For the second time in its history, Santa Margarita Catholic of Rancho Santa Margarita is named as California’s No. 1 school for outstanding overall athletic excellence. Winning CIF state titles in girls swimming, boys swimming and girls golf wasn’t all that the Eagles did in gaining the nod.
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If it was a race around a track to determine the winner of the annual Cal-Hi Sports State School of the Year for overall sports excellence during the 2022-23 school year, then the car carrying the Santa Margarita Eagles would have finished with a massive kick to sprint past all other contenders.
With the boys and girls swimming teams at the school sweeping team titles the CIF state championships in Fresno on May 13 and then two weeks later the baseball team winning the CIF SoCal D1 championship, that was enough for Santa Margarita to push to the top. The school has now been named State School of the Year.
This is the second State School of the Year selection for Santa Margarita since it opened in the fall of 1987. The only other time the Eagles have earned the honor was for 1997-98 when a member of championship football & basketball teams at the school was future Heisman Trophy winner and future NFL Hall of Fame quarterback (we think so) Carson Palmer.
Since that 1997-98 school year, the only other school from Orange County that has been State School of the Year has been Mater Dei of Santa Ana. The Monarchs have won out three times since then, the most recent for the 2017-18 school year.
The strength of Santa Margarita’s case for school of the year is that it was the only school in the state to win three CIF state titles during the year plus there were two additional squads that won CIF SoCal regional titles.
The first state title came in girls golf. With junior Angela Liu (committed to UCLA) racking up a 5-under par score of 67 on the San Gabriel Country Club course for individual honors, the Eagles won their first state title by five shots over Arcadia. The team also featured Stanford-bound Leigh Chien, a junior who was the 2021 CIF state champion.
Santa Margarita’s second and third state titles came on the same day in May at the CIF state swimming and diving championships held at Clovis West in Fresno.
The girls won their fourth straight CIF state title by a massive 223-143 margin over second-place Campolindo of Moraga. Similar to track and wrestling, there are no divisions at the CIF state finals in swimming so it’s the best of the best. Teagan O’Dell, still just a sophomore, broke the national high school record in the 200 individual medley to lead the way for the girls. O’Dell also set a state record by winning in the 100 backstroke event and swam a leg for a first-place 200 freestyle relay squad. Senior Asia Kozan (200 free) and sophomore Gracyn Aquino (50 free) also won individual events for the Eagles.
It was the first CIF state title for the boys, who did it without winning a single individual event and just one relay event. That relay was the first of the day in the 200 medley relay. Humberto Najera later scored a lot of team points with second-place showings in the 200 IM and 100 back. Loyola of Los Angeles was a close second with 222.5 points compared to Santa Margarita with 238.
There are no CIF state titles in girls soccer or baseball, but the Eagles won CIF SoCal D1 regional titles in both sports.
In girls soccer, Santa Margarita capped a 22-2-2 season with a 1-0 win over Los Alamitos in the regional final. First-year head coach Craig Bull had a big-time goalkeeper in Peyton Trayer and his team got the only goal it would need on a blistering set piece goal kicked in by Faith George. Although SM was nationally ranked, we didn’t count it as a No. 1 team in the state since St. Francis of Mountain View up north at 25-1 was outstanding as well.
In baseball, there was no question that the Eagles were going to be No. 2 in the final state rankings after they topped La Costa Canyon, 3-2, in the CIF SoCal D1 championship. They ended at 29-7 and won the Trinity League title, but were 2-3 in games against league rival JSerra, including a 1-0 loss in extra innings in the CIFSS D1 final. JSerra opted out of the CIF regional playoffs. Collin Clarke of the Eagles already has been named Orange County Pitcher of the Year.
That’s five teams that were either first or second in the state (four firsts and one second if you gave it to girls soccer) and that made the Eagles tough to beat. But there was more.
In the fall, the girls water polo team gained a qualifying spot for the CIF SoCal D1 playoffs with a No. 6 seed where it lost in the first round to Los Alamitos. The boys lacrosse team also was one of the best in Southern California as the Eagles went 18-3 with wins in the CIFSS D1 playoffs until a loss in the semifinals to Loyola of Los Angeles. The boys basketball team went 21-9 with a rare win over Mater Dei and a win over eventual CIF D3 state champ Oakland. The girls lacrosse team also won a Trinity League title while the girls volleyball team went 6-2 in the Trinity League for a second-place finish.
Congratulations to athletic director Jim Hartigan and to all of the coaches, athletes and parents at Santa Margarita for everything during the 2022-23 school year.
Cal-Hi Sports State Schools of the Year
2022-23 – Santa Margarita (Rancho SM)
2021-22 – St. Francis (Mountain View)
2020-21 – Harvard-Westlake (Studio City)
2019-20 – Buchanan (Clovis)
2018-19 – Buchanan (Clovis)
2017-18 – Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
2016-17 – Cathedral Catholic (San Diego)
2015-16 – Torrey Pines (San Diego)
2014-15 – Torrey Pines (San Diego)
2013-14 – Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
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.