By SportStars Magazine
SportStoriesMay 11, 2023
'22-'23 NorCal Girls Team Of The Year — Oakland Tech Basketball
In late June, SportStars Magazine set out to honor a NorCal Team Of The Year for both boys and girls. Over two weeks, the field was narrowed from eight teams to two — and the one constant was the dominant performance of the Oakland Tech Girls Basketball team. Which wasn't unlike its 2022-23 season, we might add.
The Bulldogs' win earned them their own SportStories episode to look back and share their favorite memories and stories from a 30-win, state-championship season. SportStars' editor Chace Bryson is joined by coaches LeRoy Hurt and Jasmine Braggs, as well as three players, for the walk down memory lane.
Episode 2.07: CA Track & Field Series — Meb Keflezighi
For our final installment to the CA Track & Field series that we've used to open Season 2, we host our fourth consecutive Olympian and our first distance runner. This week we glean stories from the great Meb Keflezighi.
Host Chace Bryson and Youth Runner Magazine publisher Dan Kesterson talk with Keflezighi about his early childhood in the small war-torn nation of Eritrea, his immigration to the U.S. where he first discovered running in junior high, and his incredible career that included CIF State titles, NCAA championships, four Olympic Games and multiple major marathon wins.
Keflezighi's career could fill 10 hours of episodes, but we crammed as many SportStories in as we could. Enjoy!
Episode 2.06: CA Track & Field Series — Reynaldo Brown
Our California Track & Field-themed series continues this week as we’re joined by another former Olympian. One with quite the unique experience.
Imagine setting the high school national record in your event and then making the US Olympic team - then competing in the Olympics - and THEN returning to high school. That’s what Compton-native Reynaldo Brown did in 1968.
Reynaldo Brown was a basketball standout and high jumper for Compton High. He won three state championships in the high jump, and was also part of a state championship basketball team. He became the first high school athlete to high jump 7 feet and attended the 1968 Mexico City Olympics as a 17-year-old. He went on to help Cal Poly win an NCAA Division II National Title and briefly held the American Indoor High Jump record at 7-foot-4-inches in 1971. He shares stories about all those experiences in this episode.
Episode 2.05: CA Track & Field Series — Eddie Hart
Eddie Hart was the standing world record holder in the 100 meters heading into the 1972 Munich Olympic Games — the "World's Fastest Man." But a small scheduling oversight led him to completely miss his Olympic quarterfinal race, costing him what would be his one chance at individual Olympic gold.
Hart, a 1965 Pittsburg High graduate and standout at Cal, sat down with host Chace Bryson and longtime track and field coach/historian Lee Webb to continue the SportStories CA Track & Field series.
Hart shares stories about growing up in the East Bay and the high school track scene in the mid-60s, his time at Cal, setting the world record at the Olympic trials — and following that with most devastating moment of his career. Hart talks about what it took to overcome that, how it revealed and ultimately defined the person he is, and how he still came home with a relay gold medal.
Episode 2.04: CA Track & Field Series — Kenny Harrison
The fourth installment of our track & field series to open Season 2 is the first of back-to-back episodes featuring Olympic Gold Medalists. Today's guest is Kenny Harrison — the Olympic record holder in the triple jump which he set at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games. Unlike our other guests in this series, Harrison is not a native of California, but it IS where he put his name on the map. He leapt 52 feet, 4 inches as a senior in high school when he came out from his home state of Wisconsin to compete at the Golden State Invitational in Sacramento.
Host Chace Bryson is once again joined by Youth Runner Magazine founder and publisher, Dan Kesterson, as well as retired longtime James Logan High track and field coach Lee Webb.
Harrison’s stories cover growing up in Wisconsin, his breakthrough trip to California, his incredibly decorated career at Kansas State University, missing his chance at the 1992 games due to knee surgery, and then finally making the team in 1996. And, oh by the way, his finals were held the same day the bomb went off in Olympic Park. Join us as we jump, er, triple jump into some SportStories.
Episode 2.03: CA Track & Field Series — Keinan Briggs
One week after speaking with pole vault coach and mentor, Gary Muhammad, this week the SportStories Track & Field Series spotlights another coach, SoCal-based Keinan Briggs.
