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Host Bob Gibson interviews coaches and players throughout the various Catholic high schools in Orange County. His Twitter handle is: @catholicsv

Today’s guest is:

  • Kendall Saeger (track and field team @ Santa Margarita Catholic High School) – she and Bob talk about “Soles for Souls..”




Originally broadcast on 3/14/20


Host Bob Gibson interviews coaches and players throughout the various Catholic high schools in Orange County. His Twitter handle is: @catholicsv

Today’s guests include:

  • Sean Zeitler (track and field coach, Santa Margarita Catholic High School)
  • Eric Sondheimer (longtime prep sportswriter for the L.A. Times)




Originally broadcast on 5/18/19


Host Bob Gibson interviews coaches and players throughout the various Catholic high schools in Orange County.

Today’s guests include:

  • Martin Dugard (track and field coach at J Serra High School );
  • Kori Johnson (Head coach of cheer and stunt squad at Costa Mesa High School)
  • Anthony Grover (track and field student-athlete at J Serra high school)


Originally broadcast on 3/23/19


The third-oldest track and field record at Mater Dei is safe for another year, and if Vince Brown’s middle son couldn’t surpass the mark, it might just last another 40 years. 

Tommy Brown, the 6-foot-7, 315-pound former offensive lineman for Mater Dei who’s headed to Alabama on a football scholarship, has been vowing to break dad’s school record since his freshman year with the Monarchs. 

“He talks smack, so I want to take him out,” Tommy Brown told after the Trinity League finals on May 5. “He reminds me constantly that he doesn’t care what I do in football. He has the shot put record, and it’s a lot of smack.” 

Vince, of course, is the master of motivation. 

He was the senior class president at Mater Dei during the 1977-78 school year, breaking the school record in the shot put that spring by heaving the 12-pound metal ball 61 feet, 3 and 3/4 inches. Vince went on to finish second in state in the event, beating out a field that included Don Mosebar, who went on to play 13 years in the NFL with the Raiders. 

Brown continued to compete at UC Irvine and Long Beach City College before accepting an athletic scholarship to Alabama. There, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Education. 

Brown returned to Mater Dei and coached football, baseball and track from 1982-85. He was then hired to take over the baseball program at Tustin High, where he helped developed future major leaguer Shawn Green.  

After two years as head coach at Woodbridge High School in Irvine, Brown settled at Foothill High School in North Tustin in 1995. After a very successful nine-year run as the head baseball coach, Brown stepped down to become the school’s athletic director, which allowed him to spend more time with his young family. 

The head coaching position at Foothill opened back up following the 2013 season, and Brown was hired for his second tenure. He led the Knights to the CIF-SS Division I finals in 2014 and has continued to maintain Foothill’s program at an elite level. 

On May 22, the Knights knocked off El Toro, the defending Division I champions, to reach the quarterfinals of the highest division. 

All the while, Vince has been bolting from practices and games to watch Tommy compete in football and track, oldest son Dillon come out of the bullpen as a top relief pitcher for the Cal State Fullerton baseball team, and youngest son Zachary try to follow in their massive footsteps. 

Vince’s presence at their sporting events is motivation alone, but he might do his best work at the dinner table. 

That’s where his school record was discussed the most. 

Tommy came closest to breaking the record during in a Trinity League dual meet against JSerra on March 28, posting a winning mark of 59-8 ½. 

He hoped to get a final shot at breaking the record at the CIF-SS finals on May 19, but fouled on all five of his throws at the preliminaries a week earlier, ending his high school career. 

Brown has plenty of goals moving forward, however. 

He graduated from Mater Dei on May 26 and immediately left for Alabama, where he’ll join an elite program that has won two of the past three national championships, as well as five of the past nine.  



The Santa Margarita track and field program has had plenty to boast about in its history, most recently three straight CIF-SS championships won by the girls. 

But the Eagles have never claimed as much speed as they own this season, and seniors Blake Hennesay and Nikki Merritt are the main burners. 

