El Cajon, CA
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Articles by Mary York

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.

Student athletes from around San Diego County gathered at the Hall of Champions on National Signing Day, Nov. 9, to commit to colleges and universities around the country and to whatever futures lie waiting for them beyond the horizon. 

East County was well represented with more than two dozen athletes from Valhalla, Grossmont, Helix, Steele Canyon, West Hills, Granite Hills, El Capitan, Santana and Foothills Christian high schools.

Light dissolved from the sky into an array of colored clouds as the field lights turned on to illuminate Valhalla’s soccer field and the shivering fans huddled in the bleachers on either side. Coaches paced the sidelines in coats watching the varsity match unfold, and Valhalla and El Cajon Valley JV teams ran back and forth along the length of the field to stay warm, waiting for their game. 

Soccer season has begun. 

The terrible truth of high school football is that only one team gets to win the very last game. After a long, hopeful season, Helix Charter High School has finally joined the throngs of teams to hang up their jerseys for the year, just shy of glory.

Runner up for the CIF San Diego Section Open Division Championship, second seeded Helix (10-3) lost their title match against first seed Cathedral Catholic High School (13-0) on Dec. 3.

Not all wins are pretty, but the Helix Highlanders will take whatever they can get. And on Nov. 18, they got their first playoff win of the season from the Valhalla Norsemen.

The home game, which came after a bye week, was also their second consecutive game against the Norsemen, who they beat 40-13 on November 4. Their playoff win was 14-0.

Valhalla’s head coach Charles Bussey said he the team really stepped up, despite the eventual loss.

Steele Canyon’s Cougars left their paw prints all over West Hills High School on Saturday, November 12, 2016, sweeping the Grossmont Conference Finals in all four boys and girls JV and varsity categories. 

Both Steele’s varsity boys and girls ran in wins 56-points over their nearest competitor, Grossmont, and the JV boys pulled out a nail-biter, taking first from Valhalla by one point. 

Three generations of water polo were represented at Grossmont’s pool on Thursday, November 3. On one side, Valhalla’s head coach Kent Houston stood with eagle-eyes, checking each play of his mostly-underclassmen team during the intense final game against the undefeated Foothillers. On the other side, Grossmont’s head coach Clint McLaughlin, who happens to be one of Houston’s own former Norseman, urged his team on in an aggressive stand against their rivals, enveloped in a sea of blue and orange banners.