Briggs was a hurdler and jumper for Valencia High and eventually competed for Cal State Los Angeles. He’s made his biggest impact as a coach, however. He was the jumps coach at Mater Dei High from 2010-2019 while also building his own track club called LEAP Squad. The club has its own virtual component that allows Briggs to train and work out athletes from anywhere.
Host Chace Bryson is joined by Youth Runner Magazine founder and publisher Dan Kesterson to chat with Briggs about his early career, how he found and shaped his coaching philosophies, and about some of the LEAP athletes from throughout the state who might make some noise at the CIF state meet.
Episode 2.02: CA Track & Field Series — Gary Muhammad
In our second installment of this series highlighting great moments and names from California high school track & field, SportStories visits with former James Logan High-Union City pole vault coach Gary Muhammad.
Host Chace Bryson is joined by Youth Runner publisher Dan Kesterson and renown former James Logan track coach Lee Webb for a conversation with Muhammad that encompassed his time as an athlete, how he found his way to coaching a field event he was never a serious competitor at, his perspective on coaching one’s own kids, and some stories about those kids: Jathiyah and Khaliq Muhammad. Jathiyah won the CIF state title in girls pole vault as a sophomore last season, and Khaliq was the North Coast Section champion as a freshman. Both competed for Dublin High.
Episode 2.01: Great Moments In CA Track & Field, Pt. 1 — Michael Granville
After a two-year hiatus, SportStars Magazine is finally bringing back its original podcast — SportStories. The oral history-style show carries a slightly different format in Season 2, but keeps its core goal — to have athletes and coaches tell their stories.
As it's spring, and the CIF State Track & Field Championships are about six weeks away, we are collaborating with Youth Runner Magazine to begin this new season of SportStories with a six-part series highlighting some of the state's best track and field moments. And we start it off with an all-timer: Michael Granville, who remains the national high school record-holder in the 800 meters 27 years after setting the mark at 1 minute, 46.45 seconds.
Granville is a two-time state champion in the 800 meters, winning the two-lap race in both 1994 and 1996 for Bell Gardenss High School from the Greater East Los Angeles region. In the 1996 event prelims he completed the race in 1 minute, 46.45 seconds. That mark remains the national high school record 27 years later. Granville attended UCLA before moving north where he's been the high school coach at Palo Alto and Gunn High schools, before stepping aside to focus on being a dad and running his fitness business: G-Fit.
He joined a roundtable discussion with Youth Runner publisher Dan Kesterson, former James Logan High-Union City coach and noted track historian/enthusiast Lee Webb, and SportStars Magazine editor Chace Bryson serving as moderator. They recount his early rise in the 800, his unique training methods with his dad, his state championship races (good and bad), and of course, the day he broke the record.
Episode 11: Olympians Pt. 2—Goal Oriented
Abby Dahlkemper and Maggie Steffens both graduated high school in the same year, as part of the Class of 2011. And for the past decade, they've been among the very best players in their sport. Both are competing in the Tokyo Olympics this summer. One has gone with a focus on stopping goals, while the other will be trying to score as many as possible.
Dahlkemper is a starting defender on the US Women’s National Soccer Team. And while she’s already a World Cup champion, this is Dahlkemper's first Olympics. Steffens — who graduated from Monte Vista High in Danville the same year Dahlkemper graduated from Sacred Heart Prep in Atherton — is now at her third Summer Games as a member of the U.S. Women’s Water Polo Team.
In the second of our two Olympian-themed episode, we revisited the rise of the two 2011 graduates through memories and tales of high school coaches who still remain in contact with their former players to this day.
Join us as we highlight two of the Bay Area’s most successful female athletes of the past decade. This is SportStories.
Jake Moffat — Sacred Heart Prep-Atherton Girls Soccer Coach (2005-2011)
Scott Getty — Monte Vista-Danville Girls Water Polo Coach (2007-2010)
Episode 10: Olympians Pt. 1 — Diamond Desperados
Of all the U.S. National Teams competing in the Tokyo Summer Olympics, perhaps none feel more urgency than the Women’s Softball team.
After losing the gold medal game to Japan in the 2008 Games, its sport was removed from the next two Olympiads in London and Rio. When the first game in Tokyo takes place on July 21, it will mark 4,717 days between Olympic softball games. Softball is back — but not to stay. The sport will not be part of the Paris games in 2024. It will likely be included as part of the Los Angeles games in 2028, but how many of these players can afford to wait seven more years?
