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In the News - Friday, March 4, 2011


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)





Backcountry travelers

rescued in Mineral King


  A trio of hikers that was rescued earlier this week was prepared for the snow. But it was the unexpected weather that changed their plans.

According to Dana Dierkes, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks public information officer, the three men – John King, 36, of Santa Barbara; Jeffrey Wilkinson, 32, of Tempe, Ariz.; and Edwin Simpson, 35, of Tollhouse – parked their vehicle near the Conifer gate on Wednesday, Feb. 23, at 5,500 feet on the Mineral King Road and snow-hiked into the Mineral King valley.

  The plan was to make their way up to Timber Gap and then traverse Empire Mountain to climb Sawtooth Peak. But by the weekend, their high-elevation snow camp became enveloped by yet another three-foot dumping of Sierra powder.

  The snowshoers soon realized they should hike down and out but their first step was on snow so unstable that it was too risky to continue. So they hunkered down and waited.

  Fortunately, the party had a satellite phone and was able to contact park rangers for advice on what to do, or in this case, what not to do. The fresh powder and cold conditions kept avalanche danger at extreme.

  On Tuesday, March 1, with no obvious routes for escape, the trio asked the rangers for help. A helicopter on standby, waiting for the weather to clear to conduct a snow survey, was used to pluck the three men from their precarious camp above Mineral King.

  “If you do plan a winter trip, please contact the parks for all the latest conditions,” advised Dana. “If your intended route is more prone to dangerous conditions, we can advise you of some alternates.”

  Backcountry travel, by its very nature, is inherently risky. Only experienced winter travelers should currently attempt a trip.

  Avalanche probes, technical gear, and communications equipment are recommended. Prior to any trip, be advised of any National Weather Service warnings and call 565-3141 for updated park information.


DUI a factor in Sierra Drive crash


  A Lemoore motorist crashed his Ford F-150 pickup into a rock and a tree on Friday, Feb. 25, about 11:30 p.m., but it could have been much worse. That’s because there were sheer drops of 150 feet to the Kaweah River on either side where the vehicle finally came to rest.

  The solo-vehicle accident occurred just up-canyon from the Deer Canyon area. According to a CHP report, John Gullion, 47, managed to crawl out of his vehicle and walk to Sierra Lodge to get help.

  “The crash occurred when Gullion’s westbound pickup straightened out on the curve and left the roadway on the north side of Highway 198 near the Mineral King Road,” reported Officer Scott Harris, a CHP spokesperson. 

  Gullion had only minor injuries. He was charged with driving under the influence and booked into Tulare County Jail.


Town meeting features

Sheriff’s updates, geotourism


  With the busy visitor season comes a spike in local crime. That usually means more gang activity, illicit pot growers on public lands, and some confrontations at the river.

  At this Monday’s (March 7) Town Hall meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Three Rivers Memorial Building, several officers of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department will outline their plans to step up law enforcement during peak visitor periods.

  Local deputies Fansett and Brockman have reported recently that it’s been a normally quiet winter season. But with Daylight Saving Time and a big whitewater season just around the corner, both are bracing for lots of action.

  Not only do the Sheriff’s deputies have to deal with more crime-related calls, but each spring season brings a succession of local whitewater rescues. There has already been one man plucked from the river this year after he slipped on a rock and fell into the chilly water while trying to find a fishing spot.

  Michele Price, a Tulare County detective with the county Gang Suppression Unit, has been stopping by local businesses to brief owners on how to spot gang members and criminal activity.

  “The community is our eyes and ears to spot these bad guys,” Detective Price said. “We know they come up here to mark their territory and to party and hang out… we want to be on top of their every move.”    

  Bobby Kamansky, a consultant with the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, along with other geotourism council members, will attend the meeting to make a brief presentation and answer questions about local nominations. After completing some paperwork, local businesses, artists, and attractions will be included in a series of comprehensive maps being produced by National Geographic.

  Deadline for geotourism nominations for the four-county Southern Sierra region that includes Three Rivers is April 30. To begin the process, go to www.SierraNevadaGeotourism.org.

  Supervisor Allen Ishida will also have an update on county business and Dana Dierkes, public information officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, will outline the latest park plans.

  For more information about the meeting or to learn how to support the Three Rivers Village Foundation that sponsors the Town Hall meetings, call Marge Ewen at 561-0123.


Free CPR class offered


  Dave Vasquez of Three Rivers, a volunteer firefighter and EMT II, will be teaching upcoming CPR classes for free to Three Rivers residents.

  He has dubbed his project “CPR-4-3-Rivers.” The first class is scheduled for Saturday, March 19, beginning at 10 a.m., at the Three Rivers Arts Center. Other dates will soon be announced.

  For more information or to register for the March 19 class, email Dave at ca_solutions@hotmail.com.