Hennesay posted the third-fastest time in Orange County history in the 300-meter hurdles–and the fastest in 17 years–when he finished second in his preliminary heat at the state finals last June in 36.95 seconds. 

That time would have been good for sixth place in the finals the next day, but Hennesay didn’t get the opportunity because he was disqualified for a false start. Still, he was the only non-senior to qualify for the finals, meaning he has a good shot at winning it all this season. 

Merritt didn’t qualify for state in an individual event last season, but helped the 400-meter relay team finish third in 46.71, and the 1,600 relay place fifth in 3:49.08.  

Earlier in the season, Merritt had teamed with Mallory Barnes, Lauren Drysch and Tessa Green to set the school record in the one-lap relay (46.28), and did the same with Barnes, Drysch and Erin Gerardo the four-lap relay (3:47.82).  

Barnes and Green are also back this season, giving the Eagles an excellent chance of going even lower this season. 

Merritt came close to qualifying for state in the 100 hurdles last season, finishing seventh at the CIF-SS Masters Meet in a personal-best 14.31 seconds. It’s an experience she hopes will come in handy this season. 

“That was just a really cool experience in general,” Merritt told the OC Register. “I was really happy with my time. I got to race against some of the best hurdlers in the country.” 

Merritt has shown improvement already this season, breaking her own school record in the 100 meters with a wind-legal time of 12.07 seconds in a dual meet against Trabuco Hills on Feb. 28. She also set a new lifetime best in the 200 of 24.89. 

Hennesay is also more than just a hurdler. 

He qualified for the state finals in the 100 meters as well, finishing ninth in 10.85, which was somewhat disappointing considering he ran 10.57 in the preliminaries the day before. He owns the school record in the event at 10.54, and also teamed with Derek Brajevich, Richie Caragao and Kyle Hastings to set the school record in the 400 relay (41.97), and with Brajevich, Hastings and Tru Fulton to set a new mark in the 800 relay (1:30.21). 

Brajevich, Caragao, Hastings and Fulton are each back this season. 

Hennesay signed with TCU in November and his versatility has coach Darryl Anderson excited. 

”Blake is unique in that he does the 300 hurdles and 100,” Anderson said. “He’s made it to the California state final in both events and will be a guy who can do a lot of different things for us.” 

Santa Margarita’s first Trinity League dual meet is March 15 against visiting Mater Dei. The Orange County Championships are scheduled for April 14 at Mission Viejo High School, and the postseason begins with the league prelims on April 26 at Santa Margarita with the state meet scheduled for June 1-2 at Buchanan High School in Clovis.  


After spending 10 years as a competitive gymnast, Erin Gerardo decided to use her high school years as a time to try something different. She found her place in track and field as a pole vaulter and hurdler.

“I’d heard from friends that gymnastics translates easily into pole vault,” says Gerardo. “Similarly with hurdles, it’s very similar to gymnastics, and the speed and body awareness that you need for both hurdles and pole vault translates really well from my previous sport.”



The Santa Margarita Catholic High School senior competes in not only the pole vault, the 100-meter hurdles and the 300-meter hurdles for the Eagles, but also on the 4 x 400 meter relay team. Gerardo enjoys the unique challenge that each event brings.

“With both of the events, they’re both really technical, and I think there [are] always places where you can improve,” says Gerardo. “And that’s one of the things I love most about it. It’s always a challenge, and there’s always something that you can work towards.”

As a new athlete to track and field, the learning curve for Gerardo posed some challenges, but the four-year varsity team member has adapted and excelled.

“Whenever you start out a new sport or event in track and field, it’s always hard to pick it up quickly, and so that can be discouraging at first,” says Gerardo. “I think I’ve tried to work really hard in improving my craft. So I think that’s helped me to stay motivated.”

And much of Gerardo’s motivation stems from her teammates. Experiencing back-to-back CIF Championships in both 2015 and 2016 alongside this group has served as great inspiration for the 17-year old.

“I’m really going to miss the environment that we have on our track team,” says Gerardo. “We’re all a really tight group. We work really well together. They are some of my best friends, and they also motivate me to keep going.”

