10 Best Athletes You've Never Heard of

Photo: Nathan Adrian
Shannon Hamilton/File
Nathan Adrian

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Photo: Bryan Anger   Photo: Lauren Boyle   Photo: Kyle Bunthuwong

Photo: Michael Coe   Photo: Pia Halbig   Photo: Colin Hawley

Photo: Jana Juricova   Photo: Carli Lloyd   Photo: Spencer Warden






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Michael Coe

Over past couple of years, when the media has said that Cal is home to "one of the fastest guys in the country", they have usually referred to either Jahvid Best or DeSean Jackson.

Watching those two break off runs or punt returns, many agree.

But if you were at Edwards Field on April 25th, you'd know that California runner Michael Coe remains one of the few people who can claim that honor literally.

As a sophomore at the Berkeley-hosted Brutus Hamilton Invitational, Coe set a school record in the mile, running it in three minutes and 56.18 seconds. The mark was the fastest in the nation at that point and third-fastest in the world.

His 3000m time of 7:59.75, which won the event at the MPSF Championships, remains the the third-best in school history.

Though he was "slowed" down by an injured ankle at the NCAA Championships, he will no doubt be motivated to keep turning heads and breaking milestones this upcoming year.

He has said: "When I'm strong, there's no competition I can't run with." Opponents would be wise to head his words.

-Ed Yevelev

Jana Juricova

Jana Juricova might be the best player in collegiate women's tennis.

It's a bold statement, but when you watch Juricova, it's not hard to see how it could be true. As a true freshman, Juricova absolutely crushed the competition with her robotically consistent greatness. Although she barely appears to strain on the court, her opponents are run ragged by Juricova's combination of hard-hitting cross shots and softly finessed lobs.

In her freshman campaign, Juricova went 39-7 in singles play, advancing all the way to the round of 16 in the NCAA individual tournament. And in doubles? Juricova teamed up with Mari Andersson to win the national championship. All playing with a veritable laundry list of injuries throughout the season from a case of the flu to shoulder soreness to knee problems.

With Juricova, her genius lies not just in her winning record, but in her utter demoralization of her opponents. Last spring at Hellman Tennis Complex in Berkeley, Juricova brought a rival to tears with her cool, calculating destruction.

When it comes to destroying her opponents, Juricova knows no mercy. And it's something to see.

-Katie Dowd

Spencer Warden

In 2006, the Daily Cal named Cal men's water polo attacker Spencer Warden its pick for 'Newcomer of the Year.' That was probably a good call.

Since 2006, Warden has been chalking up the goals, assists and accolades as the leading scorer for the Bears. As a true testament to his prowess in the pool, each of his three seasons has ended in an All-American honor.

Warden's improved each season at Cal, culminating in a spectacular junior campaign last fall. In 27 matches, Warden found the goal a remarkable 40 times, tops for the team. He also had 29 assists on the offensive side.

But defensively, Warden can also run with some of the best players in the country. Last season when he wasn't busy scoring, Warden was nabbing 68 steals.

Warden's individual accolades are obviously stellar, but his contributions mean much more in the context of the team. In 2006 and 2007, Warden and the Bears charged all the way to the NCAA championship match.

And each year, they brought home the trophy.

Warden's intense offensive attack and stalwart defense are free to watch for all Cal students at Spieker Aquatics Center in Berkeley. The Bears play their first match on September 5.

-Katie Dowd

Kyle Bunthuwong

Kyle Bunthuwong is one of the best gymnasts at Cal, evidenced by all of the achievements and reputation he has accumulated after just two years as a Bear.

In his collegiate debut as a true freshman, Bunthuwong earned second place in both the all-around with an 86.45 and on the floor with a 14.900. His contributions as a freshman included a third-place honor for the parallel bars at the Pacific Coast Collegiate Classic and a team-high mark of 15.150 on the floor at the Stanford Open.

And for his sophomore season, Bunthuwong got even better. He was named the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation gymnast of the week in January shortly after winning the all-around competition at the Stanford Open. He went on to attain career highs in the pommel horse and the rings and two season highs in the vault and parallel bars at the 2009 NCAA Championships.

But Bunthuwong's most noteworthy achievements this past season may be his recent naming to the men's gymnastics U.S. senior national team. This distinction, coupled with his past accomplishments, gives him a great chance of competing in the 2012 Olympics. And he is no stranger to Olympic-level competition; Bunthuwong was a four-time junior Olympic national champion on the parallel bars.

-Anthony Wu

Colin Hawley

A standard story to tell freshmen at CalSo is how amazing the Cal rugby team is. They've won about a million national championships (give or take), coach Jack Clark is a god among men, the team runs like a military unit, etc.

It's hard to choose a stand-out player in this well-oiled machine of near-perfection, and that's how Clark likes it. But even if Clark likes his team faceless, your best bet at the "face of the franchise" is definitely Colin Hawley.

Hawley, who is returning for his fifth year with the team, is the player who will catch your eye first at a rugby match. He's tall, often mohawk'ed and, once he sees the open field, fast as hell.

