Ryan Chartrand

While most of the campus was out enjoying a sunny Saturday, a group of charitable students took to Dexter Lawn for the Relay for Life. During the day, a competition sprung up to decide who the true “Guitar Hero” was.

In a dazzling display of finger coordination and rock and roll genius, my roommate, Dustin Tidyman-Jones, came out the victor.

Was his display epic enough to land a spot on Cal Poly’s Top 10 Sports Moments of the Year? Not even close, but his performance does provide a transition into this year’s top moments in Cal Poly athletics.

Whittling Cal Poly’s 2006-07 achievements down to a top-10 list was a grueling process.

Among those considered but not picked were Cal Poly’s resurgent men’s tennis and men’s soccer squads, each of which posted significant improvements in the 2006-07 year. Also, the women’s tennis team’s spirited run to the Big West Conference title match despite playing without injured senior star Carol Erickson was considerable.

Here they are, Cal Poly’s top 10 intercollegiate athletics moments of the year from this writer’s perspective:

10. Courtney Brown drafted by the Dallas Cowboys

It’s not every year a Division I-AA school has a player selected in the NFL Draft, or is it? Brown became the third Cal Poly player taken in the draft in as many years, following third-round selections Chris Gocong (2006) and Jordan Beck (2005). Maybe I’m being slightly greedy by placing Brown at No. 10 because he was only taken in the seventh round, but it was just that kind of year for Cal Poly athletics.

9. Men’s basketball one game away from dancing

The men’s basketball team has made a quick transition from cellar-dweller two years ago (a team that went 5-22) to a Big West threat this year (19-11, 9-5 Big West). One of the biggest accomplishments of the year was defeating Central Coast rival UC Santa Barbara 71-61 on Jan. 20, only the second win at the Thunderdome since 1959.

8. Cal Poly baseball beats Cal State Fullerton

Cal Poly center fielder Logan Schafer called it “kind of a big deal,” and that it was.

Cal Poly won its first series against the Titans in 34 years. Over that span, the Titans have won four Division I national titles.

7. Darrell Vasquez earns All-American status

It was a disappointing season for the Mustangs as a team, but Vasquez still carried the Cal Poly banner deep into the NCAA Championships. He placed fifth in the 133-pound weight class.

6. Kyle Shotwell makes it three in a row

First there was Beck. Then there was Gocong. Now there’s Shotwell, forming Cal Poly’s triple crown of Buck Buchanan Award winners, given annually to the top defensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA).

Unlike Beck and Gocong, Shotwell didn’t receive an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine and went undrafted in April. Shotwell did sign a three-year, free-agent contract with the Oakland Raiders.

5. Phillip Reid breaks Steve Scott’s record

Phillip Reid has assured himself a place in Cal Poly’s storied track and field tradition with an All-American cross country season and his shattering of a 28-year-old record held by current American 1,500-meter record holder Steve Scott. Track and field might not get the same publicity that football or basketball does, but think of Scott as the Larry Bird or Walter Payton of U.S. distance running.

4. Lisa Modglin assaults the record books

Cal Poly’s Female Athlete of the Year set single-season school records for batting average (.476), hits (81) and runs scored (56). She also set school all-time records for hits, runs, RBI and stolen bases. In other words, she owns Cal Poly records in most major offensive categories and is flat out the best hitter in Cal Poly’s 12-year Division I history.

3. Softball team wins first Big West title

Two years of NCAA Tournament snubs and Cal Poly softball decided to just go out and win the Big West title for an automatic berth. The squad bowed out of the tournament after two games in the Provo Regional, but will be remembered as the first Mustang team to reach the big show.

2. Cross Country 13th at NCAAs, wins fourth straight Big West title

The men’s cross country team is the school’s top athletics program, hands down. It has won seven of the last nine Big West titles and four straight. Mark Conover won his fifth Big West Coach of the Year honor.

1. Re-emergence of Cal Poly’s volleyball roots

Head coach Jon Stevenson’s goal when he arrived in San Luis Obispo two years ago wasn’t simply to create a dominant volleyball program.

Stevenson wanted to turn Cal Poly into a volleyball school where students flocked to Mott Gym on Thursday and Saturday nights. Stevenson’s goal was accomplished by the end of this season as the Mustangs won an NCAA Tournament first-round match over Michigan in front of a standing-room-only audience in Mott Gym. The Mustangs won the Big West title and Kylie Atherstone was selected Big West Co-Player of the Year. Volleyball is back, and the team looks even better for the fall of 2007. National championship?

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