years starting in 2000.
“Besides being a great all-around player, Larry was a great leader both off and on the court,” Panzella said. “He had a great volleyball IQ and that translated to everyone on the team.”
Track & Field
Raising the bar to a new level isn’t just an expression for Mitch Mikula.
The 1984 Antioch High graduate became one of the best high school pole vaulters ever in the East Bay Area, despite not competing in the event until his sophomore year.
During his junior season, the 5’6” 145 pound Mikula placed in the North Coast Section (NCS) 3A.
During his senior season, the sky was the limit. Mikula placed fourth in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) state meet—one of three Antioch athletes to achieve such a feat in 88 years. He also won the NCS title, and was second in the NCS Meet of Champions.
That year, Mikula first tasted the rarified air when he cleared 15 feet for the first time in a dual meet against Concord as a senior. But it didn’t seem it would be that way. Mikula’s season was in jeopardy when he injured his foot during the Diablo Valley Athletic League (DVAL) championships. Under a hardship filed by Antioch coach Willis Ball, Mikula beat the meet champion in a jump-off to earn a place in the NCS trials. He vaulted to second in the All-Time East Bay rankings when he cleared 15 feet, 4 inches to win the NCS meet, more than two feet more than the second- and third-place finishers and set a meet record.
Mikula also placed second at the Meet of Champions and fourth in the Northern California championships. He cleared 15-2 at that meet, but needed a jump-off with Dean Starkey of James Logan to secure second place and a berth in the CIF State Championships.
“In the jump-off, I really didn’t want to go against Starkey, because we’ve become pretty good friends,” Mikula said after the meet. “But if it’s him or the state meet, I’ll take the state meet.”
Mikula’s performance also helped Antioch take second at the NorCal team standings. He had knocked the bar off during his attempt at 15-6 in that meet, but cleared that height in the state championships.
“I was almost going to settle for fourth place,” Mikula said. “But I wanted to win it.” His mark of 15-6 still stands as a school record 32 years later, and held up for three years as the best vault in the East Bay.
Mikula competed for three seasons at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, topping out at 15-6.
Along with his athletic accomplishments, Mikula was near the top of his class at Antioch, and was named the “Outstanding Computer Student”. That helped guide his career path. Mikula went on to become Vice President of Software Development at a software company in Texas. He has been married 14 years and has 5 kids. Though he no longer vaults, Mikula has competed in two marathons.
Steve Ochoa was a hitter, pure and simple.
The 1982 Antioch High graduate was a two-time second-team All-Diablo Valley Athletic League (All-DVAL) selection, but was a bit of a late bloomer. One of the first examples came his junior season in a victory over Pittsburg High School when Ochoa and teammate and fellow Antioch Sports Legends Hall of Fame inductee (2015), Doug Snyder, each went 3-for-3 with a home run. Ochoa would later put his name all over the baseball record books at Los Medanos College (LMC) and San Jose State (SJSU) before getting his shot at professional baseball.
Ochoa moved from the outfield to behind the plate as a senior, and responded with another performance that earned him second-team All-DVAL catcher as he helped the Panthers reach the North Coast Section (NCS) 3A playoff semifinals. Ochoa then headed to Los Medanos College, where he feasted on Bay Valley Conference pitching for two years, batting .461 as a freshman and .450 as a sophomore.
As a freshman, he and Jerry Bertolani, an Antioch Sports Legends Hall of Fame inductee (2015), shared team MVP honors. He was a two-time Bay Valley Conference Most Valuable Player, and was first-team All-State in 1984. He set school career records for batting average (.455) and runs batted in (91), and the single-season mark with 52 RBIs.
Ochoa got the full attention of the coaches at SJSU, and Ochoa continued his record-breaking ways in two seasons as a Spartan. He still holds SJSU single-game records for home runs (3) and RBIs (nine). As a junior, Ochoa batted .378 with 11 doubles, 1 triple and 9 home runs, and drove in 42 runs, leading the team in batting, hits (79), home runs and RBIs, and was first-team All-Pacific Coast Athletic Association. His average dropped slightly as a senior, to an enviable .346, but his power production was up. Ochoa hit 12 home runs, still sixth-best for a single-season at SJSU, with 13 doubles and a triple, and drove in 52 runs. He also stole 4 bases, and led the Spartans in runs scored (50), RBIs, homers and walks (33). His career batting average of .363 is still No. 3 on the Spartans’ all-time list.
A few weeks after the season ended, Ochoa was drafted by Philadelphia in the 37th round of the free agent draft, and was assigned to the Utica Blue Sox of the Single-A New York-Penn League.
“Being drafted wasn’t expected, but I was hoping for it,” Ochoa told the Antioch Ledger after signing his first pro contract. “I wasn’t drafted out of LMC. All I know is I’m a happy man and I’m going to give it my best shot.”
