Get ready to argue.
You can call it entertainment, you can call it enlightenment, or you can call us idiots for trying to put something like this together, but we're feeling like Tarzan and want to climb out on a limb. We just had to put it together: Orange County's prep legends from A to Z.
Not an easy task, but our staff is a talented group--or at least an aged one--with more than 200 years of collective experience. We put our heads together and came up with a list that was as comprehensive as we could make it. How comprehensive was it? There were more than 150 wrestlers. No one can accuse us of not considering all the options.
Then we whittled it down, one legendary graduate for each letter of the alphabet. Still, we couldn't find a true X. But that was the least of our problems.
Our criteria? We were looking for the intangible stuff of legend: those high school athletes who will be remembered years from now for their role in the evolution of sports in Orange County. We looked at what they did in high school and beyond, and the legacy they left.
Sometimes it was easy, and sometimes it created heated discussion in the newsroom.
The names that don't make the list are sure to cause a stir, maybe even a nasty letter or two. But we don't mind.
Rob Johnson, the starting quarterback at USC, isn't on the list. Well, because the Js are heavy and Rob joins that impressive J list that includes his brother Bret, Alison Johnsen, Randy Jones, Dan Jorgensen and Amy Jalewalia.
Playmaker Nicole Erickson's legend is well known, having led Brea-Olinda to four consecutive State girls' basketball titles and a 130-5 record, but she's not on the list, either. If only her last name was Smith or Thompson.
OK, Mark Wulfemeyer set an Orange County career scoring record in basketball at Troy. Tim Wallach was an all-star third baseman. Tes Whitlock scored 68 points in a basketball game. Myron White is one of the greatest rushers in county history. Mike Witt went on to pitch a perfect game for the Angels. Santa Ana diver Bob Webster won Olympic platform gold medals in 1960 and '64. Todd White held the national high school mile record (4:20.0) for one week in 1955. But they didn't make the list.
Sure, there will be some discontent here. Tony Gonzalez isn't the best G-man you've ever seen on a football field and basketball court? Of course he is. And what about Brian Goodell, the Mission Viejo senior named world swimmer of the year in 1977? Well, Goodell also is a no-show. They were aced out by one of the best softball pitchers in the world.
It's a comparison of apples and oranges. We aren't saying this is the definitive list. But it's our list. And if you can do better, well, bring it on.
A. Rick Aberegg was a 5-foot-10 point guard at Katella who averaged 27.5 points his senior season in 1970. A year earlier, concentrating on assists rather than scoring, Aberegg helped the Knights reach the Southern Section 2-A title game; Katella lost, 90-87, to Los Angeles Verbum Dei as the two teams set a record for most points in a championship game that stood until 1992.
B. Shirley Babashoff first won Southern Section championships for Fountain Valley in 1972 and '73 when Title IX created athletic opportunities for high school girls. Babashoff anchored gold medal-winning 400-meter freestyle relay teams in the 1972 and '76 Olympics and finished with six silver medals culled from the 100, 200, 400 and 800 freestyle events. At a time when the sport was dominated by East Germans, Babashoff was the best female swimmer in the world not on steroids.
C. Gary Carter didn't specialize in any sport at Sunny Hills, but excelled in three--and received college scholarship offers for football, in which he was a high school All-American, basketball and baseball. He was going to play quarterback and catcher at UCLA, but decided to pursue professional baseball because of an earlier knee injury. He signed with Montreal after his 1972 graduation; three years later, he was an Expo starter. He played 19 years, was an all-star 11 times and won three Gold Gloves.
D. When the subject is female distance runners, 1976 Orange High graduate Mary Decker immediately comes to mind. She was competing at the international level while in high school and eventually set the U.S. record in the mile. But her legacy is one of Olympic disappointment and controversy.