Year in review: Century's Nihipali stands out for Jags
Century's year, like most, was a series of ups and downs.
Beginning in the winter, the Jaguars were led by their wrestling team, which placed ninth at state following a second-place finish at the Metro League district championships.
The Century boys claimed five individual championships at districts, including Josh Grant, Adrian Rodriguez, Tanner Morris, Ernesto Alvarez and freshman Broderick Reese. Grant and Rodriguez went on to place second at state, each for a second consecutive year. But it was the Jaguar girls that produced an individual state champion, as Mili-Nanea Nihipali grappled her way to a 220-pound title with a 5-2 win over David Douglas' Idara Ette.
"Words can't express how I feel," said Nihipali. "I worked really hard at this over the years. I took time in the offseason and during the summer and I worked my butt off to get here, and I accomplished it."
The Jaguar junior — the top seed in the bracket — defeated Warrenton's Jade Freniere by fall 3:12 into their semifinal match. But while proud of her accomplishment, Nihipali was quick to point out all those who helped her to achieve it.
"None of this would've been possible if I didn't have a great support system from my coaches, my teammates and the man above," she said.
On the hardwood, the boys and girls both struggled to seventh-place finishes. The girls' team, thanks to a tougher schedule, qualified for the postseason but lost a back-and-forth 47-45 game to Cleveland in a state play-in game at home.
The Jaguars flipped the script in the spring, as the Century baseball team placed third in the always-tough Metro League and advanced to the state playoffs, where they defeated Lincoln before dropping a second-round game, 7-6, to eventual state champion and Metro League foe Westview.
"Knowing we can compete with anyone in that Metro League tells us we can play with anyone in the state," head coach Mason Wright said. "It's impossible not to be excited for next season."
Century had two players honored as first-team All-Metro Leaguers, juniors Justyn Herzog and Micky Thompson.
The Jaguars' Gavyn Shafer was also honored as a Metro League first-teamer, for a Century softball team that managed a sixth-place league finish with a 9-17 overall record before losing to South Medford in the state playoffs' play-in round.
On the track, Century qualified three athletes for state. Nathan Poff finished eighth in the 400 meters after a 10th-place finish at last year's event, finishing with a time of 50.18. Shane Neal placed sixth in the javelin, and senior Nina Mastrantonio finished ninth in the triple jump with a leap of 35-00.5.
In the fall, the Jaguars had high hopes entering their second season on the gridiron under head coach Sean McMenomy and in the newly formed Pacific Conference. The campaign started as planned, with wins over Mountainside and Jefferson in two of the first three weeks, but a four-game midseason losing streak derailed Century's playoff hopes and left the Jags on the outside looking in come playoff time.
Junior wide receiver Chance Sparks was a first-team All-League selection, his second such honor after earning the same designation in the Metro League his sophomore year.
It was a tough year on the pitch for both the boys' and girls' soccer teams, with the girls' team finishing fourth in the Pacific Conference, while the boys placed seventh. Neither team qualified for the playoffs, but both were represented on the All-League teams. The boys boasted two second-teamers, Angel Santana and Uriel Rodriguez, while the girls had two first-teamers, senior Kaitlyn Springer and sophomore Ella Smith.
Century's volleyball team placed sixth in the conference and finished with a 6-15 record overall. Five All-League honorees were named, including two second-teamers, senior Janelle Maligaya and sophomore Barakat Rahmon.