It’s a close call between the all-time great Vista Murrieta track sprinter and all-time great basketball player Lonzo Ball of Chino Hills. Swimmer Grant Shoults of Santa Margarita also made a strong push. Waiting for Norman to place fifth in the U.S. Olympic trials in the 200 and to win an under-20 world title is the difference.
For the rundown on the other 2015-16 State Boys Athletes of the Year, CLICK HERE.
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After the CIF state track championships were held but before some of the more national – even international – summer track events took place, there was a vote conducted for the Riverside Press-Enterprise Boys Athlete of the Year and a selection for the Southern California Prep Legends Athlete of the Year.
Michael Norman of Vista Murrieta didn’t win either honor, falling a vote or two short of Temecula Great Oak 800-1600 state meet double winner Isaac Cortes locally and also probably getting nudged in a close decision by Chino Hills basketball star Lonzo Ball for the SCPL pick.
For the Cal-Hi Sports State Athlete of the Year selection, however, anything that happens after the traditional school year and even as late as July 31 is considered and it’s within that timeline that was the difference for Norman. If those other honors were voted on now, no disrespect intended to the winners who were honored, but would the votes be the same?
In becoming the State Athlete of the Year, Norman is the first from the Inland Empire since grid-hoop standout Chris Claiborne of Riverside J.W. North for 1995-96. Before that, you have to go back to heavyweight wrestler/all-state football lineman Jim McCullough of Hemet for 1981-82.
Norman, who was the State Junior Athlete of the Year for 2014-15, just last week won the 200 meters at the IAAF World Under 20 Championships in Poland with a clocking of 20.17 seconds.
That came two weeks after he nearly qualified for a berth at this year’s Olympic Games – very rare for a male athlete in track just coming out of high school – with a fifth-place finish at the U.S. Olympic trials held in Eugene, Ore. He ran 20.14 in that race and in the semifinals finished in front of 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Justin Gatlin (who won the final).
At this year’s CIF state finals in Clovis, Norman led Vista Murrieta to its second straight team title. He won the 200 in 20.42, also won the 400 in 45.77 and ran legs on two first-place relay units. Norman also went to the Olympic trials in the 400 (he has a best of 45.51) but did not advance past his first race.
It can be said that Lonzo Ball plus Santa Margarita swimming sensation Grant Shoults were both strong contenders for the top state athlete honor. Ball was a consensus national player of the year after leading Chino Hills to a 35-0 record and No. 1 national ranking. Shoults was the Orange County athlete of the year and set more than one national record.
In comparison to Norman, Shoults finished seventh in his attempt to make the U.S. Olympic team in his top event, the 400 free. He’s definitely one to watch for the future in U.S. swimming.
Ball, meanwhile, doesn’t have a similar comparison except that another player who graduated from a California high school, Josh Jackson, was MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game and is projected as a possible No. 1 pick in the next NBA Draft. Jackson wasn’t eligible for the all-state team or any other high school honors since he played at Prolific Prep of Napa (not affiliated with the CIF) but he will have to count for alumni lists in the Cal-Hi Sports record book.
Both Norman and Virginia prep sprinting phenom Noah Lyles from T.C. Williams of Alexandria could be the future face of U.S. track, especially since older athletes like Gatlin and LaShawn Merritt (2012 London gold medalist in the 400) are getting near the end of their careers.
“Michael is the most talented high school track athlete I have ever seen,” said Vista Murrieta track coach and former football coach Coley Candaele when Norman was named the Gatorade National Track Athlete of the Year. “Coaches often use the cliché ‘practice every day to get better,’ but Michael takes this to heart. Every week, every day, every moment he is on the track, he is doing everything he can to push himself to the highest level.”
Norman’s Gatorade national honor also marked the second straight year in which he received it, a back-to-back feat that reportedly only 11 others have done in the history of the Gatorade national awards, among them LeBron James for basketball.
Candaele, who himself was a State Athlete of the Year for small schools in 1989-1990 for Carpinteria, probably wished at some point that Norman could have flashed that speed for the Broncos’ football team. On the other hand, it’s hard to argue against how it’s all worked out for him by concentrating only on track.
Norman will attend classes this fall at USC after no doubt following how Gatlin, Merritt and the rest of the USA does in the Olympics, which are starting this weekend in Brazil.
Tokyo will be the site of the next Olympics in 2020 and it will frankly be a shock if Michael Norman is not there representing his country, his state and of course Vista Murrieta.
