Mike Shanahan, the principal, will not take credit. Neither will Athletic Director Joe Vaughan nor any of the other coaches. No one in a position of authority, it seems, is individually responsible for the prolonged and burgeoning success of the Buena High girls' athletic program.
A program that has won:
Two state, two Southern Section and 11 Channel League championships in basketball.
Seven of the past eight league titles in softball.
Six consecutive league titles in swimming.
Four of the past five cross-country titles and two of the past three track championships.
One Southern Section and two league titles after only two years of competition in soccer.
"We happen to be a school where a lot of the kids come from highly motivated families," said Vaughan, who has coached girls' basketball for 13 years.
That alone, however, does not explain the success.
There is nothing detailed about the formula for success. The four ingredients: 1) equal administrative support for boys' and girls' programs; 2) a predominantly on-campus coaching staff with little turnover; 3) community support; 4) motivated athletes.
"Girls aren't treated as second-class citizens here," said Steve Blum, girls' cross-country and track coach. "It's not like, 'You didn't make the cheerleading team, why don't you go out for a sport.' "
Buena, which has won 32 league titles in boys' and girls' sports in the past four years, is a working model of how fair treatment can enhance a learning environment.
"The commitment to equality has been here for some time," said Shanahan, who has been principal for eight years. "We've been able to maintain it while I've been here and bring it a little more into focus."
Nowhere is the focus more clear than in the makeup of the coaching staff.
"There has been an attempt at our school, from the principal on down, to procure coaches for the girls' program that will develop athletes," Vaughan said. "We think they are as important as the boys' coaches in the overall athletic program. I'm not sure that's true at all schools."
Many schools rely on walk-on coaches, especially for girls' teams. But at Buena, all varsity head coaches with the exception of water polo and girls' volleyball are members of the faculty.
"There's a tremendous amount of stability here," said Steve Baxter, who has coached swimming for 10 years. "You go to a lot of schools and you see a tremendous amount of turnover. Every time a new coach comes in there are new expectations.
"When you're an on-campus coach you can recruit kids from the student body for your program, and you're always there if they just want to drop by and talk about something. It makes a difference."
Varsity head coaches at Buena also benefit from a teaching schedule that allows one of their required five periods to be devoted to athletics during their semester of competition. The situation is the same at Ventura High. But at many other schools, that privilege is usually granted to the football and boys' basketball coaches, while the rest of the staff, especially girls' coaches, are forced to make do during their prep periods and free time.
Another key element in the success of the Buena girls' program is the preponderance of quality youth programs in the area, including those for basketball, softball, swimming, track and--most recently--soccer.
Two years ago the school board added soccer as a girls' sport. In its first season, with a nucleus of talented players developed in the American Youth Soccer Organization, Buena won the league title and made it to the quarterfinals of the 3-A playoffs before losing in a shoot-out to eventual-champion San Gorgonio.
This season, Buena shared the league title with Rio Mesa and then blitzed through the playoffs to win the Southern Section title.
"Some of the girls had played together since seventh grade," soccer Coach Barbara Huskey said. "They were an excellent team and we were just lucky enough to put in a soccer program when all these girls were coming through."
Luck, however, has little do with the sustained excellence at Buena. To be sure, the school has had its share of physically talented athletes. But the continued success of athletic program goes beyond things physical.
"We certainly don't always get the most talented kids, but they're willing to train," Blum said. "They expect to do well. A lot of times, that helps you rise above your talent."