Barner from Golden Valley named Softball Player of the Year

Ross Cruickshanks, softball coach at Golden Valley High, said there was a lot of pressure on his star player Bree Barner to be great this year.

With a young side, Barner had to perform in the circle and with the bat.

Barner excelled at both.

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The senior compiled a 12-9 record with a 1.26 ERA, striking out an impressive 263 batters in 128 innings pitched. She also finished with a .486 batting average with six home runs, 37 RBI and 20 runs scored.

Barner was named Central California Conference MVP by the league’s coaches. Barner is also the Merced Sun-Star Softball Player of the Year.

Barner was honored to be named MVP.

“It meant so much to me because I was competing against some great competitors with some of the hitters and pitchers in our league,” Barner said. “Being chosen meant a lot because I’ve been doing so much work in my backyard, hitting and pitching.”

Cruickshanks says Barner was a pleasure to coach during her four years at GV.

“It was great because she is such a great teammate and great leader,” Cruickshanks said. “She never approaches her teammates. She knew she had to virtually eliminate the other team to have a chance at victory, and she handled the pressure very well. There was a lot of pressure on her to be great.”

As an experienced player, Barner took the leadership role seriously. After committing to play softball at Stanislaus State, Barner was able to enjoy her senior season without the pressure of not knowing where she would play in college.

Golden Valley High senior Bree Barner, center, talks with teammates during a game against Patterson on Friday, April 20, 2024, at Golden Valley High School in Merced, California. Shawn Jansen [email protected]

“I tried to lead by example,” Barner said. “I always wanted a representative. I probably drove Ross crazy because I wanted another at-bat or another grounder. I felt like if I did the work, it would affect everyone else.”

Barner’s 263 strikeouts were the most of any pitcher in the Sac-Joaquin Section during the regular season. Leading the section was one of Barner’s goals when she saw she had the opportunity to do so.

“Again, serious competition,” Barner said. “I was a stalker. I would look at the stats all the time. I would be a few strikeouts behind a few people or a few strikeouts ahead. There are so many great athletes and pitchers and pitching is hard, both physically and mentally. To come out on top, it was worth it.”

Barner enjoyed playing at Golden Valley and is ready for her next challenge at Stanislaus State.

“There were definitely highs and lows,” she says. “It was certainly an experience. I was happy that I got to play with new teammates and that we bonded as a team. I am grateful to have had the experience of playing in Golden Valley.”

Atwater High School junior Jordin McDowell is the Merced Sun-Star Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year. Submitted by Jordin McDowell.


Jordin McDowell, Atwater

Atwater High junior Jordin McDowell went a perfect 16-0 in Central California Conference events this year.

She remained undefeated in five CCC events, with marks of 2-0 in the 100-meter dash, 4-0 in the 200-meter, 4-0 in the 100-meter hurdles, 4-0 in the 300-meter hurdles and 2-0 in the 4×100 meter relay.

This season she also competed in the 400 and 4×400 relay at other events.

After reaching the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters in 100 hurdles and 4×400 relay and leading the Falcons to a CCC championship, McDowell is the Merced Sun-Star Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year.

“Going undefeated in the league wasn’t something I was looking for… I did it in the first game, so I thought let’s see if I can stay undefeated,” McDowell said. “It just worked out.”

The Falcons claiming the CCC crown meant a lot to McDowell and her teammates.

“Not being able to do that last year, in a way, it was an opportunity for us to redeem ourselves,” McDowell said. “It was a big achievement for us.”

Competing in such a wide range of events takes a lot of hard work and training.

“Jordin was able to excel in seven different events because she embraced the virtues of versatility and range,” said Atwater track coach Ken Rhoades. “She accepted the challenge to strive to be excellent in both obstacle events and extend her sprint endurance to the 400m distance. Ultimately, her success in 2024 was a reward for her patience, work ethic and dedication to self-care.”

Rhoades said McDowell was the most consistent athlete he has ever coached in terms of her effort and performance during the Falcons’ speed workouts on Monday.

Although the 300 hurdles and 4×400 relay became her favorite events toward the end of the season, McDowell enjoys competing in all of them.

“I think every event requires certain skills,” she said. “By participating in all these competitions I can expand my skills.”

During the season, she set personal best times in the 100 hurdles (15.36 seconds), 300 hurdles (45.67), 200 (25.56) and 100 (12.63).

