High­land HOF wel­comes in­ductees

Four women in­ducted into High­land’s Hall of Fame

Antelope Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - By MERISA JENSEN Val­ley Press Sports Ed­i­tor

PALM­DALE —Fri­day night was spe­cial for four High­land alums who were in­ducted into the High­land Hall of Fame in the school’s li­brary.

Fam­i­lies, fac­ulty and stu­dents came to­gether to cel­e­brate the ac­com­plish­ments of April Cor­ri­gan Graves (1999), Tiana Web­berly (2009), Jes­sica Davis (2010) and Rachel Gar­cia (2015).

The fact that it was four women who were cho­sen by the High­land Hall of Fame se­lec­tion com­mit­tee this year, was not lost on the in­ductees.

“That was dope,” Davis said. “Even with Tiana, we went to school to­gether, so to see her back and we’re both get­ting awards, that was su­per cool.”

Gar­cia was not able to at­tend the cer­e­mony as she left last week to join Team USA Soft­ball for their pre-Olympics tour around the coun­try. Her par­ents, Tony and Chris­tine Gar­cia, ac­cepted the award on her be­half.

Graves was a mem­ber of ASB in high school and was elected his­to­rian for the 1997-98 year. She also served as the school’s mas­cot, por­tray­ing Belle the Bull­dog, was a mem­ber of one of the first swim teams at the school and was given the ASB Spark­plug award and Most Spir­ited Se­nior award.

“Since I was re­ally in­volved in high school it means a lot,” Graves said about her in­duc­tion. “My par­ents kept me re­ally busy in sports and ASB and I was the mas­cot and I had a lot of school pride. So 20 years later to come back in and be hon­ored and rec­og­nized for that, it means a lot. I don’t like get­ting awards, but this one re­ally meant some­thing. I’m pretty proud.”

Graves was also im­pressed with her fel­low in­ductees.

“I’m re­ally ex­cited to be along with such amaz­ing women,” she said. “I mean, an Amer­i­can Ninja Warrior and two Olympians that came from Palm­dale and more specif­i­cally High­land, that gives me goose­bumps.”

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing, Graves started work­ing at Signs and De­signs while at­tend­ing col­lege. She loved what she did there and even­tu­ally pur­chased the com­pany in 2011.

She has worked at Signs and De­signs for 20 years and one of her projects she is most proud of is the fabricatio­n of the half scale replica of the AV Viet­nam Wall.

“It was a big project, be­cause we had to fig­ure out how to do it,” Graves said. “It’s a cool project to be a part of. It’s like the thing I’m most proud of.”

She also has been ex­tremely in­volved in the com­mu­nity and her chil­dren’s lives. She mar­ried Charles Graves in 2004 and they have two sons, Nate and Emer­son. Nate will be start­ing school at High­land High in a year and a half.

Web­berly was an ac­com­plished pole vaulter on the track and field team for the Bull­dogs af­ter com­pet­ing in gym­nas­tics

since she was 3. Be­cause of ill­ness and in­juries she could only com­pete in her sopho­more and ju­nior sea­sons. She won Golden League in the pole vault and reached the CIF State Pre­lims.

“It’s def­i­nitely an ab­so­lute honor,” Web­berly said of her in­duc­tion. “I would have never imag­ined (this), 10 years ago now, 11 years. First of all, time just flies and I can’t be­lieve it’s been 10 years, but it’s just such an honor and a priv­i­lege with a past team­mate of mine (Davis) and some other in­cred­i­ble peo­ple.”

Af­ter high school, Web­berly at­tend Cal State Northridge where she qual­i­fied for Re­gion­als all four years. Her best vault record is 13 feet, 3 1/2 inches, which broke a school record at the time.

Web­berly is now known as “Sweet T” on the show Amer­i­can Ninja Warrior. She has com­peted on the show since sea­son 7 in 2015 and is a three-time Na­tional Fi­nal­ist (2016, 2018, 2019). She was the top fe­male in the Los An­ge­les Re­gion in 2018 and 2019.

“It’s def­i­nitely an in­cred­i­bly op­por­tu­nity and just su­per en­cour­ag­ing and mo­ti­vat­ing just to be a part of it, not only be­cause of the com­mu­nity, but the im­pact that it makes,” Web­berly said. “It’s show­ing peo­ple that we’re al­ways fac­ing ob­sta­cles and a lot of times we fall, but ev­ery time you can get back up and try again and get a lit­tle far­ther the next time. Or, some­times you fall again in the same place. It kind of gives that never-give-up men­tal­ity and just keep look­ing for­ward to the next step. One day at a time.”

Aside from Amer­i­can Ninja Warrior, she is also a stunt­woman and has worked on shows and movies such as The Last Ship, Mar­vel’s Run­aways, Zom­bieland and 911.

Davis and Web­berly were ac­tu­ally on the High­land track and field team to­gether. Davis, how­ever, was a sprinter. She won a CIF State cham­pi­onship in the 200-meter dash in 2008 and was an MVP in track and field and basketball at High­land.