And Gerardo in turn inspires her teammates as well.

“Erin is one of the most talented all-around athletes that you will find in California,” says Sean Zeitler, track coach at Santa Margarita. “She is a natural leader, and her work ethic is infectious. She always brings an upbeat and positive attitude to practice, and it has been an honor to coach her.”

Away from the track, Gerardo has enjoyed serving the last four summers at Special Camp for Special Kids, a week-long summer camp for special needs youth that has provided her the chance to gain empathy and extend herself into the community.

The Aliso Viejo resident is headed to the East Coast next fall to Yale University, where she will continue her track and field career as she runs, “for God, in his name.”

“It definitely does play a big role in my athletic career,” says Gerardo of her faith. “I know that God is always watching over us as we run.”



The Santa Margarita girls’ track and field team added several school records to the books on its way to capturing the CIF-SS Division 3 title last spring.

Hopefully, they were written in erasable ink.

That’s because the Eagles figure to replace many of those marks again this season, while adding a few new ones.

The Santa Margarita girls set school records last spring in the 400-meter and 1,600-meter relays, the 200 meters and the triple jump, and all those who contributed to the school records are back this season.

The first mark that figures to be fall is the first event in the standard track and field format, the 400 relay.

Mallory Barnes, Lauren Drysch, Nikki Merritt and Tessa Green set a school record and became just the third quartet in Orange County history to run the one-lap relay in under 47 seconds, finishing second in 46.99 at the Division 3 finals last season.

All four relay members are back this season.

With that in mind, there’s no reason the Eagles can’t take a shot at the Orange County record of 46.57, set by Kennedy High School in 2005.

Merritt and Drysch were also on the 1,600 relay that set a school record of 3:49.88 at the state prelims last June in Clovis. They were joined on the four-lap relay by Sam Walsh and Erin Gerardo, who also return this season.

Breaking the county record in that event might be a stretch for the Eagles, but they’re certainly within reach of the all-time best Trinity League time of 3:48.98, set by by Mater Dei in 2013.

Most of those relay members will likely earn key points in individual events as well, giving the Eagles a solid chance at defending their team section title and possibly making a run at a state championship.

Drysch won Division 3 in the 400 last spring and her time of 56.80 was just out of reach of the school record of 56.47 set by Emily Kalmbach in 2002. Drysch also placed fourth in the 200 at the same meet.

Merritt was second in the 300 hurdles and third in 100 hurdles at the section finals, and Gerardo was fifth in the 300 hurdles and second in the pole vault.

Kate Thomas won the pole vault in Division 3 and two weeks later finished fifth in state. Green was seventh in the 100 at the section finals, Liana Edger was fifth in the high jump, and Elizabeth Weeks was fifth in triple jump, a week after setting a school record of 38-6 1/4 in the prelims.

All are back for more this season.

Mater Dei figures to give Santa Margarita the biggest challenge during Trinity League action.

The Monarchs finished ninth in Division 2 last season, but graduation took a toll on the Monarchs this season.

One of their key returners is two-sport star Kelli Godin, who finished seventh in the 100 meters at the section finals last season, eighth in the 200 and ran a leg on the 400 relay team that finished second in Division 2 in 47.83.

Godin and Haley Hopkins are the only returners from the one-lap relay.

The Monarchs also have one of the top pole vaulters in the state in McKenna Caskey, who finished second in both Division 2 and state.



After spending most of her younger years training as a gymnast, Lauren Drysch felt she had just the tools she needed to transition into a sprinter.

“I got into it because of my background in gymnastics,” says Drysch of running. “I had the background and training that was necessary to become a sprinter.”


As a four-year varsity member of Santa Margarita Catholic High School’s sprinting team, Drysch has seamlessly made the transition from the gym to the track, finding similarities in the individual and team aspects of both sports.

“I’ve been able to excel as an individual, but I also have the support of my team, and I compete for team titles in addition to individual titles,” says Drysch.