ALL-TIME CAL-HI SPORTS
BOYS STATE ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
(Selected by Cal-Hi Sports)
2015-16 – Michael Norman, Murrieta Vista Murrieta (track)
2014-15 – T.J. DeFalco, Huntington Beach (volleyball)
2013-14 – Nick Nevills, Clovis (football, wrestling)
2012-13 – Khalfani Muhammad, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (football, track)
2011-12 – Khalfani Muhammad, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (football, track)
2010-11 – Marqise Lee, Gardena Serra (football, basketball, track)
2009-10 – Robert Woods, Gardena Serra (football, track)
2008-09 – Tyler Gaffney, San Diego Cathedral Catholic (football, baseball)
2007-08 – German Fernandez, Riverbank (cross country, track)
2006-07 – Mike Stanton, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (football, basketball, baseball)
2005-06 – Chase Budinger, Carlsbad La Costa Canyon (basketball, volleyball)
2004-05 – Drew Shiller, Burlingame (football, basketball, baseball)
2003-04 – Kenny O’Neal, Oakland Skyline (football, track)
2002-03 – Steve Smith, Woodland Hills Taft (football, basketball, track)
2001-02 – Aaron Piersol, Newport Beach Newport Harbor (swimming)
2000-01 – Antwon Guidry, San Jose Leigh (football, basketball, track)
1999-00 – D.J. Williams, Concord De La Salle (football, track)
1998-99 – Chris Lewis, Long Beach Poly (football, volleyball)
1997-98 – C.C. Sabathia, Vallejo (football, basketball, baseball)
1996-97 – Ken-Yon Rambo, Long Beach Poly (football, track)
1995-96 – Chris Claiborne, Riverside J.W. North (football, basketball)
1994-95 – Eric Guerrero, San Jose Independence (wrestling)
1993-94 – McKay Christensen, Fresno Clovis West (football, baseball)
1992-93 – Calvin Harrison, Salinas North Salinas (track, basketball)
1991-92 – Jason Kidd, Alameda St. Joseph (basketball, baseball)
1990-91 – Rob Johnson, El Toro (football, basketball, baseball)
1989-90 – Ryan Hancock, Cupertino Monta Vista (football, baseball)
1988-89 – Lorenzo Neal, Lemoore (football, wrestling)
1987-88 – Adam Keefe, Irvine Woodbridge (basketball, volleyball)
1986-87 – LeRon Ellis, Santa Ana Mater Dei (water polo, basketball, track)
1985-86 – Brian Johnson, Oakland Skyline (football, baseball)
1984-85 – George Porter, Lompoc Cabrillo (basketball, track)
1983-84 – John Williams, L. A. Crenshaw (basketball)
1982-83 – Mike Smith, Hacienda Heights Los Altos (football, basketball, volleyball)
1981-82 – Jim McCullough, Hemet (football, wrestling)
1980-81 – Kevin Willhite, Rancho Cordova (football, track)
1979-80 – Darryl Strawberry, L.A. Crenshaw (basketball, baseball)
1978-79 – John Elway, Granada Hills (football, baseball)
1977-78 – Jesse Vasallo, Mission Viejo (swimming)
1976-77 – Brian Goodell, Mission Viejo (swimming)
1975-76 – Greg Louganis, El Cajon Valhalla & Santa Ana (diving)
1974-75 – Bill Cartwright, Elk Grove (basketball)
1973-74 – Tim Shaw, Long Beach Wilson (water polo, swimming)
1972-73 – Lonnie Shelton, Bakersfield Foothill (football, track)
1971-72 – Scott McGregor, El Segundo (baseball)
1970-71 – Anthony Davis, San Fernando (football, baseball)
1969-70 – James McAlister, Pasadena Blair (football, track)
1968-69 – Jeff Burroughs, Long Beach Wilson (football, baseball)
1967-68 – Mark Spitz, Santa Clara (water polo, swimming)
1966-67 – Mickey Cureton, Compton Centennial (football)
1965-66 – Tim Danielson, Chula Vista (track)
1964-65 – Paul Wilson, Downey Warren (track)
1963-64 – Don Schollander, Santa Clara (water polo, swimming)
1962-63 – Tommie Smith, Lemoore (football, basketball, track)
1961-62 – Forrest Beaty, Glendale Hoover (track)
1960-61 – Ulis Williams, Compton (track)
1959-60 – Dennis Ralston, Bakersfield (tennis)
1958-59 – Dale Story, Orange (track)
1957-58 – Willie Davis, L. A. Roosevelt (basketball, baseball, track)
1956-57 – Bill Kilmer, Azusa Citrus (football, basketball, baseball)
1955-56 – Fred Lacour, S.F. St. Ignatius (basketball)
1954-55 – Dick Bass, Vallejo (football)
1953-54 – Don Bowden, San Jose Lincoln (track)
1952-53 – Ronnie Knox, Santa Monica (football)
1951-52 – Marty Keough, Pomona (football, basketball, baseball)
1950-51 – Charlie Powell, San Diego (football, baseball)
1949-50 – Lang Stanley, L.A. Jefferson (track)
1948-49 – John Henry Johnson, Pittsburg (football, basketball, track)
1947-48 – Bob Mathias, Tulare (football, track)
1946-47 – Bill McColl, San Diego Hoover (football, basketball, baseball)
1945-46 – George Stanich, Sacramento (basketball, baseball, track)
1944-45 – Jackie Jensen, Oakland (football, baseball)
1943-44 – Bill Sharman, Porterville (football, basketball, baseball)
1942-43 – Glenn Davis, La Verne Bonita (football, baseball)
1941-42 – Irv Noren, Pasadena (basketball, baseball)
1940-41 – Tommie Fears, Los Angeles Manual Arts (football)
1939-40 – Howie Dallmar, San Francisco Lowell (basketball, baseball)
1938-39 – Jim Jurkovich, Fresno (football, track)
1937-38 – Frankie Albert, Glendale (football, baseball, tennis)
1936-37 – Jackie Robinson, Pasadena Muir (football, basketball, baseball)
1935-36 – Bobby Doerr, Los Angeles Fremont (pro baseball)
1934-35 – Ted Williams, San Diego Hoover (baseball)
1933-34 – Hank Luisetti, San Francisco Galileo (basketball)
1932-33 – Don Budge, Oakland University (tennis)
1931-32 – Corney Johnson, Los Angeles (track)
1930-31 – Frank Sobrero, Oakland (football, basketball, baseball)
Note: List continues back to 1890-91 in the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book & Almanac. All selections prior to 1978-79 done retroactively through research by our founder, the late Nelson Tennis.