Redondo Union’s boys basketball team won the school’s first state title in the sport. Photo by Ray Vidal
From the community level to the national stage, from team to individual performances, athletes from the Beach Cities enjoyed banner years in 2013.
At the beginning of each season, every high school team has a primary goal of winning a league championship. Demanding non-league contests and tournaments help prepare a team for the postseason and are instrumental in placement in playoff brackets.
Reaching the CIF championship game is the next goal and winning a State title is the pinnacle of a successful season. Two of the top stories in 2013 featured local high school teams that battled through adversity to make improbable runs in the postseason.
Sea Hawks soar to State title
After going 10-17 and finishing fifth in the Bay League in the 2011-12 season, Redondo’s boys basketball team was revitalized when Reggie Morris Jr. was brought in to turn the program around.
In less than a year, Morris and nine other part-time coaches produced something the school had not had in its 102-year history – a state championship boys basketball team.
Playing at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, Redondo emerged with a 54-47 victory over Northern California champion College Park of Pleasant Hill in the Division 2 championship game.
The accomplishment warranted a parade where players and coaches rode a double-decker bus, circling the campus and ending with a rally at the Redondo Beach Civic Center.
Redondo was led by CIF co-MVPs Derek Biale and Ian Fox, who helped the second-seeded Sea Hawks capture the CIF Southern Section Division 2A title with a 68-63 win over top-seeded Westlake.
On Jan. 5, Redondo suffered a bitter 60-58 loss at Bishop Montgomery, a team that earned the top seed in Division 4AA. It was the last defeat the Sea Hawks would incur that season, winning their final 21 games.
Beginning the 2013-14 season in November, Redondo picked up right where it left off. The Sea Hawks are ranked second in the Division 2A poll and won its own Pacific Shores Tournament with a 64-63 win over Mayfair.
Cassidy Olson returned to the diamond to lead Mira Costa to a Bay League title and appearance in the CIF Division 3 championship game. Photo by Ray Vidal
The season for a high school athletic team is approximately three months long, but the Mira Costa baseball program was in the news for most of the first half of 2013.
In January, a letter sent to parents by Mira Costa Principal Ben Dale stated that varsity head coach Cassidy Olson’s coaching activities would be limited to his sixth period class through March 24.
The controversy began when a group of parent sought Olson’s termination or resignation of his position as head coach.
Although Dale’s letter did not state the reasons for the restrictions handed down to Olson, sources say there were three issues that warranted the sanctions: threatening to lower a player’s grade if they did not sell ten Christmas trees during the baseball program’s annual fundraiser; Olson’s handling of players’ injuries and physical needs, including his alleged attitude toward players after they submitted notes from their doctors; Lastly, an alleged “climate of fear” created by the coach.
Olson eventually returned to the diamond to lead the Mustangs to a Bay League championship and a trip to Dodger stadium, where Mira Costa fell to Serra 8-1 in the CIF Southern Section Division 3 championship game. It marked the first time since 1982 that Mira Costa had reached the finals.
Coral Kemp, left, and Tandis Morgan led a sweep by L.A. County Lifeguards in the Womens’ Open Board Rescue event. Photo by Joel Gitelson
Lifeguards save a record
Led by a pair of South Bay athletes, the long winning streak of the L.A. County Lifeguard Association (LACLA) was kept intact when the chapter dominated the Nautica USLA National Lifeguards Championships in Manhattan Beach.
Redondo Beach’s Brian Murphy and El Segundo’s Coral Kemp were individual champions, helping LACLA win its 27th consecutive national title and 40th overall in the 44 years of the event.
“It feels great to win after finishing second quite a few times,” Murphy said after the competition concluded. “And it’s cool to do it in Manhattan Beach.”
Manhattan Beach had last hosted the USLA National Lifeguard Championships in 2008.
Kemp won the individual title by outscoring teammate Alison Riddle, of Hermosa Beach and Anne Skimmons of Monmouth, N.J.
“It’s only my second time competing so it’s an amazing feeling,” Kemp said. “We had such great team unity last year in Cape May (New Jersey) and it felt the same way this year. I was so honored to be able to partner with (Hermosa Beach resident) Tandis Morgan in the Board Rescue. She is such a pro when it comes to the surf and currents.”
Mira Costa won its fourth CIF title in boys water polo. Ph0to by Ray Vidal
Mustangs swim to CIF title
During the first week of September, Mira Costa’s boys water polo team began its season with a 10-9 victory over a strong Santiago/Corona team. The Mustangs finished their 2013 campaign with another one-goal win against Santiago, as the top-seeded 27-6 Costa squad held off second-seeded Santiago for a 6-5 victory to claim the CIF Southern Section Division 3.
The victory gave the Mustangs their fourth CIF title and first since 2006. Mira Costa had reached the finals and semifinals many times during that span.
“It’s nice to put one down after so long, Mira Costa head coach Jon Reichardt said. “I was beginning to wonder when it was going to happen again, but some teams never even make it that far.”
Mira Costa sophomore Andrea Lee capped off her high school golf career by winning the CIF State Championship. Photo courtesy of the American Junior Golf Association
Individuals take top honors
She may be only a sophomore, but Mira Costa’s Andrea Lee ended her prep career going out on top accomplishing a feat no other Mira Costa golfer had done before.
Lee, who competes in numerous junior tournaments, decided to return to the Mustang squad this season and it paid off.
In the field of 54 participants, Lee was the only golfer to shoot under par, finishing with a 4-under 67 to win the CIF/CGA/NCGA Girls Golf State Championship in Carmel.
“It’s really exciting for me to be able to compete in the state championship,” Lee said. “I wasn’t able to play last year because of a shoulder injury, so I wanted to pull through and try and win this year.”
Mira Costa coach Tim Kelley was on hand to support Lee, who had qualified for the state championship as an individual after finishing in a five-way tie for third at The Golf Club in Rancho California.
“I have been extremely impressed with Andrea’s game since I started watching her as a freshman,” Kelley said. “She has a complete set of golf skills. She can make adjustments that I have not seen most kids be able to do.”
Mira Costa fell just short of qualifying for the state tournament as a team, finishing fourth behind Torrey Pines, Diamond Bay and only eight strokes behind final qualifier Walnut.
On the run
Thousands of participants and spectators supported numerous running events in the Beach Cities throughout the year, many of whom saw Redondo Beach running icon Nathalie Higley as the first woman to cross the finish line.
In February, the 43-year-old Higley captured the women’s title at the 35th annual Redondo Beach Super Bowl Sunday 10K with a time of 36 minutes, 16 seconds.
The Club Ed runner went on to win the Village Runner 4th of July 5K posting a time of 17:38. David Cardona, of Torrance, was the overall winner at 16:12.
In October, Higley won the Manhattan Beach 10K with a time of 37:35. The win was the third straight Manhattan Beach 10K title for Higley and Gardena’s Tito Lezama, who crossed the finish line first at 32:29.
In June, two Redondo Beach residents came away with championships at the 9th annual Redondo Beach Triathlon.
Chris Foster, 31, won the men’s title completing the 1/2-mile swim, 6-mile bike and 2-mile run in 39:25. Former Mira Costa aquatics standout Taylor Spivey took top honors in the women’s division. The 22-year-old finished 8th overall with a time of 43:05.