After competing against the top athletes in the Sac-Joaquin Section, McDowell hopes to advance to the state meet next year.

“It was very exciting to make it to the Masters Final,” McDowell said. “My next goal is to reach state.”

Her coach feels she has the drive to do it.

“Throughout the invitationals and postseason, she was an excellent relay anchor and our top performer,” Rhoades said. “Every day in practice she was an exemplary leader, always working hard and maintaining a no-nonsense approach to the sport.”

El Capitan High School sophomore Brooklyn Ramsey is the Merced Sun-Star Girls Swimmer of the Year. Submitted by Brooklyn Ramsey


Brooklyn Ramsey, El Capitan

Sophomore Brooklyn Ramsey’s season at El Capitan High included two individual Central California Conference championships, a school record in the 100-yard freestyle and a strong performance at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet.

After her stellar season, Ramsey is the Merced Sun-Star Girls Swimmer of the Year.

Breaking the school record was definitely one of the highlights. Ramsey broke the record with her time of 55.53 seconds in the 100 freestyle in the CCC Championships. She broke the record set by former Gauchos star Kendall Thomas.

“It meant a lot to me,” Ramsey said. “I was super excited. I know (Thomas) who had the record. She now plays Division I water polo. I was proud of myself for breaking the record.”

Ramsey added a victory in the 200-meter individual medley at the CCC Championships. Ramsey has now earned four CCC championships in her first two seasons.

Ramsey qualified for sectionals in the 200 IM, 100 freestyle, the 100 backstroke and 100 breaststroke.

She competed in sectionals in the frosh-soph 200 IM and 100 freestyle and qualified for the finals in both events, placing seventh in the 100 freestyle and eighth in the 200 IM.

“It was a really good experience swimming against the best swimmers,” Ramsey said. “Some of those girls are really fast and that pushed me to swim faster.”

The 200 IM is one of Ramsey’s favorite events because it includes freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly.

“I’ve been working hard to get my turns down, there’s a lot of different turns,” Ramsey said. “Mentally I have to prepare myself for the race.”

Ramsey enjoys water polo and swimming. She says swimming helps prepare her for water polo season.

She hopes to continue to improve next year and achieve faster times in the pool.

“I want to keep doing the 200 IM,” Ramsey said. “I also like the 100 free. Hopefully I’ll continue to train hard and get faster. I want to improve my time of 55 seconds.”

Awards for all areas


Annalize Ramirez, Merced

Madi Hiler, Atwater

Cali Cole, Stone Ridge Christian

Mia Hendrickson, Atwater

Breann Raney, Dos Palos

Moxi Barton, Los Banos

Desirae Arambula, Pacheco

Nadia Avila, Le Grand

Isabel Orozco, Los Banos

Olivia Costa, Livingston

Chloe Hughes, Mariposa

Haiden Priddell, Le Grand

Maisen Priddell, Le Grand

Mackenzie Silva, Stone Ridge Christian

Isabella Zazueta, Livingston

Kylie Medina, Atwater

Jasmine Resendez, Buhach Colony

Lindsey Henderson, El Capitan

Stefani Ramirez, Golden Valley

Aleatha Buchner, Merced

Antonia Lejarde, Merced

Hannah Slimp, Dos Palos

Amy Villa, Stone Ridge Christian


Lilianna Ramirez Romero, Chowchilla

Lilly Brouwer, Hilmar

Jordynn Middleton, El Capitan

Felicity Parker, El Capitan

Kiya Willis, Golden Valley

Elsa Van Dyke, Merced

Aubri Villa, Golden Valley

Julianna Luchsinger, El Capitan

Morgan Carroll, Merced

Marissa Merell, Dos Palos


Chloe Dingeldein, El Capitan

Sarah Slocum, Merced

Abigail Perez, Buhach Colony

Sofia Belerique, Hilmar

Eliza Marquez, Colony Buhach

Kate McIntosh, Merced

Dottie Drury, Merced

Florence Cerpa, Merced

Ellie Metcalf, Merced

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Sports writer Shawn Jansen has been covering sports in the Merced area for 20 years. He came to Merced from Suisun City and is a graduate of San Diego State University. Prior to the Sun-Star, Shawn worked at the Daily Republic in Fairfield.