I don’t know when or why or how or who started the notion that going to community college was somehow lower or less respectable than going to a four-year university but I want to tell you that it is absolutely absurd. Aside from just pure blatant classism, it is just frankly wrong but since I am the sports guy around these parts, I’ll keep my argument athletic-based for now.
First and foremost, I don’t think everyone around here realizes just how lucky we are to have community colleges like Cuesta and Allan Hancock right here in our backyards.
While they are extremely common in California, these aren’t just little pocket-sized institutions of higher learning for an extremely affordable price in everyone’s backyard in America.
How do I know this? I went to junior college and played a sport and almost my the entire team was comprised of guys from out of state who had to get up and move to California to keep their scholarship dreams alive.
Playing a sport in junior college is no joke. Practices are harder, longer and more intense than at any level because everyone is fighting. Fighting to be noticed by their position coach, head coach, fighting for a chance to shine and honestly just fighting in general. Playing time is everything. If you can’t get on the field, then coming to junior college was a waste of time, which makes every practice the real game time. Once you actually make it to the game in whichever sport you participate in, that is just the bonus, the cherry on top.
With that being said, we have some former North County studs who are putting in the time and effort at Cuesta College and are beginning to show some of the traits that made them some of our top athletes while in high school.
Both the Cougars baseball and softball teams are stocked with former North County talent while the track and field team could be confused for a Bearcat alumni club by someone wearing the wrong prescription.
The men’s baseball team recently moved up to the No. 7 ranking and entered this past week on a seven-game winning streak after sweeping both Allan Hancock and Ventura College in the last two weeks of February. The Cougars also feature former Bearcat Lucas Climer who is zeroing in on the open closer position, Eagle Justice Gibbons who has started the last five games at shortstop, and Greyhound Nate Meredith who gets consistent work behind the plate catching. Cuesta also brings another former Greyhound arm out of their pen with sophomore Shane Johnson.
So far this season the Cougars are 13-5 and are looking to go back to the postseason for the 16th time in coach Bob Miller’s 18 seasons. The Cuesta program is an elite one in the state and is currently in the middle of its longest Western State Conference title drought since 1990. And it’s only been three years.
The Cuesta softball team looks at times like a North County all-star team, especially when former Templeton Eagle Kat Cline is pitching. The Cougars sometimes feature as many as five former North County players including Player of the Year from Atascadero Claire Lohayza catching with Bailee Crawford (Atascadero), Kirra Vargas (Paso) and Katie Perry (Atascadero) all in the field. If former Eagle Rylee Murry enters to pitch following Cline, then we’ve hit North County Bingo.
Cuesta is currently 14-7 overall under head coach Jenel Guadangno and has risen to the No. 2 ranking behind Ventura. The Cougars coach has committed to recruiting local talent and honestly why would they do anything else? Have you seen our softball programs recently? I’m surprised every junior college coach in Southern California is snooping around North County practices.
The Cougars track and field team features 11 athletes who formerly wore crimson, green or traffic cone orange but eight of those 11 ran under Hall of Fame coach Ivan Huff at Paso Robles. Most notably, Cuesta College swooped up the Bearcats’ best sprinter, Jordan Summers, who made it to Masters, and their best thrower, Corban Payne, who made it to State, from last year’s team. Payne’s impact has already been tremendous as he is the only thrower in the region to rank in the top three of all the power throws — shot put, hammer and discus. Payne also took home the school’s male athlete of the month award for the month of February.
Joining Payne and the other throwers are Micah Katz (Paso), Luke McMahon (Paso) Alberto Toral-Uribe (Paso) and Cara Jones (Paso). Madison Mitchell (Paso) is also an important part of the team competing in the hurdles. Mattie Lindsey and Brenden Niller are the two Eagles on the roster and compete in the distance races while former Greyhound Abby Richey does a bit of everything in the Heptathlon.
It isn’t just the spring sports that have been dominated by North County athletes, even if this piece makes it seem that way. The winter teams were also stocked full of familiar faces, especially the girls soccer team, I just never found a minute to alert you all to their successes. If you or your kid is on the fence about community college, don’t be. The education for the first two years of college is the same no matter what school you attend. You might as well pay a fraction of the price for it. Besides, this world is dumb. Kids aren’t considered mature enough to purchase alcohol or cigarettes at 18 but are deemed competent enough to decide exactly what they want to do to feed themselves the rest of their lives and deemed eligible take out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans in order to pursue said occupation.