We came up with a points system for all of the schools that have been mentioned and honored in our annual State School of the Year selections since the 1999-2000 school year and have put together a top 10 for overall sports excellence so far for the 21st century. It is close at the top and could change in as quick as one year, but right now the No. 1 position would be shown for Archbishop Mitty of San Jose. Just off the lead are Mater Dei of Santa Ana and De La Salle of Concord.
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Note: We have been choosing State Schools of the Year since well before the start of the 21st century. In fact, we’ve never seen evidence that honoring schools at the end of a school year for overall sports excellence has been done earlier by any other media source (certainly in the state and possibly the nation). For the purposes of this content, we went through all of our State Schools of the Year writeups and honors since 2000 and have awarded points for the following: three for State School of the Year, two for boys or girls sports state school of year if that school wasn’t in the No. 1 position, one for divisional winners and one for being among those mentioned as a strong contender for the overall selection.
1. ARCHBISHOP MITTY (SAN JOSE) 29 pts
Girl power does it for the Monarchs according to this points system. While they have “only” been State School of the Year twice since 2000, they have been tops for girls sports an impressive 10 times (which is almost half considering every year for the last 21).
Based on our years of also doing national rankings in various sports for almost 30 years and of editing a national high school sports magazine from 1993 to 2004, we’ve also said more than once that Mitty can claim it’s the best girls sports school in America.
This past school year (2019-20), Mitty grabbed CIF Central Coast Section titles in girls basketball, boys basketball, girls soccer and field hockey. The girls basketball team also won the CIF NorCal Open Division title, but couldn’t play the state final against La Jolla Country Day due to the season being shut down.
But that was just a ho-hum year by Mitty standards. The girls earned their fifth state school of year honor in seven years in 2018-19 and 10th since 2000. The Monarchs were State School of the Year overall for the 2006-07 and 2008-09 school years.
Other than basketball (boys and girls), Mitty has tended to shine over the past 20 years in girls volleyball, baseball and softball.
Under the direction of former head coach Bret Almazan-Cezar, Mitty won the first two CIF Open Division state titles in girls volleyball in 2016 and 2017. The Monarchs won nine other CIF state titles during Almazan-Cezar’s time.
Girls hoops head coach Sue Phillips perhaps best encapsulates the image of Mitty’s program. She came from the school herself and was a fierce competitor not just in basketball. She’s now the winningest girls hoops head coach in Northern California history.
The highlight of the softball program came in 2009 with an unbeaten season led by Ms. Softball State Player of the Year Keilani Ricketts. That 32-0 squad just a few months ago was ranked as the greatest in state history.
According to the school’s web site, Mitty teams in the school’s history have won 39 NorCal, 23 state, 10 national and 139 CCS titles.
And while this may be a writeup for the current century, that wouldn’t even include what previous Mitty athletes Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brandi Chastain did before. Walsh Jennings is a three-time Olympic gold medal champion in beach volleyball, while Chastain is a two-time World Cup champion in soccer.
2. MATER DEI (SANTA ANA) 27 pts
Since 2000, the Monarchs have been State School of the Year three times. They were very close to have gotten it on several other occasions and with this point system would have been first since the turn of the last century if that had happened just two other times.
What stands out most with Mater Dei is its roster of all-time great coaches and they’ve all had multiple dominant State Team of the Year squads since 2000.
Boys basketball head coach Gary McKnight, who also was athletic director for a number of years, has won more than 1,100 games (a state record by a long shot). His best years this century were between 2011 and 2014 when the Monarchs won four straight CIF state championships, including 35-0 in 2014 with Mr. Basketball Stanley Johnson.
Football head coach Bruce Rollinson also is the winningest active head coach in California in his sport who won his 300th game (by our count not including forfeits) to start the 2018 season. Rollinson’s teams in 2017 and 2018 both won CIF Open Division state crowns.
Girls basketball head coach Kevin Kiernan didn’t start out at Mater Dei, but has built the Monarchs into a state and national powerhouse. The girls had a particularly dominant run from 2010 to 2012 with three straight CIF state titles and in the 2018-19 season Kiernan became the state’s winningest coach ever.
Mater Dei’s most recent State School of the Year selection was for 2017-18. Its other two times getting the nod were in back to back years (2012-13 and 2013-14). The Monarchs also were State School of the Year three times in the 1990s.
It hasn’t just been about football, boys hoops and girls hoops, either. Mater Dei had a CIF state team title in boys track in 2014, won several CIF Southern Section top division titles in baseball/softball and in 2018 won the CIF Open Division state crown in girls volleyball.
3. DE LA SALLE (CONCORD) 26 pts
The school’s legendary football program may have slipped behind Mater Dei and St. John Bosco of Bellflower in the last five years, but since 2000 overall still has no peers in the state.
The Spartans began the century with the longest win streak in U.S. history and it reached 151 games until 2004, which included State Team of the Year finishes in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003. There was a slippage in 2004 and 2005, but since the CIF state championships were revived in 2006 De La Salle has won the most state titles with seven and has been in the CIF Open Division state final every year since 2009. The last two state titles were earned by current head coach Justin Alumbaugh, who took over for Bob Ladoucuer, the state’s winningest coach ever, in 2013.
