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North County Athletic Round Table begins new era

Monday marked the start of a new era for the Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Round Table.

For the first time in 2009, the weekly sports luncheon opened a school year without Joni Gray as president.

“Feeling a little melancholy not having Joni start our year off with us,” said board member Yvonne Biely. “She was our cheerleader and kept us going, but this year we are carrying on for her.”

The former Santa Barbara County supervisor died late last year. Her unexpected death left a huge void within the organization that dates back nearly 30 years.

“Joni was Round Table,” said Biely. “She was our cheerleader and she just made things happen around here. It seems like with her, there is an empty hole, but we’ve got a good group of board members.”

Soon after her death, current Santa Barbara Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino took over as Round Table president.

Lavagnino returns this year as president trying to fill large shoes left by his predecessor.

“You don’t replace Joni Gray,” said board member Dick Barrett. “She was such a promoter of this opportunity to get the money to feed these kids every single Monday throughout the school year. She was such a dynamo and we’re still feeling the effects of not having her here. I miss her every time we come here.”

Biely added that Gray was so instrumental to the Round Table, there were concerns about its future without her leadership.

“It kind of felt like the door was going to be shut on Round Table. She was Round Table. She made it happen,” Biely said. “Joni did so much for us as far as getting supporters to support our organization. To be able to keep it going, it’s a non-profit that only works off of support that we get from the community and it’s really important that we keep it going for the kids.”

Both Biely and Barrett echoed the current board is committed to keeping her legacy alive by continuing to keep the Round Table going.

“Just keep going and keeping the kids coming and keeping this active and involved and that’s what would be the tribute to her that she would like,” said Barrett.

On Monday, the Round Table opened the 2018-19 season with several athletes representing football, girls golf, and girls volleyball.

Lavagnino was unable to attend the luncheon that will once again be held each week at its longtime home, Giovanni’s Pizza in Orcutt.

The first male athlete of the week award went to Devin Guggia of St. Joseph football. Last Friday, he rushed for 168 yards and scored four touchdowns in a 35-19 win over Pioneer Valley.

This was the first ever Round Table luncheon for the junior.

“It’s a pretty good experience having the schools come together and talk about their achievements and their sports,” said Guggia. “It’s a special experience to come here and be joined by all the fellow athletes from this area.”

Morgan Blunt of Santa Ynez girls golf was named female athlete of the week. Blunt earned medalist honors after shooting a 45 against Morro Bay at Morro Bay Golf Club on Thursday. The Pirates beat the Pirates 243-291 in a non-league matchup.

Blunt was unable to attend on Monday. She was taking part in the s annual Pirate Invitational at the Alisal River Course.

The Round Table is off next Monday for Labor Day.

It will meet each Monday during the school year and will end on May 15 with the annual Hall of Fame and Scholarship Dinner at the Santa Maria Elks Lodge.

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