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Fryer: Releaguing could bring big changes to Orange County high school sports

Laguna Beach might be headed to the Pacific Coast League, and the Pacific Coast League might want Sage Hill to move somewhere else. The Empire League might be kaput, and the Coast View Athletic Association would like to become a 10- or 12-school group.

And there might be an Orange County super-conference made up exclusively of county high school football teams.

It’s releaguing time again for Orange County’s high school sports programs. Every two years county athletic directors and principals create new league memberships. County high schools are at the end of the current two-year league cycle and are planning what leagues will look like for the next two-year cycle that begins with the 2023-24 school year.

Athletic directors meet April 24 and principals meet May 15. Mater Dei president Michael Brennan chairs the sessions with assistance from Mater Dei executive director of athletics Joel Hartmann. They held those positions during the previous releaguing process when they were Servite guys. John Dahlem, longtime county principal and coach who has held high positions in the CIF Southern Section, is the parliamentarian.

The first issue to accept is that football is the tail that wags the releaguing dog. Coaches of other sports, some administrators and a few biology teachers might not like that football reigns. Football sets the tone for school spirit for the rest of the school year and at many schools football is a fine source of income.

From what is being discussed …

Some leagues will stay the same. The Trinity League isn’t changing and neither is the Freeway League.

Laguna Beach could seek to exit from the Sunset Conference to become part of the Pacific Coast League, which is mostly made up of Irvine schools.

Five of the Orange League’s six schools might want to evict the sixth school, Western. Western’s average margin of victory in league football games last season was 52 points and was 50 points the season before.

Crean Lutheran and Sage Hill are private schools in leagues that otherwise are made up of public schools. Crean is in the Empire League and Sage Hill is in the Pacific Coast League. Kennedy, Tustin and Valencia are looking for something different than the current Empire League.

The Coast View Athletic Association is a 10-school group of which only eight play football. There is the four-team Sea View League or four-team South Coast League, and that means only three league games for Sea View and South Coast football teams.

“It’s hard to find seven nonleague football games,” said Troy Roelen, athletic director at Mission Viejo, which still has an opening for a nonleague football game next season. “It might come down to breaking up the CVAA, and there’s talk that Capo might form its own league.”

“Capo” is the Capistrano Unified School District that includes Aliso Niguel, Capistrano Valley, Dana Hills, San Clemente, San Juan Hills and Tesoro high schools.

Cypress athletic director Jeff Russell said the football conference plan would involve “a giant conference broken down into little conferences.”

That model exists in a smaller form now. The Golden West League is a six-school group with the exception of football for which it becomes an eight-school group with the addition of Laguna Beach and Marina. Laguna Beach and Marina are in the Sunset Conference for non-football sports.

Russell said that could work for situations like the one for Western and the Orange League.

“When you look at Western, they’re clearly better than the rest of the league in football,” Russell said. “But if they’re out of the league for football then the league’s OK.”

Some schools and entire leagues are balking at the football conference idea. Whatever happens, changes could be big. They definitely will be interesting.

NOTES

It’s early in the track and field season, but there’s a good battle underway for top boys sprinter in the Trinity League. Mater Dei junior Nate Frazier ran the 100 in 10.76 seconds on March 4 at Trabuco Hills in the Mustang Roundup. Servite senior Alex Skalmowski was right there with him at 10.77. …

Mater Dei senior Logan Lyght’s time of 14.28 seconds in the 110 hurdles is the best time in California this season. Lyght last year won the CIF Southern Section Division 2 championship in the event with a personal-record of 13.94. The second-fastest 110 hurdles time in the state this season belongs to Santa Margarita senior Roman Mendoza at 14:37. He will be one to watch in the 300 hurdles, too. …

JSerra senior Brandon See, last year’s CIF State champion in the discus with a mark of 203 feet, 10 inches, has the state’s best throw in the discus this season at 190-6. See hit that distance at the Irvine Invitational this past Saturday. …

Mater Dei’s Brandon Gorski grabbed some attention in track and field last season as a freshman when he cleared 6 feet, 8 inches at the CIF-SS Masters Meet. He went a state-leading 6-6 at the Mustang Roundup this month. Gorski’s long jump of 22 feet, 10.5 inches is the state’s third best this season. …

JSerra junior Georgia Jeanneret has the state’s best time in the girls 800 at 2:11.91. Dana Hills senior Allura Markow, who had a terrific cross country season this past fall, ran a personal-best of 4 minutes, 48.5 seconds in the 1,600 at the Sound Running JSerra Invitational this month to establish the best time in the state this season. …

Mission Viejo senior Jada Gatlin, who would be a great decathlete if that was offered in CIF track, has a bunch of impressive performances already, including a triple jump of 38 feet, 5 inches. That is fourth-best in the state, and she is just getting warmed up.

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