Until the postseason, Sierra High’s Kaitlyn Rausa (girls tennis) and Megan Oblin (girls cross country) were unchallenged in their respective sports this past fall, and for their dominance they repeat as Manteca Bulletin Fall All-Area Athletes of the Year.
Jesse Hurtado, also of Sierra, earns the top honor for boys cross country, while East Union senior Natalie Cowan is awarded for girls golf.
Rausa is part of a historic run for the Sierra girls tennis team. After a second-place finish in the Valley Oak League, the Timberwolves made their first appearance in a Sac-Joaquin Section team championship, falling to Vista del Lago 5-4 in the Division IV final.
“I am so proud of the team,” Rausa said after the match, “I’m a little disappointed we didn’t win it, but maybe next year. Hopefully this will propel us to win the VOL title next year and get back to the section final.”
Individually, Rausa had no equal in the VOL. A finalist as a freshman, the now-sophomore rolled to an 18-0 record without losing a set for the league’s singles title. Her run ended with a 6-2, 6-0 sweep of Sarah Van Ness from Central Catholic.
Rausa’s toughest match in tournament play was against teammate and fellow sophomore Nadia Petrovic, whom she downed, 7-6, 6-0. Petrovic and freshman Ellie Kim competed in the VOL Doubles Tournament and took second, but they made a surprising run to a fourth-place finish in the SJS Division II Tournament.
Rausa ran into stiff competition in the postseason. She had a tough draw to open the section’s individual tourney, losing to eventual champion Mia Linam of Cosumnes Oaks, 1-6, 1-6.
In the team playoffs, she won her matches in the first and second-rounds, including a competitive sweep of Shirley Liu in the Timberwolves’ 6-3 semifinal upset at Los Banos.
Rausa showed well in the SJS Division IV team championship at Oak Park Tennis Center in Stockton. There, she was matched with Capital Athletic League singles champion Sofia Smith, a hard-swinging southpaw who held off Sierra’s top player, 6-2, 6-4.
A year-round player, Rausa aims for better results in future section tournaments. She has gained valuable experience as an underclassman and has established herself as the player everyone else is chasing in the VOL for the next two years.
“She has been truly dominant,” Sierra coach Ed Melfort said. “She is an all-around player who can bang, has good volleys and can play consistent. She’s probably the best player I’ve coached so far in my three years at Sierra.
“She’s not only a great all-around player but a great girl. No one has a bad word to say about Kaitlyn. She’s very humble and she goes out there and takes care of business. There is no drama with her in and out of tennis.”
Boys: Jesse Hurtado, Sierra junior
Hurtado got stronger toward the end of the season on his way to a third straight CIF State Championships appearance.
He upset East Union senior Noe Reyes to win the VOL individual title at Eagal Lakes, and their teams wound up splitting the team crown. There was no slowing down from there. Hurtado placed seventh in the SJS Subsection Division III race, then for the second straight year took fourth in the section finals at Willow Hill Reservoir in Folsom.
Hurtado improved 33 spots from his last effort in the CIF State Championships at Fresno’s Woodward Park. He clocked a time of 16 minutes, 26.5 seconds for 32nd place out of 206 competitors.
Girls: Megan Oblin, Sierra junior
Oblin is prime for a big finish in her outstanding career at Sierra.
Up until the state meet, she didn’t finish worse than 10th place in any meet. She won all three VOL races and was among the best runners in the Lowell Invitational (eighth), Pacific Tiger Invitational (sixth), Capital Cross Challenge (sixth), Bella Vista Bronco Invitational (seventh) and FLAT SAC (first).
She spearheaded Sierra to a fourth consecutive varsity girls league championship. Her time of 21:15.8 in the league finale at Eagal Lakes was more than 30 seconds faster than runner-up Kayden Legan of Oakdale.
Following her 10th-place subsection finish, Oblin assured her spot to the state meet with a personal-best mark (19:15.2) for third place at the SJS Championships.
Oblin wound up in 27th place in 19:23.2 at the state meet. She set a program record there last year in 18:36.5.
Natalie Cowan, East Union, senior
A four-year player, Cowan led the Lancers to a runner-up finish in the VOL.
Although she did not reach the SJS Masters Tournament, she was the area’s top performer at the divisional level with an 88 at Tracy Golf & Country Club. East Union took fourth at the SJS Division III Tourney.
Ripon’s Myra Toledo is the lone Manteca-area golfer to advance to Masters, and East Union freshman Melinda Amick blossomed into one of the VOL’s top players by the end of the season. For Cowan, it was her consistency and leadership that helped her stand out.
“For so much of the season she was real steady and solid,” East Union coach Dennis Wells said. “The biggest thing we’re proud of is her leadership. She really kept everything together, and we’re going to miss her.”