For the fourth year in a row, Los Banos High has laid claim to the Western Athletic Conference Excellence Award – an honor the Tigers have held or shared every year since entering the league.
“I think it’s awesome for the school, student athletes, coaches and those who support Tiger athletics,” Los Banos athletic director Joe Barcellos said. “We’ve been fortunate to have good coaches come through here, and some quality programs have been established. Once we got the first two, the other classes that come through don’t want to be the one that doesn’t win it. There’s a lot of pride that goes with it.”
Once again, the award’s standings, which compile points based on how each team finishes in league play over the course of the school year, came down to the last couple of weeks. Last year, Los Banos tied with Ceres for the award.
“You know, I try not to put any more pressure than some of our teams had this spring already,” Barcellos said with a laugh. “Softball went down to the wire, baseball had to win their last two to make the playoffs. I did mention something to Ernie (Willhite, the track coach). I don’t think either him or Central Catholic had won a track meet, so I said, ‘Hey, you have to win one.’ But I try not to look too closely at it until it gets down to the nitty gritty.”
Los Banos won league championships in the 2013-14 school year in girls tennis, boys and girls water polo and volleyball in the fall, and boys and girls swimming in the spring, with runner-up finishes in girls cross country, girls basketball, softball and boys golf.
Central Catholic placed second, five points behind Los Banos, followed by Ceres another three points back. As the standings came down to the wire, Barcellos was particularly worried about losing the award to Central Catholic, since the Raiders are moving to the Valley Oak League next year, and the Tigers wouldn’t get a chance to win it back outright.
With the banner back in Los Banos’ hands (it’s been with Ceres this past year), Barcellos is going about helping the next class keep it.
“We’ll keep doing what we’re doing. We’re trying to build summer programs and ramp up weight programs for some sports that don’t use it as much,” Barcellos said. “And just keep doing what we’re doing. We emphasize it at the freshman meeting, we post it as much as we can and try to make sure the kids are aware of it.”