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Earned most full rides in recent years.

CLASS OF 2006:

June 11, 2006|By JASON ROGERS, Assistant Sports Editor

Eight athletes from the Imperial Valley’s class of 2006 earned athletic scholarships for next season.

That equals the number of scholarships out of high school the Valley received from 2000 to 2005 combined.

It’s a number that comes from remarkably talented athletes and some good fortune.

Both Christian Ramirez and Amber Flores knew early where they wanted to go. Ramirez, a three-sport athlete at Imperial High, gave a verbal commitment to play football at University of California, Los Angeles, before his junior year was out. The chance to play at his No. 1 choice of schools was too good to pass up, he said.

Flores, too, got a chance to play for a school she had thought of attending since reading about University of Oklahoma softball coach Patty Gasso.

“I always followed the program,” said Flores, who began receiving letters from colleges as a freshman in high school.

She opted not to commit immediately, wanting to get the full experience of the college visitation process.

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“I went on a few other visits,” Flores said. “I think I already knew.”

So, like Ramirez, she committed before her senior year.

That’s not how it went for the majority of this year’s scholarship class, however. Brawley Union High’s Mike Mohamed was interested in getting a scholarship and began sending highlight videos to colleges and attending camps before his junior season of Brawley Wildcat football.

But until the end of his senior season, Mohamed wasn’t sure what choices he would have.

“I thought I was going to have to play (NCAA) Division II,” he said.

Instead, like Ramirez, Mohamed got a call from a school he already wanted to attend. In his case, it was the University of California, Berkeley.

“Regardless of whether I was going to play sports or just go for academics, I wanted to go there,” Mohamed said.

Just down the coast from him will be his cousin Marty Mohamed, who will be playing football at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Another Wildcat football player, Sam Toomer, will be playing at Southeast Missouri State.

All three were members of the 2004 Brawley football team that reached the CIF-San Diego Section Division III championship game. Mike Mohamed said that playoff run helped gain the Wildcats exposure.

“I think that helped us get our names out there,” he said.

A fourth member of that Brawley team, quarterback Justin Baeza, also received an athletic scholarship, but his is to play baseball at Concordia University in Irvine.

A fifth Wildcat also received an athletic scholarship this year. John Cardenas gained attention while wrestling at the state championships in Bakersfield — the home base for his new teammates at California State University, Bakersfield.

The five Wildcats receiving scholarships is the most in one year in the school’s history, Brawley Principal Tony Munguia said.

Like the Brawley athletes, the recruiting process really happened during the senior year for Imperial’s Pete Blincoe.

“I’ve been thinking about going to college from when I was a little kid,” Blincoe said. “Playing sports, that came around this year.”

Blincoe will play football at North Dakota State. He said he began working the summer before his senior year to try to attract the attention of college coaches, but wasn’t sure where he would end up until after the season.

Like the seven other Valley athletes, however, he was fortunate enough to find the right opportunity at the right time.

>> Assistant Sports Editor Jason Rogers can be reached at 337-3435 or jrogers@ivpressonline.com

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