El Cajon, CA
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Articles by Mary York

Helix High School’s boys’ tennis team is redefining what it means to be a student athlete.

Although the Highlanders may be struggling to keep up with the heavy-hitters in league this year, they have more than their fair share of standouts, on and off the court.

Helix (6-3), defending league champion, has been stuck behind Steele Canyon (9-1) and Grossmont (8-1) for most of the season. But head coach Jesus Diaz said he has no complaints.

This was not just any state championship. Nor was it the typical underdog story. The incredible journey of El Cajon Valley (ECV) High School’s boys’ soccer team from no-names to state champs is also a story so quintessentially American, it begs to be told. It is the story of a team of immigrants and refugees, and the sport that helped them find a home in a new place.

Proving it is possible to come a long way in a short time, the El Capitan Vaqueros are making a run for their third boys volleyball league title in a row.

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.