Drysch’s specialties include the 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter races, as well as corresponding relay events. When it comes to having a preferred race, Drysch remains committed to being a student of the sport, analyzing the aspect of each one individually.

“For each [race], it takes a different level of strategy,” says Drysch. “They have different tactics and different dynamics to the race, but I’ve found each one to be as exhilarating as the last.”

The 18 year old serves as a captain for the Eagles, and takes pride in how she supports her female teammates. Having earned a 2016 CIF Championship in the 400 meters, as well as helping to lead Santa Margarita to back-to-back CIF Division 3 titles in 2015 and 2016, Drysch is as driven as ever for her senior season.

“Lauren is an incredible athlete and a tremendous leader,” says Santa Margarita girls sprint coach, Sean Zeitler. “What is refreshing about Lauren is that she’s all about what’s best for the team and is willing to make all the sacrifices she needs to in order to make herself the best athlete she can be. She’s been integral in the team chemistry process, and we look for big things from her this upcoming season.”

Off the track, Drysch is a member of National Charity League and National Honor Society, as well as a Student Ambassador on campus, where she gives prospective families insight into her experience as an Eagle.

“It allows me to express my love for Santa Margarita and share all the qualities and opportunities that the school has,” says Drysch of her role as a Student Ambassador.

The Laguna Hills resident has her sights set on running for a Division I collegiate program and studying a field in either science or math. Wherever the road takes her, Drysch lets her faith lead the way.

“I know that in every race I have, God is there to watch over me, help me get through the race, relieve my stress and push me to be the best that I can be,” says Drysch. “I know that I’m always running in his name.”



When it came to choosing a high school sport, Kyle Sandoval admits he was undecided on his direction. But having a father as a high school track and hurdle coach helped him come to a decision.

“I didn’t really know which sport I was going to start in…but he’s the track coach, so why not run track?” says Sandoval on his father’s influence. “It just worked out really well.”


As a hurdle specialist for Servite High School’s track and field team, Sandoval takes his training regimen to the hills, where he develops the resistance he needs for the races. But he also puts in double duty with his practice schedule as a way to improve his technique.

“I think my biggest challenge would have to be my technique over the hurdle,” says Sandoval. “When I’m done practicing at Servite, I’ll go over to Colony (High School in Ontario) where [my dad] works, and I’ll work with him as well.”

In addition to running the 110-meter and 300-meter hurdle events, Sandoval is also a member of the Friars 4 x 400 meter relay. It’s the coming together as a team that Sandoval enjoys the most.

“Every time I step out on the track, I feel like I’m a part of something that’s a lot bigger than just myself,” says Sandoval of running for Servite. “It’s just the community, the brotherhood, the people, I feel like we’re all one instead of individuals.”

Servite’s hurdles coach, Dennis Flanagan, has high expectations for the 17-year-old senior, and feels Sandoval has the tools he needs to get there.

“Kyle combines his natural talent with a work ethic that takes full advantage of all that God has given him,” says Flanagan. “He is a gracious young man on and off the track and an overall gem to the entire program.”

Future plans for the Eastvale resident include running for a NCAA Division I college while studying medicine and business. The unique nature of being a runner has brought several life lessons to the forefront for Sandoval as he heads into his final year as a Friar.

“Being a runner has taught me to be very patient,” says Sandoval. “Things don’t always work out the first time. Winners don’t think negative; they think positive. It’s taught me how to be positive in everything that I do and just to continue to move forward.”

Inspired by his parents, coaches and the support of his teammates, Sandoval credits his faith for the opportunity to run for Servite.

“If I didn’t have my faith, I would never be in this position that I am today,” says Sandoval. “It’s taught me a lot about sacrificing certain things to be great in the end. And to really take a step back and appreciate things in my life that most people do not have.”


It has been almost 17 years since millennium parties and Y2K computer fears, and since then there has been no other Trinity League girls swimming and diving champion other than Santa Margarita Catholic High School.