Davis came back to High­land last year and spoke to the stu­dents about her life.

“Hon­estly, it means ev­ery­thing to me,” Davis said of her in­duc­tion. “I never in a mil­lion years thought I would ac­tu­ally be in­ducted. … I feel blessed and I feel ac­com­plished and I re­ally feel grate­ful, most im­por­tantly.”

From high school, she moved on to run at USC, which is also the alma mater of her fa­ther, Jesse Davis, who played foot­ball for the Tro­jans. At USC, Davis was named USA To­day’s Fe­male Ath­lete of the Year in 2009, USC Fresh­man Record Holder, USC All-Amer­i­can, USC All-Time Amer­i­can and was ranked the No. 6 all-time fe­male ath­lete in the 100 and 200 me­ters.

Af­ter col­lege, Davis earned a gold medal at the Ju­nior PanAm Games and was a bronze medal­ist in the 200 me­ters. Af­ter re­tir­ing from track and field, Davis joined a new sport in bobsleddin­g. She won a gold medal at the World Cham­pi­onships in bob­sled af­ter train­ing for just a cou­ple of months prior to join­ing the World Cup Team.

She is cur­rently aim­ing to com­pete in bob­sled at the Win­ter Olympics in 2022.

Davis is also be­gin­ning her third year as the head sprints coach at El Segundo High School. She coached the girls var­sity team to its first league ti­tle in school his­tory last sea­son.

Davis’ fa­ther is proud of her ac­com­plish­ments af­ter fol­low­ing in his foot­steps to USC and now go­ing fur­ther in sports.

“It’s like I’m fol­low­ing her foot­steps,” Jesse said. “All her de­ci­sions are her de­ci­sions. We didn’t pres­sure her to go to SC. I’m proud of her. She’s such a good daugh­ter. She’s awe­some.”

Rachel Gar­cia has had a whirl­wind year af­ter lead­ing UCLA to a na­tional cham­pi­onship in soft­ball. Gar­cia has won prac­ti­cally ev­ery award a col­lege soft­ball player could win, but that na­tional ti­tle was the one thing she al­ways wanted.

In high school, Gar­cia started the “Golden League Gives Back” ini­tia­tive, which is still car­ried on by the soft­ball team to­day. Each vis­it­ing team will bring do­na­tions for a char­ity cho­sen at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son and the items are de­liv­ered to the char­ity at the end of the sea­son.

Gar­cia was also named the Ga­torade State Player of the Year twice and won the Ga­torade Na­tional Soft­ball Player of the Year in 2015, among many other awards in high school. She led the Bull­dogs to their first CIF-South­ern Sec­tion Di­vi­sion 4 cham­pi­onship game, but tore her ACL in the 13th in­ning of the epic game. She was named Di­vi­sion 4 Player of the Year.

Af­ter a year of in­tense re­cov­ery, Gar­cia got to play her first sea­son of soft­ball at UCLA and was named the All-Pac-12 Fresh­man of the Year and was named to the Pac-12 First Team.

In her red­shirt sopho­more sea­son, the awards kept com­ing as she was named Pac-12 Player of the Year, ES­PNW Player of the Year, USA Col­le­giate Player of the Year and the Honda Sport Award for Soft­ball, among many oth­ers.

Last sea­son, af­ter win­ning the na­tional cham­pi­onship, she was also named the Women’s Col­lege World Se­ries Most Out­stand­ing Player. She was the Pac-12 Player and Pitcher of the Year, which was a first for the conference.

Gar­cia won the Honda Soft­ball Award again and was named the Honda Cup Award Win­ner for Col­le­giate Woman Ath­lete of the Year, just to name a few of her many awards.

Gar­cia has been on the Women’s Na­tional Soft­ball Team since 2018, win­ning gold medals in the In­ter­na­tional Cup (2018-19), the WBSC World Cup (2018) and the Pan Amer­i­can Games (2019).

She and Team USA will travel to Tokyo this sum­mer in the hunt for an Olympic Gold Medal.

Gar­cia has been back to the An­te­lope Val­ley sev­eral times to speak at soft­ball camps and at her alma mater, in­spir­ing young soft­ball play­ers in her home­town.

“It’s def­i­nitely an honor,” Chris­tine Gar­cia said of Rachel’s in­duc­tion into the Hall of Fame. “You can’t for­get where you came from.”

The in­ductees also re­ceived cer­tifi­cates from Sen­a­tor Scott Wilk and Assem­bly­man Tom Lackey’s of­fices.

MERISA JENSEN/Val­ley Press

SPEECH — Tony Gar­cia, cen­ter, com­ments about the ac­com­plish­ments of his daugh­ter, Rachel Gar­cia, who was in­ducted into the High­land Hall of Fame on Fri­day, as his wife, Chris­tine Gar­cia, sec­ond from left, looks on along with other in­ductees Jes­sica Davis, left, April Cor­ri­gan Graves, sec­ond from right, and Tiana Web­berly, right.

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