El Cajon, CA
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Articles by Mary York

In the fall, Helix Charter High School has a full parking lot. Those Friday night lights turn on and the fans crowd into the stands uproariously. On either side of the field, a hundred people line the turf - coaches, players, trainers, and press. A scoreboard blinks ceremoniously.

When it comes to America’s favorite pastime, very little often changes. But the last few years have seen some significant alterations in the landscape of the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference (PCAC), in which Grossmont Community College plays to win every season. 

Two new colleges have been added to the conference in the last several years, College of the Desert (COD) and San Bernardino, both of which are geographical outliers and have increased the overall travel commitments for regionally based San Diego teams. 

It was a long shot from the start. Santana’s Lady Sultans have a history of losing in the first round of CIF and if their conference record was any indication of how well their season would end, no one would have seen them in the championship game. And yet, there they were.

The Chargers may have moved out, but Qualcomm Stadium is still a central part of the San Diego community, and on Feb. 10, the lights came on for an Easy County high school soccer game. 

Granite Hills (4-1-2) and West Hills (2-4), both nearing the end of their seasons and both with huge contingents of fans clamoring into the bleachers, went head to head under the bright lights on the big field. 

In Madrid, if you want to see art and athleticism unfold in the same tantalizing dance, you watch the matadors in the Plaza de Toros. In East County, you watch the Matadors in the Mount Miguel high school gym.

Ten highly synchronized boys comprise the Matador basketball team this season, ten boys who have been fighting to keep league in their sights.

Grossmont’s girls’ basketball team has some big shoes to fill.

In the four years since head coach Grace Campbell has taken over the program, the Lady Foothillers have climbed their way to the top of league standings, culminating in their league win over Steele Canyon last season, a first for the Hillers in nearly a decade.

Now, flush with a new bevy of seniors, the Hillers are struggling with a bit of an identity crisis.

A new current of talent and perspective is driving the East County water polo season this year.

Hoping to revitalize and reinvigorate programs and players, two new coaches have taken their places by the pools of Monte Vista and Santana high schools, whistles poised and ready.

Both schools have middle-of-the-pack teams and are looking for a little push to help them dive further up the standings of their conference, Grossmont Valley, and out into playoffs at the end of the year.

Monte Vista’s Lady Monarchs are ruling the soccer field this season. 

Finishing their last preseason game with a 2-1 win against Valley Center High School on January 6, 2017, the Monarchs (10-2-1) find themselves poised to lead league standings. This would be nothing exceptional if it were not for the five freshmen and handful of former junior varsity players who have taken the field by storm.

Head coach Josh Sandoval said the team is bursting with potential.

In early March, the El Cajon Gulls will board a flight with the Department of Defense, readied with new equipment and freshly fussed-over uniforms, and fly to Graz, Austria for the 2017 Special Olympic World Winter Games. They will carry with them the same hope of success and the same mantel of responsibility to represent the United States of America as Olympic teams before them, but their vision of glory, their idea of success is much more altruistic than a medal and drives deep into the heart of athletics.

Students may be on Christmas break, but high school gyms around San Diego are still immersed in the clamor of squeaking sneakers, referee whistles and the rhythmic thump-thump-swish of a heavy basketball.

December is filled with a sequence of tournaments for ambitious basketball programs to keep their skills sharp and their attention focused despite the distractions of the holiday.