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Napa Valley Up & Comers: Last shots for Sittler, Johnson, Sepulveda
Up & Comers

Napa Valley Up & Comers: Last shots for Sittler, Johnson, Sepulveda

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The Register sports staff has turned its attention to the Napa County student-athletes who are returning to play sports in 2020-21.

Per announcements from the California Interscholastic Federation and North Coast Section in late July, fall competition for high school sports in the 2020-21 school year is now scheduled to begin in January with the rest of the sports slated to start in March to help stop the community spread of the coronavirus.

With that in mind, we continue our Up & Comers series, which highlights rising stars and players to watch for when their long waits are finally over.

Our 66th edition features Maile Sittler of Vintage, Jania Johnson of American Canyon, and Karen Sepulveda of Napa High.

Maile Sittler

School: Vintage

Class of: 2021

Sport: Cross country, soccer

She and fellow returning soccer teammates Mary Deeik and Tamara Hernandez helped the cross country team finish sixth in Division II at the North Coast Section Meet of Champions on Nov. 23, 2019 at Hayward High School. Sittler finished 41st out of 128 runners in the division on the 5K course in 19 minutes and 36 seconds.

Due to the extended cross country season, Sittler joined the soccer team two games in and didn’t score until a 3-2 loss to Vacaville in the Crushers’ preseason finale. She finished with four goals and four assists for Vintage soccer, which finished 8-10-4 overall and fourth in the VVAL at 4-4-4.

Sittler made the All-Vine Valley Athletic League Second Team, as well as the All-County team as an Offensive Player of the Year finalist. She also received Honorable Mention on the Prep2Prep 2019-20 North Coast Section Team.

Jania Johnson

School: American Canyon

Class of: 2021

Sport: Track and Field

Expectations were soaring for the sprinter after she won both frosh-soph sprints and was on the winning frosh-soph 4x100 relay team during the 2019 Vine Valley Athletic League Championships at American Canyon.

Johnson won the 100 meters in a personal-record 13.71 seconds and took the 200 meters in 29.42 seconds, after recording a PR of 29.23 in the preliminaries. She also teamed with Nya Hemphill, Lila Hawes and Samreet Khaira on a winning time of 56.52 in the 4x100 relay.

Also in 2019, Johnson teamed with Jasmine Goon, Hemphill and soccer standout Kyla Martin on a second-place finish in the frosh-soph 4x400 relay at Vallejo’s Fred Fawcett Invitational.

The Wolves opened their junior season this past spring at the Big Cat Inv1itational at Santa Rosa High, and Johnson clocked a 14.56 in the 100 and a 31.03 in the 200 at the meet. She had expected to have many more practices and meets to bring her times down, but the Big Cat would be American Canyon’s only meet because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Look for her to be hungry as ever in 2021.

Karen Sepulveda

School: Napa High

Class of: 2021

Sport: Softball

Two summers ago, Karen Sepulveda was the ace for Malloy, Imrie & Vasconi Insurance, the Napa Valley Fastpitch Association Senior Division team that came up just short against Branagan Insurance in a three-game, best-of-three championship series at Kiwanis Park.

Then came her first Napa High varsity action this past spring, the opener of a Feb. 29 doubleheader against former Monticello Empire League foe Wood in Vacaville. Sepulveda started and finished in the pitching circle to get the win in the 9-6 victory. She allowed 5 runs (2 earned) on 7 hits, 5 strikeouts and 1 walk.

But she didn’t throw a complete game. In the sixth, Alyssa Michie relieved and allowed the tying runs after Sepulveda gave up two singles with one out. But Sepulveda returned to the circle to induce a groundout and popup to keep the game knotted.

The Grizzlies’ bats woke back up in the bottom of the sixth with three runs on five hits — by Sepulveda and four other players expected to be back in 2021, Dalila Tapia, Caitlyn Newburn, Piper Johnson and Natalie Mostow. Sepulveda then closed out Wood with a 1-2-3 seventh. Sepulveda went 3 for 4 with 3 RBIs in the game.

Napa (1-3) would lose the nightcap to Wood as well as March games against Windsor and Benicia, all by the mercy rule.

Sepulveda hit .800 (4 for 5) for the season with 3 RBIs. She also pitched a team-high 10 innings with 6 strikeouts, 3 walks, 7 earned runs and a stolen base.

“Karen started off the 2020 season pitching well and was a leader at the plate,” head coach Ron Walston said. “She unfortunately was injured for the last couple of games of our very short season when she was hit with a line drive to the knee (against Windsor).

“I look for her to have a great senior season.”

WATCH NOW: NOV. 26 IN SPORTS HISTORY

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Sports Reporter

Andy Wilcox is a sportswriter-photographer for the Napa Valley Register. He's had similar roles in Walnut Creek, Grass Valley, Auburn, Tracy and Patterson. He grew up in Ohio. His wife, Laura, is a pastry chef. He also enjoys playing guitar and piano.

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