Most won’t, especially the few veterans in their 30s who have stuck it out to make it to these games. This is their shot at gold.
And of all the U.S. National Teams competing in Tokyo, none provide a bigger rooting interest for Northern California fans. One third of the team’s 15-player roster features graduates from Northern California high schools. That includes two members of the team’s veteran core we mentioned earlier: Monica Abbott, a 2003 grad of North Salinas High, and Valerie Arioto a 2007 grad of Foothill High in Pleasanton.
There’s also 2011 Pleasant Grove High grad Ally Carda of Elk Grove, 2013 Casa Roble High grad Ali Aguilar of Orangevale and 2016 Merced High grad Bubba Nickles.
We caught up with former coaches of both Arioto and Nickles and asked them to share memories and stories of the two softball stars. Which player would hold her own personal practice for more than an hour after the team’s ended? Which one snapped at her coach after being pinch run for?
Time to find out.
Matt Sweeney, Foothill-Pleasanton Softball Coach (2006-Present)
Scott Kabrich, Foothill-Pleasanton Softball Coach (1990-2005)
Bart McAfee, Merced Softball Coach (2003-2016)
Episode 09: Coaching Through The Chaos
If you watch sports enough, you hear it all the time: The best coaches are the ones who can make adjustments. Halftime adjustments. Mid-season adjustments. Roster adjustments following injuries.
Being a coach requires constant adaptation. And perhaps no academic year required more of it than the one that just ended on June 19. When California’s governor and state health officials finally relaxed guidelines enough for outdoor sports in late February, it triggered a domino effect that eventually led to every high school sport having some sort of abbreviated season squeezed into a 16-week window.
Many coaches who had resigned themselves to losing a whole year, suddenly faced an accelerated timeline that would include limited practice time, a variety of testing protocols and anxiety, and a long list of other unknowns outside of their control. The pandemic year’s impact on young athletes has been well documented, but coaches were deeply affected as well.
For this episode, we asked four coaches to share their experiences of being a coach during an unprecedented time, including one that shares a scenario that would’ve been tough to navigate during a normal year.
Join us as we highlight the men and women who willingly jumped in the foxhole to make sure kids could be kids again.
Tom Costello, Head Boys Basketball Coach, Dublin High
David Perry, Head Football Coach, Bishop O'Dowd High (Oakland)
Nick Wisely, Head Softball and Golf Coach, Antioch High
Kevin Macy, Head Football Coach, Campolindo High (Moraga)
Episode 08: Thundering Heights (Elk Grove's Baseball Dynasty)
Dynasties are not particularly rare in high school sports.
Even though rosters are always changing as classes graduate and others come in, if there’s a consistent and well-supported coaching staff that can teach the game and effectively motivate payers, it just takes a couple winning seasons for a culture of success to take root.
However, there are dynasties, and then there’s what the Elk Grove High School baseball program produced from 2002-2017.
In a 16-year span, the Thundering Herd appeared in 10 Sac-Joaquin Section Division I finals. They won 8 of them. And eight players from that era became Major League Baseball players. The 2013 team alone had five future Big Leaguers on its roster.
What coach Jeff Carlson accomplished at Elk Grove seems unlikely to be matched in Northern California anytime soon — certainly not by a public school.
What did it take to fuel such an incredible run of success? What was it like playing for a program with such a mind-bending pool of talent? What was it like viewing it from the other dugout?
Grab some peanuts or sunflower seeds, kick back and listen for memories and anecdotes of a true baseball juggernaut.
JEFF CARLSON: Head Coach, Elk Grove Baseball 2000-2018
TANNER CARLSON: Elk Grove Baseball 2015-2018, Long Beach State Baseball 2019-present
DAN ARIOLA: Head Coach, Davis Baseball 1996-2019
MARK KREIDLER: Former National MLB Writer, Sacramento Bee + Radio Host; Father Of Detroit Tigers Minor Leaguer, Ryan Kreidler
JOE DAVIDSON: Sacramento Bee High School Sports Reporter, 1989-present
Episode 07: Don Lippi, NorCal's Mr. 900
If there was a Mt. Rushmore of Bay Area high school basketball coaches, there would be little debate over Don Lippi being front and center.