Boys’ soccer Valley Championship

highlights winter sports season


  At Woodlake High, during the winter sports season, a whole host of Tiger athletes get their kicks playing soccer.  After watching Wednesday’s Division 5 championship match versus the Sierra Chieftains from Tollhouse, most fans would agree that there is not another team in Woodlake sports any more deserving of a Central Section Championship than these 2010-2011 Tigers.   

  Coach Freddy Palomo’s champions know all too well how it feels to come so close yet be denied. One year ago, Woodlake was eliminated in the Valley Championship game 1-0 by Mission Prep in San Luis Obispo.

  From that heartbreaking defeat, the returning players (last year’s team only lost two players) dedicated themselves to playing for another championship.

  “We really wanted Ivan Vasquez to have another chance to win a championship because of what happened in San Luis, and last night he scored the third goal,” said Palomo.

  While this latest accomplishment is still sinking in, it’s obvious that Coach Palomo is no stranger to winning, As a player at WHS, his teams routinely made the semi-finals, and as a coach he has been a part of four Valley titles, three as an assistant coach and now this one as a head coach.

  This Valley Championship was the first since 2004. That one was especially sweet, Palomo said, because that was a Division 4 title against the bigger schools.

  But this year the Woodlake soccer program also had to deal with its share of adversity. On Dec. 11, 2010, Jose Campos, 24, an assistant coach with the JV boys, was killed in a motorcycle accident.

  “The entire Woodlake soccer community had to deal with that tragedy,” recalled Sophia Nunez, an assistant coach with the varsity girls team. “The players [boys and girls teams] became even more committed to be there for each other and really came together as a family.”  

  That togetherness translated to playing team soccer on the field. But in the first half of Wednesday night’s championship match, Woodlake was lulled into playing Sierra’s style of “boom-ball.”  There wasn’t much passing, just several powerful shots that were mostly off target.

  Woodlake finally broke through the bigger more physical Sierra defense when Cristian Cuevas found the net in the 36th minute. At halftime, Woodlake led 1-0.

  The match was still up for grabs when Sierra knotted the score at one goal apiece in the 48th minute. But Woodlake, playing to the cheers of their standing and screaming fans, dominated the time of possession throughout, relying on speed and quickness.

  Eventually, the Tigers wore down the Chieftains and scored two more unanswered goals before the buzzer sounded. The fans poured onto the field as bedlam reigned and these Tigers celebrated a Central Section Soccer Championship.

   JV Boys’ Soccer - Don’t look for any big drop off in soccer when the varsity graduates its seniors. The JVs have some talent and depth too. The JVs finished their season with an overall record of 10-6-1 and in league play 4-3-1.

  Outstanding players were Diego Duenas, Victor Aguirre, and Uriel Campos.

   Varsity Girls’ Soccer - The varsity girls had a great season but just couldn’t make a shot when it counted in the playoffs versus Arvin. The Lady Tigers finished with an overall record of 13-6-2 and 7-1 in league play.

  Assistant Coach Sophia Nunez said she was pleased with the play of the young team but the real growth was experienced off the field.

  “We adopted a local family for Christmas and it was one of life’s lessons for our team,” Sophia said. “The girls learned how blessed they are and that they need to give back to their community.”

   Wrestling - Coach Jamel Carter was pleased with the progress of his young wrestling squad. Out of 15 wrestlers, all but two will return next year.

  Juan Tovar, a senior heavyweight, has qualified for the State Tournament to be held in Bakersfield on Saturday, March 5.

   Boys’ Basketball - No playoffs for this year’s varsity team but lots of hard work and good times. As usual with Coach Pasquini’s teams, everybody gets along and plays well together.

  “We didn’t win a lot of games but when we did win it was especially sweet,” Pasquini said. “The most important thing was that we all learned to love the game even more.”

  Coach Jameson Endres reported that his junior varsity Tigers finished 3-5 in league play.

  “We played well to close out the season,” Coach Endres said. “We got consistent play all season from Armando Martinez at the point, Phil Woods at forward, and good outside shooting from Andrew Cordova.”

Coached by Jeff Johnson, the frosh Tigers finished 5-13 overall and 3-5 in league play. 

   Girls’ Basketball - Head coach Kris Schlossin and assistant coach Kent Owen were pleased with the progress their young team made throughout the season. Among the season highlights were a win at Corcoran, something that doesn’t happen in that gym very often.

  The Lady Tigers finished 9-13 overall with a league record of 3-5. Kelsey Ruehling, Mariah Hopper, and Jeannae Carmichael were second team All-League selections.

  “We’re only graduating two seniors this year so we will be more mature next season and  counting on some key Three Rivers seniors to carry us into the playoffs,” said Coach Schlossin.

  No report was received for girls’ JV basketball.

  Frosh coach  Tyson Tashiro, a newly sworn Porterville police officer (as of Feb. 22) who was raised in Three Rivers and graduated WHS, reported the freshman girls finished with a 2-2 record in league play.

  “We didn’t get to play as many games as the other teams but the girls played hard throughout the entire season,” said Coach Tashiro. “Beka Unruh and Itzamar Sepulveda were outstanding all season.”









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