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Going into the process to select this year’s Cal-Hi Sports State School of the Year, the school to beat at first glance was Serra of Gardena.
It turned out that this time Mater Dei of Santa Ana had the stronger overall resume and the Monarchs have indeed topped the Cavaliers.
Serra tied a state record by winning three CIF state titles during the school year – in football (Division II), girls basketball (Division IV) and boys track (overall) – and also won four CIF Southern Section crowns, including a ground-breaking one in baseball.
Mater Dei, however, was No. 1 in the state overall in more sports than Serra – boys basketball and boys water polo compared to Serra for just boys track – and the Monarchs were judged top 10 in the state overall in a remarkable nine sports (which seems to be their most ever).
In addition to boys water polo and boys basketball, the Santa Ana school was that high in baseball, girls basketball, football, girls volleyball, girls golf, boys swimming and girls swimming.
That doesn’t even include boys and girls track teams that placed second in their divisions in the CIF Southern Section, a softball team that was top five in the state for much of the season, a boys volleyball team that knocked off nationally-ranked Palos Verdes in the second-round of the CIFSS Division I playoffs and a girls lacrosse team that won twice in the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section playoffs before losing to Los Alamitos.
All in all, it was just too much depth and too much of everything for Mater Dei.
Two years ago, Serra and Mater Dei basically were the final two schools as well and in that selection it went to Serra.
In gaining the 2012-13 State School of the Year honor, Mater Dei gets back on the list for the first time since the 1996-97 school year. The Monarchs also finished first in the state for overall athletic excellence for 1991-92 and 1994-95.
In those years, legendary boys basketball coach Gary McKnight also was the athletic director. Those duties are now being handled by Phil Bellomo.
McKnight’s basketball team was once again a mainstay of the program and made history of its own in March by defeating Archbishop Mitty of San Jose 50-45 in the first CIF Open Division championship.
That squad was led by Stanley Johnson, one of the top juniors in the nation, but even with all that it accomplished the water polo team was even more dominant. That group won its third straight CIFSS Division I title and was likely the best team in the nation with four players on the U.S. National Junior Team – McQuin Baron, Kent Inoue, James Walters and Jon Walters.
And despite neither team winning a CIFSS or CIF state title, Mater Dei also was No. 1 in the nation during the regular season in both baseball and girls basketball. Katie Lou Samuelson, a senior-to-be on the basketball team, just went 8-for-8 shooting 3-pointers in a gold medal match for a U.S. junior national team in an international competition. Ryan McMahon of the baseball team was recently chosen in the second round of the MLB Draft and has signed with the Colorado Rockies.
McMahon also was a member of Mater Dei’s football team that saw a resurgence during the 2012 season after a couple of “down” years. The Monarchs won playoff games in the prestigious CIFSS Pac-Five Division against Lakewood, Alemany of Mission Hills and St. Bonaventure of Ventura before losing in the final to Long Beach Poly. They also had a win over Santa Margarita of Rancho SM in the regular season when some national polls had the Eagles in the No. 1 position.
Cal-Hi Sports State Schools of the Year
2012-13 – Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
2011-12 – De La Salle (Concord)
2010-11 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach)
2009-10 – Junipero Serra (Gardena)
2008-09 – Archbishop Mitty (San Jose)
2007-08 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach)
2006-07 – Archbishop Mitty (San Jose)
2005-06 – Buchanan (Clovis)
2004-05 – Clovis West (Fresno)
2003-04 – De La Salle (Concord)
2002-03 – Torrey Pines (San Diego)
2001-02 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach)
2000-01 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach)
1999-00 – De La Salle (Concord)
1998-99 – Clovis West (Fresno)
1997-98 – Santa Margarita (Rancho SM)
1996-97 – Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
1995-96 – De La Salle (Concord)
1994-95 – Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
1993-94 – Clovis West (Fresno)
1992-93 – Esperanza (Anaheim)
1991-92 – Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
1990-91 – Poway
1989-90 – Bakersfield
1988-89 – Corona del Mar (Newport Beach)
1987-88 – Capistrano Valley (Mission Viejo)
1986-87 – Mission Viejo
1985-86 – Bellarmine (San Jose)
1984-85 – Bellarmine (San Jose)
1983-84 – Cordova (Rancho Cordova)
1982-83 – St. Francis (Mountain View)
1981-82 – Mission Viejo
1980-81 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach)
1979-80 – Berkeley
1978-79 – Mt. Whitney (Visalia)
1977-78 – Andrew Hill (San Jose)
1976-77 – Pasadena
1975-76 – San Fernando
1974-75 – Clovis
1973-74 – Kearny (San Diego)
1972-73 – Monte Vista (Spring Valley)
1971-72 – Ygnacio Valley (Concord)
1970-71 – Lompoc
1969-70 – Blair (Pasadena)
1968-69 – Compton
1967-68 – Homestead (Cupertino)
1966-67 – El Rancho (Pico Rivera)
1965-66 – El Segundo
1964-65 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach)
1963-64 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach)
1962-63 – Santa Clara
1961-62 – McClymonds (Oakland)
1960-61 – Compton
1959-60 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach)
1958-59 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach)
1957-58 – Berkeley
1956-57 – Fresno
1955-56 – Jefferson (Los Angeles)
1954-55 – Centennial (Compton)
1953-54 – St. Ignatius (San Francisco)
1952-53 – Santa Monica
1951-52 – Compton
1950-51 – Compton
1949-50 – Jefferson (Los Angeles)
Note: All-time list extends back to 1890-91 in the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book and Almanac. All selections prior to 1980 made retroactively through research by the late Nelson Tennis, founder of Cal-Hi Sports.