July 11th, 2010
Five Catholic Programs Named Nation's Best
Mater Dei leads list of country's top athletic programs
Catholic high schools had a banner year within the athletic realm, and the accolades rolling in for a number of the nation's top programs make that an undisputable fact.
In a recent list, Max Preps named their top ten prep athletic programs of the year. Of those ten, five were Catholic, including overall No. 1 Mater Dei High School in
What makes this designation even more significant, however, is the fact that the “top athletic program” moniker does not simply reflect a single team shining brighter than another or an individual student-athlete rising above the rest. It signifies a collective effort from all sports across the spectrum, including the players, coaches, managers, fans, families, school administration, and beyond.
CatholicSportsNet (CSN) has highlighted the aforementioned Catholic programs below, and extends a tip of the cap to all of the schools mentioned and to everyone who had a hand in helping their school earn this outstanding acclaim.
Leading the list of top athletic programs is Mater Dei High School. The Monarchs are led by Athletic Director Phillip Bellomo, who is in his 26th year with the storied school and program.
Behind 46 college commits and a boatload of talent across the board, Mater Dei’s achievements are even more impressive due to the depth of tradition from schools not just from the remainder of the huge state, but right within their region as well.
This past year was highlighted by a slew of postseason success, including a pair of state championships by the girls basketball team and the boys baseball team (CSN’s No. 8-nationally ranked Catholic squad). The girls basketball team was ranked No. 1 nationally in a handful of polls, and captured the Division-II state championship behind the play of standout Kaleena Lewis.
The baseball team received a big lift from eventual California Mr. Baseball Cory Hahn, finished their season 20-10, and won the state title after an impressive run through the sectional, regional, and state playoffs.
Other teams contributing to the overall Monarch success were the water polo team (won the Trinity League and Southern Section Division-II championship) the softball team (finished the season ranked No. 23 in the country by ESPN Rise), and the boys and girls soccer teams (also ranked nationally by ESPN Rise in end-of-season polls).
Mater Dei, who touts notable sports alumni Colt Brennan (University of Hawaii star QB and NFL player), Matt Leinart (University of Southern California and Arizona Cardinals QB), and Miles Simon (University of Arizona star college basketball player and NBA player), also featured state polevault champion Scott Cook and USA Junior National Softball Team selectee Amber Freeman.
Next on the list is
This quote from the Crusaders’ Athletic Department mission statement clearly sets the bar high for student-athletes: “The student-athlete is called to be conscious of the call to be a leader in service and to acknowledge his/her active commitment toward fostering a just society.”
And the student-athletes have contributed much to the Jesuit tradition and the Crusaders’ legacy. They earned state championships this past year in boys basketball and girls track & field, adding to their total of state championships in the past decade in the following sports: boys and girls cross country, golf, soccer, swimming and tennis, girls ski, girls volleyball, boys basketball, and football.
Led by Athletic Director Mike Hughes, this co-educational school educates about 1,200 students and sits consistently at, or among the top of the rankings in the classroom and in athletics. Every year’s success sets the bar a little higher for those who follow the Ignatian path.
Ranked fourth overall by Max Preps, but third on this list,
The simple stats for the Mitty Monarchs in 2009-2010 speak volumes: two #1 rankings in girls volleyball and boys baseball (including the end-of-season overall No. 1 in the CSN Power Rankings); nine WCAL championship teams; and five Central Coast Sectional Championship teams.
All that success doesn’t come overnight.
“We strive to provide the best Catholic College Prepartory school imaginable,” said Mitty Athletic Director Will Scharrenberg. “We have great coaches, great families, great student-athletes. And we play the best competition we can.”
The coaching, the athletes, the facilities…Mitty has it all. The girls volleyball team has been at the top of the national rankings for years, and the past two seasons they’ve earned the national No. 1 ranking from several respected polls, which was supported by the team’s 39-0 record in one season.
“We never know what a student-athlete is going to be when they enter Archbishop Mitty,” said Scharrenberg. “We want to give them top-notch coaching, great competition and an atmosphere conducive to bringing out the best in each of our student-athletes on the field, in the classroom and in life.”
While this type of success is highly unusual, at Mitty it seems like an annual rite. Scharrenberg talked about the recipe for success at Mitty.
Said Scharrenberg, “We have so many coaches who have been here for 15, 20, 25 and more years. We have the full support of faculty and staff. Our students are highly involved in Campus Ministry. We have an award winning Performing Arts Department and more than 1,700 A.P. tests were taken by our students this past year. It’s all geared toward helping each of our students get as much out of their Mitty experience as we can.”
Quite a bit of the bonding and strength for these teams comes from a commitment to their faith and Catholic values. The volleyball team has overnight functions, the football team and baseball teams go to Mass before every game.
“The coaches and athletes carry themselves according to our mission,” said Scharrenberg. “We want those student-athletes to show what good sportsmanship is, what teamwork is, what leadership is so that they continue to espouse those values the rest of their lives.”
Known traditionally as a perennial baseball powerhouse, Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, NV has seen a rise in its complementary sports over the past few seasons, and witnessed a breakout year in 2009-10 that catapulted the Gaels to national elite status overall.
As mentioned, the baseball team defines the word “dynasty,” as it has won state championships in every season since 2006. Led by 2009 National High School Baseball Coaches Association Coach of the Year Chris Sheff, the baseball team has laid the groundwork for this outstanding athletic program in
Besides baseball (which was ranked as the No. 3 Catholic team in the country by CSN), Gorman boasts a football squad that went 15-0 last season and captured the state championship by outscoring its opponents 787-135. The boys and girls basketball teams also found statewide success, winning state titles behind respective seasons of 30-2 and 27-5.
Led by Director of Athletics Sally Nieman, Gorman lays claim to famous alumni David Humm (two-time Super Bowl champion with the Raiders), Dana White (UFC Commissioner), and C.J. Watson (current member of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors).
Rounding out this impressive list is Detroit Catholic Central High School in
Following the motto of the Basilian Fathers, “Teach me goodness, discipline and knowledge,” the Shamrocks have enjoyed great success on the playing fields, courts, rinks and even alleys (as in bowling alleys). The all-male, college preparatory high school has hundreds of trophies dating back to the 1930’s to prove their long-standing excellence.
Led by Athletic Director Aaron Babicz, the Shamrocks took home an array of titles in 2009, including state championships in football, ice hockey (their 7th in the past 10 years), track & field, wrestling, golf and even bowling.
The excellence across the board at Catholic Central adheres to a common theme: educating the whole student-athlete, and providing the best in coaching, facilities and competition. By doing so, all of the Catholic Central student-athletes have the opportunity to succeed in competition and in life.
Story by Paul Najjar & Chris Jung