Lippi is Northern California’s winningest basketball coach of all time, according to the Cal-Hi Sports state record book. And on Saturday, May 15, the St. Joseph Notre Dame boys coach earned his 900th career victory when his small Alameda school — the same one where Basketball Hall of Famer Jason Kidd’s career began — defeated crosstown foe Encinal.
The 73-year-old Lippi became only the state’s fourth member of the 900-win club. His 42-year career has featured multiple stops at St. Joseph as well as St. Patrick-St. Vincent of Vallejo, Skyline of Oakland and St. Ignatius in San Francisco. He’s won four state titles, all with St. Joseph, with the most recent coming in 2017. That win was No. 800.
For this episode, we gathered a handful of coaches and former players of Lippi (one guest filled both roles!) to share stories of a legendary coach with a one-of-a-kind personality.
• Mark DeLuca — Valley Christian-San Jose boys varsity basketball coach
• Bill Mellis — Salesian-Richmond boys varsity basketball coach
•.Temidayo Yussuf — 4-year varsity player at St. Joseph (2011-14), member of Antibes Sharks of French B League
Episode 06: Everybody Loves Najee
Najee Harris, Alabama’s star running back for the past two years, will hear his name read from the podium of the NFL Draft on April 29th or 30th. Celebration and excitement from sports fans throughout the Bay Area is sure to follow (and likely already has if you’re listening after the 30th). That’s because Harris, in addition to being one of the most prolific high school running backs in NorCal history during his four years at Antioch, was also one of the most genuine and selfless.
Teammates loved him. Opponents and rivals admired him. Nobody could stop him.
Despite a childhood filled with hardships that included several moves and homeless shelters, Harris and his family found firm footing in Antioch. And he made the most of it.
He was named CalHiSports.com’s Mr. State Football as a junior. He was the No. 1 recruit in the country his senior year as some of the most famous collegiate coaches in the nation made Antioch a frequent stop. Harris chose Alabama and spent his first two years in backup duty before becoming the feature back as a junior. As a senior, he led the Crimson Tide to a national championship as the nation’s leading scorer. He had three touchdowns in the title game.
For this episode, we spoke to Najee’s offensive coordinator at Antioch, a former Panthers teammate, a current San Jose State linebacker who lined up against him for three years in high school, his personal trainer of nine years, and CalHiSports.com editor and state prep sports historian, Mark Tennis.
What will it mean when the name Najee Harris is announced at the NFL draft? These guys have some thoughts. Their stories and memories might just make you a fan too.
Episode 05: Haley Jones Is Everywhere
As the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship unfolded across two hours of Easter Sunday afternoon, one constant became clear: When the Stanford Cardinal needed a momentum shift, Haley Jones was the catalyst. The all-around sophomore came up with several clutch baskets, none more important than the and-1 play she converted in the paint with 2:24 left after Arizona had cut a once nine-point lead down to one. Those three points, the bucket and the free throw, would prove to be the winning points after Stanford barely hung on for a 54-53 win and its first title in 29 years.
Jones, who finished the game with 17 points and 8 rebonds, was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. And the Bay Area girls basketball community beamed with pride. This performance, as well as her 24-point night in the semifinal win over South Carolina, looked all too familiar to those of us who watched her polish her game at Archbishop Mitty High in San Jose.
For this episode, we talked to a pair of her former coaches, a former club teammate who also faced her multiple times during the course of their high school careers, and longtime Bay Area reporter Mitch Stephens. Together they painted a tale of a passionate and smart player — who also enjoys a Capri Sun, a good 90s R&B jam and the occasional ill-conceived dip in a hotel fountain.
Gather around for stories and memories on the Bay Area’s newest national women’s hoops star.
Episode 04: Remembering Mark Halvorson
Anyone who has had a life-changing coach in their lives can relate to the character of Mickey from the "Rocky" films. There was no mistaking Mickey became a father figure to Sylvester Stallone’s struggling-but-driven title character. Mickey taught him to box by explaining technique and strategy — but also through a lot of tough love. Love for boxing, and love for Rocky and who he wanted to become.
When Mickey finally cracks a smile, you see it.