Ochoa, one of just 12 AHS Panthers and DVHS wolverines to play AA baseball or higher played, one year and hit .213, getting 29 hits in 136 at-bats, with 4 doubles, 3 triples, 2 homers and 19 RBI’s, along with 10 stolen bases.
At a school with a reputation for developing outstanding offensive linemen, Evan Pilgrim was one of the best.
Pilgrim played two years of varsity football and burst onto the scene as a senior as a devastating blocker in Coach Steve Sanchez’s wide-open offense.
Pilgrim earned All-Bay Valley Athletic League (All-BVAL) and All-East Bay honors, and received the “Duane Putnam Award” as the team’s top offensive lineman. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound tackle was ranked No. 7 in the Contra Costa Times’ “Cream of the Crop,” the top 20 senior prospects in the East Bay. He was also listed with future standouts and NFL players Drew Bledsoe, Aaron Taylor, J.J. Stokes, Danny White and Drew Bledsoe as one the Best of the West in high schools in February of 1990. His play earned him a scholarship to Brigham Young University (BYU).
At BYU, the 6’5” and 290 pounds Pilgrim moved to guard in the ‘92 program, was a starter as a sophomore and was named to the Football News Sophomore All-America second team and All-Western Athletic Conference (WAC). He became the first All-American since Arizona State University linebacker and fellow Antioch Sports Legends Hall of Fame inductee (2007), Ron Pritchard, 26 years before. In 1993, Pilgrim started in the Holiday Bowl and battled Ohio State’s Big Daddy Wilkerson in the trenches.
During his senior year at BYU, Pilgrim was dubbed the “Pancake maker” for his devastating blocks. He was once again selected as second team All-American, this time by the Associated Press. [To see Pilgrim’s number being called for a BYU score click here and look for big number 70 at right guard.]
Pilgrim was later listed as the “National Lineman of the week” vs. Hawaii and National Lineman of September in the NFL Draft Report. His 510 bench press and own personal size increase from a 6’5” 260 pound freshmen to a 6’5” 305 pound 5 year senior caught NFL scouts’ attention following the Cougar’ s season in Utah .
In the third round and as #87 overall of the 1995 NFL draft, Pilgrim was drafted by the Chicago Bears. He started six straight games for the Bears in 1997, then joined the Tennessee Oilers in 1998, appearing in three games. He finished his career with the Atlanta Falcons, playing seven games in 2000. His started in his final NFL game, a 23-7 victory over Kansas City in the regular-season finale. Overall, Pilgrim started eight of the 32 games he played in his five years in the NFL.
But the story didn’t end there. In 2002, Pilgrim continued his professional career with the Detroit Furry and the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League in a completely different arena. Three of his Storm teammates and he were cast in Adam Sandler’s 2006 remake of “The Longest Yard.”
While Pilgrim’s football days may be over, he is certainly not forgotten, as the accolades continue to come. In 2012, the Bleacher Report selected him as part of the BYU Dream Team. In 2015, Desert News ranked Pilgrim as the 50th best offensive player in BYU history. That same year, the same publication listed Pilgrim as the 85th best football player in BYU history.
Pilgrim now joins a part Antioch High’s long storied past of football greats inducted into the Antioch Historical Sports Legends Museum, joining Gino Marchetti (2007), Duane Putnam (2007) Ron Pritchard (2007) Ron Sbranti (2008) John Olenchalk (2008) Mark Butterfield (2014) Jeremy Newberry (2014) Mike Lucky (2014) and Frank Beede (2015).
Pilgrim now works in the technology manufacturing industry. He serves as the Southeast US Sales Director of AiRISTA Flow in North Carolina.
By the time he graduated from Antioch High School in 1950, Ray Salazar had helped usher out one of the most spectacular eras in Panther football history.
“Big” Ray Salazar was imposing at 6-foot and 185 pounds in his day. As a junior, he earned All-Contra Costa County Athletic League (All-CCCAL) honorable mention, when he started at offensive end opposite Antioch Sports Legends Hall of Fame inductee (2007) Jack Garrow. Salazar was selected co-captain for the game against John Swett.
As a senior, he was named All-Northern California (NorCal) and All-CCCAL at defensive tackle.
A leader on the field, he was also held in high regard off the field, serving as Class President.
Salazar blossomed as a senior in the 1949 season. Three times that year, he was selected co-captain, and was a first-team All-CCAL selection at defensive tackle.
Opposing coaches Tony Knap, of arch-rival Pittsburg, and Phil O’Neill, of Mt. Diablo, both named Salazar as one of the league’s six best players at any position. The crowning individual honor came shortly after when a panel of coaches and sports writers made Salazar the only CCAL player selected to the All-NorCal football team.
