It was an emotional night for the COC Athletic department as the 2017 class was officially inducted into the College of the Canyons Athletic Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame committee announced it’s induction of five new members into the Hall, including longtime Track and Field coach Ulric Grigsby, Cross Country and Track runner Jessica Gomez, Women’s Basketball player Sha’Tasha Allen, Football player J.J Arrington who also played in the NFL for five years, and finally the 2004 National Championship Football Team.
Chancellor Dianne G. Van Hook began the ceremony with a speech honoring the inductees “Our honorees tonight are outstanding examples of Bo Jackson’s advice, it is their drive, their commitment to excellence, and their determination that has fueled their achievements.”
11-year NFL player and COC alumnus Domata Peko also spoke, recounting how COC helped him on his journey “COC had a big part of my life being able to make it to Michigan State, Coach (Leon) Criner called my parents and I thank God for that phone call it has changed my life. Without him calling me I would not be where I am at right now.”
The induction ceremony began with Coach Lindy Kane inducting longtime Track and Field coach Ulric Grigsby, better known as Coach Griggs. Grigsby coached at COC for 23 years until his passing in 2014, where he served as the long jump coach and was well known for keeping the track in order. Coach Kane remembered Griggs as a man who worked hard to keep the track in good shape “Coming from a life of military service, Griggs was a perfect sight, he worked tirelessly repairing, fixing, painting, and constructing areas around the track.” Coach Kane also gave an example to show how much pride Griggs took in keeping the track perfect “Number one rule, never touch the hurdles. Every January he would begin pulling and placing the hurdles in perfectly in stacks of eight, it would take him about a week but he would get them all out stacked and straight. He was all about perfection.”
The second inductee of the night was Jessica Gomez, who ran Cross Country as well as Track and Field from 2004 to 2005. Gomez recounted her experience at COC as “Some of the best times of her life.” A Saugus High graduate, Gomez held the school’s personal record in the 800, and still holds the best Cross Country finish in school history when she finished fourth in the 2005 State Cross Country Meet. The JC All-American would go on to graduate Cal-State Northridge with a degree in Journalism.
J.J Arrington was unable to attend his induction ceremony, but he was still fondley remembered by Chuck Lyon and Mike Kane, who coached Arrington during his time at COC from 2001 to 2003. “J.J’s first official carry as a Cougar was against Santa Ana and he scored on a 65-yard touchdown. I distinctly remember looking over at Chuck and both of us mouthed the word ‘wow’.” Arrington set school records for career touchdowns and total touchdowns before going onto California Berkley where he led the NCAA Division I in rushing with 2,018 yards which was also a Cal record. Arrington was the first COC alum to play in the Superbowl, when he played in Superbowl XLIII as a member of the Arizona Cardinals. Arrington caught two passes for 35 yards for the Cardinals who ultimately ended up losing a close game 27-23. Arrington was also a sprinter for the track team.
The next inductee was women’s basketball player Sha’Tasha Allen, who starred at COC from 1998-2000. Allen was previously inducted into the Community College Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (CCCWBCA) Hall of Fame. Allen was a member of the 1999-2000 team which won the WSC Championship where she led the entire state in assists that season. Allen was also the WSC Player of the Year and an All-State team selection in both of her seasons at COC. Longtime Cougars coach Greg Herrick had high praise for Allen “She was one of our greatest players, she was a tremendously gifted athlete, she was one of the state’s best obviously.” he continued “Sha’Tasha Allen was a player who was totally locked into what we asked her to do, I put the ball in her hands every time we wanted to win a game. Our rivalry with LA Valley is infamous and one of the greatest days of my coaching life was giving her the ball with 5 seconds left in the game and saying ‘your going to make this shot, your going to win this game.’ she took it down in the key and hit a turnaround jump shot. Its one of those moments that you never forget as a coach.”
When Sha’tasha got on stage to give her acceptance speech, basketball quickly took a back seat to her biggest battle on or off the court. Allen was diagnosed with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis after not being nearly paralyzed for two years. “There was a point where I couldn’t walk at all, I couldn’t care for myself…blood clots in my lungs, I was on my deathbed in the ICU. Just last year I was on a ventilator.” Allen thanked her family in attendence for giving her the strength to push on “I owe you guys, I owe my family that no matter what I will keep going. I owe you guys my life.” She ended her emotional speech with a message of perseverance for the crowd”There was a time where I wanted to give up, I was frustrated, I couldn’t play ball, I couldn’t work on my degree, I couldn’t eat anything. I thought why me, why me? But its not about me its about others seeing you be able to persevere through whatever challenges come your way. I can only thank God for getting me through, I can only thank God for allowing me to get up on this stage, there was a point that I couldn’t do that. So no matter what comes your guys way, you can get through it.”
Longtime Cougars’ announcer Joe Soriano had the honors of introducing the final inductees of the night, the 2004 National Championship winning football team. The Cougars went 14-0 that year on their way to winning both the State and National Championships, then head coach and now COC athletic director Chuck Lyon remembered the team as “The little school that could.”
The Cougars were indeed the little school that could during the 2004 season defeating powerhouse California junior colleges like El Camino, Grossmont, Saddleback, and then number one ranked team City College of San Francisco, who as Joe Soriano reminded the crowd, had the best offense as well as both the offensive and defensive players of the year for 2004. The Cougars had firepower of their own though, with a well balanced offense and a dominant defense that posted five shutouts during the season, two of those in back to back playoff games against El Camino and Grossmont, this marked the first time in 19 seasons that El Camino had been shutout.
Coach Lyon spoke about the 2004 season, specifically the Championship game against San Francisco”We go out there, we were up 19-0 that fast, and I just knew it wasn’t enough. Sure enough in the second half here comes San Francisco. They were on our 6-yard line with two plays left. They take their tallest receiver and put him on our shortest DB, Chris Theus…they throw it and he catches the ball but Chris knocks it out” Lyon then recalled the game winning play “They had one more play, we chased him around, they throw it (incomplete), game over…College of the Canyons, State Champions.” The Cougars won the game 39-32 with quarterback Corey Miles being named the Offensive MVP with five touchdowns, and defensive lineman Tomi Halai was named Defensive MVP. The 2004 Cougars are the only team in CCCAA history to go 14-0 in a season, the team had four first team All-Americans, and seven first team All-State players.
In the closing moments of the ceremony, Chuck Lyon announced that the Athletic Department will be adding a Women’s Tennis program beginning in the Spring of 2018