Now imagine if Mickey taught wrestling, and not just to one pupil but several thousands of youth over the course of three decades. Imagine if he was accessible not just to the talented kids who would fill the trophy case, but to kids who just wanted a sport they could push themselves in and a place to find camaraderie.
Mark Halvorson was just that. As the wrestling program director at the Community Youth Center in Concord, California, he opened the door of wrestling to countless youth from all backgrounds, and became a father figure to so many of them. He did it while also building a program that DID fill the trophy case and became internationally known. At the same time, he also built De La Salle High’s wrestling program into a regional power that won 11 of the last 12 North Coast Section titles.
In mid-February, he passed away as a result of a heart attack at age 57. For this episode, we brought in some of his most famous wrestlers — to celebrate a legacy that will undoubtedly endure.
Episode 03: Football Springs To Life
If you’ve been someone paying attention to California high school sports — or lack thereof — over the last several months, then you know this week of March 8th is kind of a big deal. A year-plus high school football drought finally ends on March 12th and 13th when several programs will return to the field to open a brief spring season. Their seasons will range from 5-6 games. There won’t be full grandstands with packed student sections, and that will be just one of several very noticeable differences brought about by the threat of the coronavirus.
But football IS happening. And for the players, coaches, parents, and even us media members, few weeks carry the same type of excitement and anticipation as high school football’s opening week. So after the strangest of offseasons, we sought out stories of memorable season openers. Guests include former Del Oro-Loomis and Capital Christian-Sacramento coach Casey Taylor (now at Inderkum-Sacramento), former Concord High coach Brian Hamilton (now at Texas State Univ.), and current Sacramento Bee prep sports writer, Cameron Salerno.
Episode 02: Finishing The Business Trip
Scott Lunger was the "good cop" on the Freedom High School varsity softball coaching staff. Players loved the good-natured humor that the infield coach often used to teach and motivate them. But Lunger was also a cop in real life, a 15-year sergeant for the Hayward Police Department. And on July 22, 2016, he was shot and killed during a traffic stop at 3:15 in the morning. A little more than one week later, the Freedom school year began. Six months later, as many as a dozen girls showed up to softball tryouts still very much in mourning. Three months after that, they'd be placing a game ball from their North Coast Section Division I championship victory next to Lunger's headstone.
To mark the fifth anniversary of that inspiring season, we gathered two players and two coaches from that team to share memories. Head coach Brook Russo, assistant coach Scott Adams, pitcher Vanessa Strong and catcher Faith Derby each detailed what went into a season that was dedicated to a fallen friend and hero — and became known as the "Business Trip."
Episode 1: The Passion of Patrick Walsh
For the debut episode, we solicited stories about Serra High football coach Patrick Walsh — a leader in the efforts to restart all youth and high school sports throughout California. Through 18 seasons in San Mateo, Patrick Walsh has been a highly decorated and successful coach for the Padres program (eight league titles, five section titles and a CIF Bowl title in 2017). And while there are many individuals involved in the statewide effort to get all high school sports back in action, few have been more present in spreading the message than Walsh.
Since this is SportStories — where the stories are the star — we set out to look for anecdotes about Patrick Walsh. We wanted to find tales that highlighted the origins of the fire that's driven him to his success, and the desire to spearhead his current quest for student-athletes across the state. So we dug into his past as a star two-sport athlete at De La Salle-Concord. We think these guys nailed it.
• BOB LADOUCEUR, De La Salle head football coach (’79-’12)
• TERRY EIDSON, De La Salle assistant football coach (’81-present)
• NICK JONES, Monte Vista-Danville boys basketball coach (’13-present) who grew up around the Walsh Family as a Little League teammate and boyhood friend of Walsh’s younger brother, Nicholas.
Visit this episode's page at SportStarsMag.com for images of Walsh + video of some of the moments mentioned in the stories.
"So this is how it happened..."
If you're a fan of something. Anything. Music, movies, art, sports or whatever. Few things can pique your interest more than getting a glimpse behind the scenes, or learning the inside story to something you're passionate about. For 10 years, SportStars Magazine has been passionate about high school sports in Northern California. For its first podcast, the high school sports media company is turning the storytelling over to its sources in hopes of giving fans that behind-the-scenes feel. Each episode will focus on a coach, athlete, team or classic game and then find those with the best anecdotes to bring that subject to life. Join us for SportStories.