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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW – Six area softball players represented their countries in Colorado

June 29, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

Amongst the multiple travel softball showcase tournaments and other events in which a plaques and trophies are to be won, there is one event where players represent their native countries. For the third straight summer, Triple Crown Sports has put on their International Challenge in Westminster. CO and half a dozen of area players were representing their countries.

To play in the tournament, players must have either been born in the United States or Canada, be a citizen of the United States and have a parent, grandparent or grandparent born a country she would like to represent. 

Representing the 18-Under Team Spain is Gahr High’s Natalia Hill, who is committed to the University of Nebraska. Team Spain lost to Team South America 9-8 and Team Italy 10-2 last Friday and tied Team Puerto Rico 6-6 last Saturday in pool play action. In the single elimination playoffs this past Sunday, Team Spain was doubled up by Team Japan 8-4. Hill plays for the (Chino) Briggs Softball Club (BSC) Bengals. 

Playing for the 18-U Team Japan is hot-hitting Kendall Nakano of Norwalk High and the (Norco) Wildcats Laufou/Hunter. Team Japan won all three of its pool play games, smashing Team Middle East 19-3 and getting past Team South Korea 8-6 last Friday, then defeated Team Cuba 5-2 last Saturday. After the win over Team Spain this past Sunday, Team Japan was edged by Team South Korea in the quarterfinals.

Rebecca Eckhart of La Mirada High and the (Anaheim) Empire Premier-Ensey along with Norwalk’s Jailynn Banda, who is a member of the (South Bay) Firecrackers-Vines, were on Team Mexico which defeated Team Great Britain 6-3 and Team Africa 4-1 last Friday and knocked off Team Netherlands 9-3 last Saturday in pool play action. Team Mexico then eliminated Team USA last Saturday before falling to Team Cuba 8-5 this past Sunday morning. Eckhart is a University of Notre Dame commit while Banda has committed to St. John’s University.

Camille Lara, a recent Cerritos High graduate who plays for the (Cerritos) Ohana Tigers-Quarles, represented Team Philippines which knocked off Team Germany 4-1 before falling to Team Dominican Republic 9-2 last Friday. Lara’s team then defeated Team Central America 4-3 and Team Middle East 15-0 last Saturday before being bounced out of the tournament by Team Italy this past Sunday.

Finally, in the 16-Under division, Gahr’s Rio Mendez, whose travel team is also the BSC Bengals, played for Team Puerto Rico which lost to Team Israel 5-4 before doubling up Team Central America 10-5 last Friday. The next day, Team Puerto Rico tied Team Polynesia 3-3 last Saturday to end pool play action. After wins over Team Philippines (3-2) and Team Mexico (9-1) last Saturday, Team Puerto Rico was shutout by Team USA 9-0 this past Sunday in one semifinal game. Mendez is committed to the University of Utah.


SWIMMERS from the Cerritos Aquatic Club that competed in the Southern California Swimming Age Group Championships last weekend at La Mirada. The Most Valuable Swimmer was Emily Ho (right), who medalled in all eight of her events.  Cerritos Aquatic Club coach Mark Johnson (left) who retires next month is with new Head and Senior Coach Vince Carmosino (center), and Emily’s Coach Shahob Mohammadi on the right.


The Southern California Swimming Age Group Championships were held at La Mirada last weekend and Emily Ho of the Cerritos Aquatic Club medaled in all eight events she competed in. Of her top events, Ho finished in third place in the girls 7-10 200 meter freestyle with a time of 2:41.60, fourth place in the 100 meter freestyle with a time of 1:13.57, fifth place in the 50 meter freestyle with a time of 34.07, sixth in the 100 meter butterfly with a time of 1:27.73, seventh in the 50 meter backstroke with a time of 40.59 and in the 100 meter backstroke with a time of 1:28.31.

On a side note, longtime aquatics guru Mark Johnson is retiring from coaching Whitney High and the Cerritos Aquatic Club. There will be an event celebrating his retirement at the #1 picnic shelter at Cerritos Park East on Saturday from 1:00-5:00.