Rugby doesn't keep stats, but Hawley's clearly been one of the top scorers for the Bears each year. His speed has left many defenders in his dust on the way to yet another try for the dominating Cal squad.

Hawley's been named an All-American three times and, barring injury, will likely be honored again at the end of his fifth season. The rugby team plays in the spring at Witter Rugby Field, a picturesque grass field tucked up above the football stadium.

-Katie Dowd

Bryan Anger

Last season, Zack Follett ended many opponents' drives with vicious sacks. Syd'Quan Thompson did it with timely interceptions and pass break-ups.

With one boot of his right leg, Cal punter Bryan Anger could doom opposing offenses before they took the field.

His first punt in 2008 was a 56-yarder, and things only got better from there, in a freshman season that would culminate in a semi-finalist selection for the Ray Guy Award.

Against Arizona State, he placed three kicks inside the 20, earning him Pac-10 Special Team Player of the Week honors. He assured himself a spot in the record books against Stanford, with a Big Game record 76-yarder, and a Pac-10 season-high 60.2-yard average.

And in the pouring rain against Oregon, Anger had a direct hand (or a foot) in sealing the contest for the Bears, as his punt was muffed and recovered by Cal deep in Ducks territory to set up the game-clinching touchdown.

With his name gracing preseason All-American honors lists, Anger shouldn't be a surprise to anyone in 2009.

-Ed Yevelev

Carli Lloyd

If you want cool-under-pressure, look no further than Carli Lloyd, the setter of the Cal volleyball team.

For those unfamiliar with volleyball, the setter is the quarterback of the team, calling out plays and setting the offense, and when Lloyd came to Cal as a freshman in 2007, she almost immediately stepped into the starting role. To add to the pressure, the Bears boasted two of the best outside hitters in the country in Ellen Orchard and Angie Pressey.

But Lloyd's learning curve didn't bring the team down. In fact, she turned out to be one of the reasons for their best NCAA postseason run in school history.

In her freshman season, Lloyd had 1,550 assists, second-most in Cal single-season history. She followed it up with an All-American performance last year, averaging 12 assists per set.

After finishing with the best record in program history last season (26-7), Lloyd's incredible athleticism and driving intensity have her and the team primed for another deep run in the NCAA tournament. And as a co-captain, Lloyd's leadership will matter even more to the Bears this season than ever before.

-Katie Dowd

Nathan Adrian

Michael Phelps is the most famous swimmer in the world, but he still owes some of his success to a junior on the Cal campus: Nathan Adrian.

Last summer, Adrian swam in the qualifying leg of the 400-free relay at the Beijing Olympics. Phelps and Co. went on to win the final, but Adrian's role also earned him a gold medal.

But a gold medal isn't all Adrian boasts. At Cal, he dominated the sprint events. At the Pac-10 championships in the spring, Adrian won the 50, 100 and 200-free events. At the end of the spring, Adrian set American records in both events at the NCAA championships on his way to individual national championships in the 50- and 100-free, and was named Pac-10 Swimmer of the Year.

Adrian's got all the accolades of a pro swimmer, and he did it all during his sophomore season. In other words, he's got a lot more records to shatter.

-Katie Dowd

Pia Halbig

Because there's no golf course on campus, chances are you'll never attend a women's golf tournament during your time at Cal. But although they have some of the lowest exposure on campus, that doesn't mean the Bears aren't doing great things on the links.

Case and point: junior Pia Halbig.

The German star made an immediate impact on the Cal women's golf team as a freshman. She led the squad in stroke average (74.5) and finished in the top-25 in three tournaments. At season's end, she was named second-team All-Pac-10.

Last season, Halbig brought the same success-and more-to the Bears. She again led the team in stroke average (73.0) which was also a single-season record for a Cal sophomore. With a handful of top-10 finishes, Halbig ciimbed the individual rankings, ending the season ranked No. 25 in the country.

This summer, Halbig added to her string of victories in international competition. Back in her native Europe, Halbig won Slovenian International Amateur Championship iwith a two-under performance.

You may never get a chance to watch Halbig in-person, but keep up with her. She's sure to turn a few heads this season.

-Katie Dowd

Lauren Boyle

The Cal women's swimming team just graduated one of its all-time greats, Dana Vollmer. As a senior, Vollmer was named the Swimmer of the Year, leading the Bears to their first-ever national championship.

With Vollmer gone, though, it's time for another swimmer to step up into that role. Enter Lauren Boyle.

Like Vollmer before her, the senior is no stranger to breaking records. Boyle's set five records at Cal, including a program-record in the 1000-free with a time of 9:42.14.

In 2008, Boyle was a three-time All-American, posting top finishes in the 1650-free, 800-free relay and 500-free. At this year's 2009 NCAA championships, Boyle also earned an honorable mention All-American in the 500-free.

Internationally, Boyle is also in the same club as Nathan Adrian-Cal Olympians. Boyle was a member of a relay team for her native New Zealand.

Back at Cal among the defending national champions, Boyle has even more to prove for the Bears this year. And after already establishing itself as one of the fastest sprint teams in the nation, Boyle can make Cal one of the best distance teams too.

-Katie Dowd

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