There was a lot of talent that graduated out of the La Cañada Flintridge area after the 2010-11 school year, which left room for a group of new boys' athletes to grab headlines — and they did just that.
La Cañada High, Renaissance Academy, St. Francis and Flintridge Prep had a number of new athletes step into the limelight this past season.
Each school was responsible for its fair share of impressive playoff runs, from St. Francis football, La Cañada water polo and wrestling to Renaissance basketball, and each squad had a star that took center stage in the postseason.
After many of the previous year's selections graduated, there was plenty of space on the 2012 Athlete of the Year list and each school had someone step up and grab a spot.
Here is the list of La Cañada's top-10 male athletes in 2011-12:
1 Jessy Cantinol, Renaissance Academy basketball, senior — Attention isn't exactly what the normally reserved Cantinol was seeking this season, but he received plenty of it on the court.
Cantinol emerged as the Wildcats go-to player in the postseason, as he possessed a lethal post game to complement the solid wing play and shooting of guard Vince DeGuzman.
It was a bit of a coming-out year for Cantinol, who had always played, well but first grabbed national attention after being named the John R. Wooden Division VI Player of the Year. He averaged 15.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game in leading the Wildcats to their first CIF Southern Section division title and a deep run CIF State playoff run that ended one game shy of the State Division V championship game in Sacramento.
Renaissance Academy Coach Sid Cooke said Cantinol was a tough defensive matchup at power forward.
"He's been around here and always worked hard," Cooke said. "He's a lot like Vince in that he could score inside the paint and also dribble well for a big guy."
As a result, the power forward hauled in a number of accolades, including All-CIF and Harbor League first-team awards.
All the praise was well deserved for a player who'd largely flown under the radar the previous three years, said Cooke after Cantinol received the John R. Wooden Award.
"He really became more of a leader this year and the kids really looked up to him," said Cooke, who earned his first CIF Southern Section VI title at the helm of the Wildcats this past year. "He got more verbal and really wanted to win."
2 Collin Morikawa, La Cañada High golf, freshman — After what he'd accomplished in junior tournaments, Morikawa had already made a name for himself before he even began his first season.
By the end of his first prep season, Morikawa established a reputation of dominance at the high school level. He became the first freshman to be named the Spartans most valuable player by leading them to an eighth straight Rio Hondo League title. He routinely took home medalist honors — doing so in six of eight league matches — and finished with a team-best 34.1 nine-hole scoring average.
"I didn't realize he was going to be a statistical leader," said La Cañada Coach Richard Tetu, whose team went 15-4, 7-1 in league. "I knew he was an experienced golfer and I heard the kids talk about him and a couple of teachers in his eighth-grade classes, who I knew from golf personally, and they said he was a good player. But I didn't think he would be as outstanding as he was."
In the Rio Hondo League individual tournament, Morikawa separated himself from the pack and won the league crown by eight strokes with a two-round, six-under-par 136.
Morikawa, who also won the De Bell Invitational with a two-under 69, followed his league success with a 72 in the first round of CIF play to advance to the CIF Southern Section Individual Final.
3 Marty Vardanian, La Cañada High wrestling/football, senior — It was a season of ups and downs on the mat for Vardanian, but he peaked at the right time to not only put together the best season of any area wrestler, but one of the best seasons in program history.
The 182-pounder advanced to the CIF Southern Section Masters Meet and was two points away from advancing to the tournament's second day, but he suffered a pair of one-point losses and wrestled four matches in the double-elimination event.