“Gavin received his first hockey stick for Christmas at the age of two, where he would play against his grandma as his stand-in goalie. I’m sure she received many bruised shins,” Jeramiah Sarabia jokingly said. “He started playing hockey as a forward at the age of six for an eight-and-under recreational team called the Ripon Rockets.”
Over the next two years, the Patterson resident and coach developed a close relationship with his son, one that has helped Gavin, now eight, to mature into a talented young athlete with a promising career ahead of him.
Gavin Sarabia, an incoming fourth-grader at Las Palmas Elementary School, has since realized his potential as a goalkeeper, where he has excelled between the pipes, playing year-round for two different youth hockey programs.
“After my first season, the team needed a goalie and (by default) I just volunteered. It was only supposed to be a one-time deal, but I did very well and earned a shut out in my second game,” Gavin Sarabia said. “I was very nervous but I found my calling, and it was a fit.”
The younger Sarabia, along with his teammates, took home a gold medal earlier this year at the Pacific Inline Hockey League Championships, as a member of the eight-and-under Ripon Ravens. But that was just the beginning.
He was soon called up from the ranks of the lower age divisions to play goalie for the 11-and-under Ripon Oil Kings recreational youth hockey team, where the diminutive net minder led the league in goals-against average.
And while many fourth graders are working through conflicts on the playground, Gavin Sarabia spent the final four games of the season patrolling the crease for the 15-and-under Ripon Decepticons recreational youth hockey squad.
“These 15-year-old players are so big these days,” Jeramiah Sarabia said. “I think he was nervous because he is half their size, and they shoot really hard. But when he felt that first shot, he realized he could take it.”
As a result of that success at the recreational level, Gavin Sarabia also recently qualified for a spot at the 2013 Inline Hockey Junior Olympics.
In partnership with the Amateur Athletic Union, Team USA Hockey Club, and USA Rollersports, the Anaheim Ducks of the National Hockey League will also host the event at Huntington Beach Inline from July 11 to 21.
Participating countries in the 2013 Junior Olympics are expected to travel from China (Hong Kong), Great Britain, Australia, Canada, Columbia, Taiwan and New Zealand.
Gavin Sarabia credits his team of coaches, including Rey Medina and Dallas Mix, along with his mother, Jennifer Ward, and his grandparents, Marcelino and Valerie Sarabia, for building his drive and determination to succeed.
“Gavin has the natural ability to anticipate and read the play. He always seems to be in the right place, at the right time,” Mix said. “He is a great listener who takes instruction well, and uses it to benefit himself. The potential is there to go even further.”
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or firstname.lastname@example.org.