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Changes at the Top : Mater Dei, Brea Olinda Take Lead in All-Sports Race


In the postgame press conference, Atherton Sacred Heart girls' basketball Coach Mike Ciardella said that Mater Dei--the team his had just defeated--had the best athleticprogram in the state.

Did Ciardella know what he was talking about, or was he just blinded by the winter fog?

Mater Dei excels in football and was the first school in state history to have both its boys' and girls' basketball teams playing for a State title in the same year. Much of Mater Dei's reputation revolves around excellence in those two high-profile sports. But the best athletic program in the state?


Maybe not.

After the second trimester of The Times Orange County's all-sports competition, the Monarchs have the highest cumulative score among local schools (245.2 points) and have surpassed Edison (210.3), which dropped to second place.

The all-sports competition is designed to identify the county's best all-around athletic programs in two enrollment classes: large school (1,200 or more students) and small school (fewer than 1,200).

At the end of the school year, the totals for the fall (six sports, 240 points), winter (five sports, 200 points) and spring (10 sports, 400 points) will be totaled to determine large- and small-school champions.

"It would be nice (to win) because some of the sports get overshadowed because of the success of football and basketball," said Gary McKnight, Mater Dei boys' basketball coach and athletic director. "At Mater Dei, we strive to be the best we can be, whether it's cheerleading or band or whatever. Just to be up there at the top is very satisfying because it means the kids and coaches are working together, and it's nice to see the overall program being rated so high."

Mater Dei was in a similar position last year and dropped from second place (235.7 points) to eighth (288.3) after the spring.

Football and basketball are responsible for 119.3 of Mater Dei's 245.2 total points; the other eight sports average 15.7 points. It might not seem like much, but that average would place Mater Dei fifth among large schools through the winter season.

And in that context, Mater Dei's overall performance is noteworthy so far.

"Our problem is, with our facilities, we have a lot of programs (tennis, swimming, water polo) off campus," McKnight said. "I think that has some drawbacks in the program.

"Girls' softball has been successful, but they practice every day over in Irvine. Our swim teams practice at Orange Coast College. We have one baseball field and a one-court gymnasium. Athletically, I think we do an amazing job for what we have. People come on our campus looking for a big-time athletic stadium and facilities, and it's pretty humble pie."


Los Alamitos won the large school competition last year and Corona del Mar won for small schools. Both are still in the hunt this year.

But there's been a change among the small schools. For the first time in the two years of the competition, Corona del Mar isn't leading.

Instead, Brea Olinda applied a full-court press.

Brea earned nearly the maximum number of points in girls' basketball--39.4 of a possible 40--and had a very strong showing in girls' soccer (30 points). Despite trailing Corona del Mar by 22 points through the fall grading period, Brea took a 17-point lead going into the spring. All that with only four points from its wrestling team.

At this time last year, Corona del Mar held a 26.4-point lead over Brea.

But Corona del Mar was overtaken after getting only a combined 7.5 points from three sports--boys' and girls' soccer and wrestling--that yielded 28.5 last year. That opened the door for Brea, which won four league titles and a seventh consecutive Southern Section championship in girls' basketball.

"Corona del Mar has a good program, and I have lot of respect for the job they do down there," Brea boys' Athletic Director Ron Hampton said. "It's a feather in our cap to compete favorably with somebody like that."

Here's a look at how Brea weaved its surprise in the scoring totals after the winter sports season.

* Boys' basketball: The Wildcats finished 19-9 for a .678 winning percentage (and that translates to 6.8 points in the scoring scale); they won the Orange League title (earning 10 points), but got no points for the playoffs because they did not reach at least the quarterfinals. Last year, they scored only 2.4 points. Total: 16.8.

* Girls' basketball: The Ladycats were 29-2 (9.4 points), won the league title (10 points) and won the Southern Section title (20 points). Total: 39.4.

* Boys' soccer: The Wildcats were 19-4-4 overall (7.8 points) and won the league title (10 points). Total: 17.8

* Girls' soccer: The team was 19-3-5 overall (8 points), won the league title (10 points) and reached the section semifinals (12 points). Total: 30.0.

* Wrestling: The Wildcats were 2-3 in league dual meets (4.0 points). Total: 4.0.

In all, Brea earned 107.9 points, the third-best total over the winter.

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