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The Big Finish

Santa Margarita And Brea Olinda Win Annual Competition


Public schools have been bemoaning this for a long time. The parochial schools hog all the accolades and titles.

Mater Dei this, Mater Dei that.

Well, there's a new sheriff in town.

Santa Margarita, the other parochial school, might be the parochial power that everyone thought Mater Dei was.

The Eagles turned a consistent spring performance into a knockout of Mater Dei, the defending champion, in The Times' Orange County All-Sports award.

The competition provides points to schools based on performance and counts boys' and girls' sports equally, regardless of sport. It is designed to reward balanced athletic programs rather than those that excel in only a few individual sports.

The winning school in the large- (1,275 or more students) and small-school divisions receives a traveling trophy to keep for a year, a trophy to keep, and a banner to hang in its gym recognizing the achievement.

Unlike Santa Margarita, Brea Olinda has been in the all-sports hunt before. And for the first time, it won the small-school title.

Coincidentally, both winners from last year--Mater Dei and Laguna Hills--finished second.

Santa Margarita scored a record 407.9 points, 56 1/2 more than Mater Dei (351.4). Brea Olinda scored 390.3, more than enough to make up for not fielding a boys' volleyball team; Laguna Hills scored 345.7.

In the three years of the competition, no school has repeated as champion; Los Alamitos and Corona del Mar won the first year the award was given.

"The reason it's such a compliment to us is that we feel we've accomplished what we started out here--provide a holistic education," Santa Margarita Athletic Director Rich Schaaf said. "We're trying to educate the kids in God, academics, the fine arts and then sports. That's why, to us, it's a big compliment. We tried to do all that.

"We didn't want sports to be the reason to come to our school, just to be a part of it. From the type of kid we're turning out, I can tell we're doing a good job."

It's not that Santa Margarita did anything extraordinary in the spring--it just did so much more than Mater Dei. Both teams won six league titles this year, Santa Margarita won three in the spring.

Mater Dei led Santa Margarita after the winter sports season by 7.2 points, meaning the Eagles outscored Mater Dei during the spring by 63.7 points.

It was a far different type of finish from last year, when Mater Dei held a 34.9-point lead over Edison and eventually won by 12.9 over Sunny Hills--which made up 72 points to jump from sixth-place to second.

If Mater Dei had one failing this year, it was in its boys' programs. Santa Margarita scored more points--often considerably more--than Mater Dei in all but three boys' sports: football, basketball and baseball. Even then, Santa Margarita was outscored by fewer than five points in football and fewer than two points in basketball. Although the two schools often compete in different divisions, Santa Margarita, with its enrollment of 1,280, is the smallest of the large schools.

More specifically during the spring season, Santa Margarita overtook Mater Dei by winning big in five boys' sports.

Santa Margarita outscored Mater Dei by 38 points in golf (out of a possible 40), 36 in swimming, 23.2 in volleyball, 22 in track and field, and 11 in tennis.

That more than offset Mater Dei's notable advantage in baseball (19.8 points), badminton (15), and softball (33.8). Santa Margarita doesn't field a badminton program.

In fact, Mater Dei's girls' programs were outperformed by Santa Margarita's in only two sports during the 1995-96 school year: track and field, 13-4, and girls' tennis, 23-15.

"I guess it shows the importance, or significance, of the smaller sports," said Mater Dei softball Coach Doug Myers, whose team won the school's only Southern Section title outside of boys' basketball. "They all add up."

They certainly do. Here's how Santa Margarita made its championship run:

- Carry-over: Santa Margarita scored 226.7 points for the fall and winter sports seasons; Mater Dei, the previous leader, scored 233.9.

- Baseball: The Eagles finished 15-11 overall (5.8 points, rounded up, based on their winning percentage of .576), tied for third place (5.0 points) in the Sea View League, but got no points for its performance in the playoffs. Total: 10.8.

- Badminton: Santa Margarita doesn't field a team and got no points.

- Golf: The Eagles were 9-1 (9.0 points), finished first in league (10.0) and won the Southern Section title (20). Their effort in the CIF-SCGA tournament didn't count toward the award. Total: 39.

- Softball: Santa Margarita went 16-11 overall (5.9), finished fourth in league and did not qualify for the playoffs. Total: 5.9.

- Boys' swimming: The Eagles were unbeaten (10.0), won the league (10.0) and finished second in the section finals (16.0). Total: 36.

- Girls' swimming: The girls were 2-3 in league. Total: 4.0.

- Boys' tennis: Santa Margarita went 6-4 in league (6.0) and finished third (5.0). Total: 11.

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