In the school of the year tabulations, however, there has to be success in more than one sport and that also has been true at De La Salle.
The boys basketball team from 1998 to 2015 was under the leadership of head coach Frank Allocco and routinely was among the best in the state. The Spartans won the CIF state title at 32-1 in 2006 and even after Allocco left have gotten to one CIF state final (losing in 2016 to 35-0 Chino Hills).
In recent years, De La Salle’s baseball program has achieved the type of success that football has had. The Spartans were State Team of the Year in 2019 and were No. 2 in the final rankings in 2018. Additional high state championship finishes have come in recent years in wrestling, cross country and golf.
With no girls programs at the school (Carondelet of Concord is right next door), De La Salle has had disadvantages for School of the Year consideration to schools like Buchanan, Mitty, Mater Dei and Torrey Pines. Regardless, the Spartans were State School of the Year for the 1999-2000, 2003-04 and 2011-12 school years.
4. TORREY PINES (SAN DIEGO) 23 pts
It took a late day trip to our storage unit to find the newsletters that mentioned the Falcons for the 2003-04 school year, which was good for one point and broke a tie with Buchanan of Clovis for this position.
Unlike the first three schools listed in this feature, Torrey Pines doesn’t regularly appear in state rankings for the five sports primarily covered by CalHiSports.com — football, boys hoops, girls hoops, baseball and softball. There have been very good teams and players, particularly with Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year Joe Magrisi for 2018, but it’s the program’s overall depth and its success in all of those other sports that has made it so formidable.
Torrey Pines won its second consecutive State School of the Year honor after the 2015-16 school year on the strength of having top five teams in the state in eight sports, including No. 1 teams in boys tennis and boys golf. The other sports that have helped produce so many CIF San Diego Section titles have been in girls tennis, girls golf, girls soccer, boys soccer, girls volleyball, boys lacrosse and girls lacrosse.
Head coach Brennan Dean’s girls volleyball team will start up the next season (hopefully in February) as the defending CIF Open Division state champion. The Falcons also were the No. 1 ranked team in the nation for the 2019 season and had Ms. Volleyball State Player of the Year Carly Diehl.
In addition to the back-to-back State School of the Year selections for 2015 and 2016, Torrey Pines also was tops in the state in those compilations for the 2002-03 school year.
5. (tie) BUCHANAN (CLOVIS) 22 pts
While it is true we never have ties in any of our all-state, player of year or team of year selections, this was a point system that we were going by for this feature and there was a tie for the fifth position.
The strength of Buchanan’s bid to be on this list has come more recently, especially for the last two school years (2018-19 and 2019-20) in which the Bears were State School of the Year on both occasions.
This past school year was cut short by the Coronavirus pandemic in March, but there still were enough CIF state championship events and state rankings to determine a State School of the Year. Buchanan was able to repeat with its fifth straight CIF state team title in boys wrestling under head coach Troy Tirapelle and ended a similar run of dominance by Great Oak of Temecula by winning the D1 state title in girls cross country.
Buchanan was able to add a NorCal D2 title in boys water polo last year and in 2018 was aided to its top statewide finish with a CIF state team title in girls track. When schools are able to win team titles in sports in which there are no divisions, such as wrestling and track, that makes the accomplishment more impressive.
In non-CIF state title sports, Buchanan has been great since 2000 in both baseball and softball. The Bears had two of the best baseball teams in California history with No. 1 teams in both 2011 and 2016. Those squads also were considered No. 1 in the nation by credible media sources. In softball, Buchanan had a State Team of the Year in 1998 and has remained among the top teams in the CIF Central Section for most seasons of the current century.
Other than 2018 and 2019, the Bears also were State School of the Year one other time since 2000. That was for the 2005-06 school year.
5. (tie) LONG BEACH POLY (LONG BEACH) 22 pts
Getting credit for two points and mentioned as a runner-up to De La Salle for in that late search for 2003-04 school year newsletters lifted the Jackrabbits into a tie with Buchanan.
If this were just a ranking of schools that have been State School of the Year the most times since 2000, however, then Poly would be first with four. The last time that happened was for the 2010-11 school year and in the last few years it’s been hard for the Jackrabbits to get into the top 10. The other three times that Poly as been State School of the Year since 2000 were for 2000-01, 2001-02 and 2007-08.
With Poly, of course, its greatness extends well, well beyond just what has happened on athletic fields and courts just in the last 21 years. It would not only be the School of the Century in California for the 20th century, but would have to be School of the Century for the entire nation.
A recent ranking of schools by MaxPreps based on having the most combined alums in the NFL, NBA and MLB found that the Jackrabbits were first in the nation. If one added Olympic athletes into that mix (especially for track and field), then Poly’s edge over the rest of the nation would be even wider.
Girls track and field has been the leader at Poly for winning CIF state titles with 13 that came under the guidance of retired head coach Don Norford. He has five other CIF state titles in boys track and his total of 18 is the most of any coach in state history.