Salazar becomes the eighth of Antioch Sports Legends Hall of Fame inductee Jack Danilovich’s players to be inducted into the Antioch Sports Legends Hall of Fame. He joins Garrow, Duane Putnam (2007 ), Worth Shaw (2007, Community Leader), Jesse Cone (2008), Nick Rodriguez (2009, Male All-Around), Jim Coalter (2010, Male All-Around) and Joe Harlan (2011).
He was just one of twelve Antioch natives to reach at least the Double-A in the minor leagues, but Doug Snyder’s athletic prowess reached far wider than the baseball diamond.
The fast and wiry 6-foot-1, 175-pound outfielder was a first-team All-Diablo Valley Athletic League (All-DVAL) for the Panthers in 1980 when he hit .341. The following season as a senior, he was voted team Most Valuable Player when he upped that average to .392 and picked second-team All-DVAL that season.
His baseball career really took shape at Los Medanos College (LMC) in 1982 and 1983 when he was named first-team All-Camino Norte Conference both seasons and First-Team All-State California Community College as a sophomore. He also was chosen Top Male Athlete overall at LMC in 1983.
Snyder’s tenure under coach Tim Strain at LMC helped him get drafted by the Houston Astros in the 19th round in 1983. During his seven year stint in the minor leagues, the outfielder and first baseman hit 34 home runs, drove in 274 runs and stole 89 bases.
His best year was at Single-A Visalia in 1988 when in 427 at-bats, he hit .300 with 31 doubles, 3 triples, 12 home runs and stole 26 bases.
Snyder was promoted to Double-A Orlando (Fla.). He finished his baseball career after five minor league seasons and a career .262 average with 51 extra-base hits, 69 RBIs, 17 steals and 9 home runs.
His football career as a defensive back and wide receiver was equally impressive at Antioch High and LMC.
He garnered first-team All-DVAL honors as a senior defensive back for the Panthers in 1980, leading the team with five interceptions. On a run-oriented squad, he also had 15 catches for 299 yards (19.9 yards per catch). All of it helped him earn All-East Bay honorable mention honors.
Though baseball was his first sport, he showed off his receiving skills and speed during a fantastic two-year football stint for LMC.
As a freshman, he led the state in receiving with 60 catches for 933 yards and 6 touchdowns. He showed off his skills early against the state’s second-ranked team Sac City, hauling in seven passes for 101 yards and a touchdown in a 44-27 defeat. He added a season-high 11 catches in a game against Modesto and finished with eight catches for 133 yards and two scores in a wild 28-27 win over Delta College. His reception and yardage totals at the time were single-season LMC records, making Snyder an easy pick as LMC’s “Top Offensive Player”. He was also selected first-team All-Camino Norte Conference.
As a sophomore, he was voted team Most Valuable Player and first-team All-CNC again. He finished his football career with a two-year total of 115 catches for 1,858 yards and 11 touchdowns. His combined reception total those two seasons led the state and was second in the nation. For Snyder’s performance he was named to the 1983 All-State junior college Division II team as a receiver.
Beyond his football and baseball prowess, Snyder also was a varsity team member for the Antioch basketball team his senior year in 1980-81. In the end, there was little to nothing Snyder couldn’t do on the athletic field and court.
The 1979 boy's track and field team is statistically the greatest in Antioch High School history, according to Hall of Fame coach Mike Hurd.
The Panthers went undefeated in the Diablo Valley Athletic League (DVAL) (8-0) with the closest score showing 85-51 to rival Pittsburg High School. In four of those league contests, Antioch scored more than 100 out of 136 points. Additionally, two relay teams and a pole vaulter set school records.
The 1979 roster featured six individuals who took first place at the DVAL Championship Meet on the “sweltering hot” Friday of May 11th: senior co-captain Tony Lang in the 440-yard dash (50.2 seconds), senior Brian Hamilton in the two-mile run (9:49.6), senior Jerry Jones in discus (162’1”), senior Brook Sloan in the triple jump, junior Leon Hanson in pole vault (14’3” for a school record) and sophomore Rudy Viramontes in the 120-yard high hurdles (15.2 seconds).
Lang, Davis, senior co-captain Tim Crumpler and senior Alan Sowell clocked in an eye-popping 42.4-second 440-yard relay, while Lang, Davis and Crumpler joined senior Randy Larsen to swiftly finish the mile relay in three minutes and 20.2 seconds.
Jones also placed seventh in the California Interscholastic Federation State Championship with a 164’2” discus.
Senior Glen Davis won Team MVP by competing in the 220-yard sprint (22.5-second PR) and long jump (21’11”), along with the record-breaking 440-yard and mile relay teams.
Looking back, Coach Hurd created a fantasy track and field duel, pitting Antioch’s 1979 against its 1973 team, which consisted of five Hall of Fame athletes. Comparing season-bests in each individual and relay event, the 1979 team narrowly came out on top, thereby placing itself as the greatest in Antioch history.