The girls basketball program under current head coach Carl Buggs has also won multiple CIF state titles in the current century. Buggs’ team just last season was the only one to hand a loss to national No. 1 La Jolla Country Day.
7. CATHEDRAL CATHOLIC (SAN DIEGO) 13 pts
There is a noticeable gap between those first six schools in this pecking order and then the seventh position.
In recent years, if Torrey Pines isn’t the leading school of the year contender out of the CIF San Diego Section, then it’s tended to be the Dons. For the 2015-16 school year, the Falcons edged Cathedral Catholic, which also was considered strongly. But in the year following that it was the Dons that got the nod for their first-ever and only (so far) State School of the Year selection.
In that 2016-17 school year, Cathedral Catholic fans enjoyed the thrill of teams winning CIF state titles over three consecutive weekends. It began with D3 boys cross country, continued into D2 girls volleyball and was capped by a come-from-behind overtime triumph over St. Mary’s of Stockton in the D1 state football final. Head coach Sean Doyle’s squad also wrapped up a 15-0 season and it’s a group that many consider among the most outstanding in CIF San Diego Section history.
For the points system used for this feature, Cathedral Catholic has been helped by the eight times it has been Division II or Division III school of the year. And since the school itself has only been around since 2005 (which was the same year that University of San Diego High closed), just getting enough points to be seventh is a rather strong statement.
In addition to the sports mentioned above, the Dons have been consistently strong in baseball and softball. Retired softball coach Margaret Mauro and current baseball coach Gary Remiker have both been State Coach of the Year. Softball player Megan Faraimo was a Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2017 while in 2014 baseball pitcher Brady Aiken was the No. 1 overall pick in the MLB Draft.
8. LOYOLA (LOS ANGELES) 12 pts
Like De La Salle, the Cubs only compete for boys sports but that hasn’t stopped them from being among the top athletic high schools overall in the state.
While we have named Loyola the No. 1 school for boys sports three times since 2000, the CIF Southern Section Commissioner’s Cup has had the Cubs on top nine times in the history of that honor, which goes back to 1992. That’s the most on the boys side than any other school in that section.
In addition to the three boys sports honors, Loyola also has been considered a state school of the year finalist six other times since 2000.
Two of Loyola’s best years were for 2002-03 and 2015-16. In 02-03, the Cubs set a CIFSS record with five team titles, which came in cross country, basketball, volleyball, track, and golf. They won five again in 2015-16, that time in golf, lacrosse, swimming, volleyball, and soccer.
While Loyola doesn’t get the national rankings attention in the more popular high school sports of football and boys basketball, its teams are routinely ranked among the best in the nation in volleyball and soccer. The Cubs were No. 1 in the nation in volleyball in 2009 and in 2016 they were considered State Team of the Year in soccer.
9. CAMPOLINDO (MORAGA) 10 pts
It gets real close in this points system from this place onward.
Campolindo came up with 10 by being Division II or Division III State School of the Year nine times since 2000 and also has an additional point for being near the very top for one of those years.
Just in the last shortened school year, the Cougars came through in cross country by sweeping both the boys and girls races in D2 at the CIF state championships. The boys basketball team also was all set to face Ribet Academy of Los Angeles in the CIF D1 state championship until the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled everything.
There have been additional CIF state titles in girls cross country and there has been two in football as head coach Kevin Macy directed title squads in 2014 and 2016.
In sports not having state championships, Campolindo has been among the best in Northern California for many years in aquatics sports, a tradition that goes back to Olympic legend Matt Biondi in the early 1980s.
When the century turned, Campo athletics was under the watchful eye of athletic director Bob Wilson. He’s credited for much of the overall excellence of the program and was in that role until 2014 when at age 62 he died of cancer.
10. GREAT OAK (TEMECULA) 9 pts
All 14 of the CIF state titles that Great Oak cross country and track coach Doug Soles has won for the Wolfpack have come in the current century. In fact, it’s been only since 2009 when Great Oak runners began to routinely hoist CIF state title trophies.
With that kind of dominance in the distance running and track programs, there has been eight times in which Great Oak has been considered for state school of the year honors and one of those times also saw the Wolfpack named as the best for girls sports only (one more point).
As a school itself, Great Oak only goes back to 2004, which makes getting into the top 10 in this system a more difficult achievement.
There hasn’t been nearly as much success for the school in athletics outside of the distance runners, but the softball team has been nationally ranked at time and there have been high national finishes in competitive cheer.
NEXT SCHOOLS IN ORDER:
Clovis West (Fresno) 8 pts (State School of Year 2004-05)
Serra (Gardena) 8 pts (State School of Year 2009-10)
St. John Bosco (Bellflower) 6 pts
Wilson (Long Beach) 6 pts
Santa Margarita (Rancho SM) 6 pts
St. Francis (Mountain View) 6 pts
Santa Margarita (Rancho SM) 6 pts
Corona del Mar (Newport Beach) 6 pts
Harvard-Westlake (Studio City) 5 pts
Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 5 pts