In 2016, the Eagles also won their third straight CIF-Southern Section Division I title, while in track and field, the Eagles’ girls secured their second straight CIF Division III championship and coach Chuck Morales’ highly celebrated girls soccer team captured the CIF Division I crown.

Based on accumulative team point totals and results, the CIF-Southern Section annually anoints a member school the winner of the prestigious Commissioner’s Cup.

And, for the eighth overall time in the history of the school, and fifth for the girls, the Eagles have landed as No. 1.

Santa Margarita and Loyola, an all-male school, are tied with eight in the all-time Commissioner’s Cup lead. On the girls’ side, Corona del Mar also has five Commissioner’s Cups.

Thanks to CIF championships in aforementioned sports, as well as a third-place finish in golf, the Eagles claimed the 25th Annual Commissioner’s Cup.

In soccer, Santa Margarita’s Natalie Kennedy was named CIF Division I Player of the Year, while Morales was Coach of the Year. Kennedy, Machaela George and Chloe Boile were first-team All-CIF selections in Santa Margarita’s banner campaign, which also included a Southern California Regional Division I title and finishing the season ranked No. 1 in the United States by USA Today and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.

“This team just set the bar way higher than other teams I’ve coached here at Santa Margarita Catholic in my 23 years,” said Morales, who added that it was business as usual in the summer and preseason with no special indication that the season would lead to a No. 1 national ranking.

“We were fortunate to do well in league and then move into CIF competition,” Morales said. “That is where we caught fire. It was like lightning in a bottle. Our leaders, Natalie Kennedy and Machaela George, pulled the team together for the campaign and the rest is history. I believe this team peaked together not only emotionally, but also competitively at the right time. I have no other explanation for it.”

The Eagles’ swim team edged Woodbridge, 309-271.5, for the top spot in CIF Division I, led by sophomore Samantha Shelton with victories in the 200-yard freestyle (1:45.06) and 100 butterfly (53.72), her first sub-54 second clocking. Freshman teammate Mackenzie Degn was second in the 50 free (22.95) and third in the 100 free (49.91), while contributing to the Eagles’ winning free relay teams.

Santa Margarita sealed its team title with wins in the relays. Degn (23.86), Marriott Hoffmann (23.99), Jeni Griffin (24.70), and Shelton (23.21) went 1:35.76 in the 200 free relay, while Shelton (50.49), Emily Boggess (52.51), Isabela Patino (52.77) and Degn (49.89) cleaned up in the 400 relay, combining for 3:25.66 to win by more than three seconds over Woodbridge (3:28.75).

Brothers Ron and Rich Blanc have been co-head coaches since 1996 and enjoyed tremendous success with the 17 straight league titles.

“But the run we’ve been on the past three years has been fantastic and humbling (with three straight CIF Division 1 team championships),” Ron Blanc said. “This season, no one was expecting our girls team to defend their CIF title. We had graduated a multi-event, Olympic Trials qualifier and national high school record holder in the 100 butterfly in Katie McLaughlin (now swimming for Cal), so the expectations were low. We knew, however, that our team was going to be very talented. Young, but talented. We actually scored more points at CIF this year (309) than in any of our other CIF championship teams. That point total was attributed to the tremendous depth of the team as we had a total of 33 individual and relay swims at the CIF championships.” (In addition to three straight CIF titles, Santa Margarita also won CIF in 2000.)

Among the top athletes for Santa Margarita in track and field: Lauren Drysch in the 200 and 400 meters, Nikki Merritt in the hurdles, Liana Edgar in the high jump, Elizabeth Weeks in the triple jump, Erin Gerardo and Kate Thomas in pole vault and outstanding sprint performances in the 400 and 1,600 relays.

In the last event of the CIF Division III finals, the Eagles needed to score and avoid being shut out in the 1,600 relay in order to clinch the team title. The quartet of Samantha Walsh, Gerardo, Merritt and Drysch locked up the team title and exceeded expectations with a second-place finish in a school-record 3:50.79, cutting nearly four seconds off their previous best.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this collective group of girls,” Eagles sprint coach Sean Zeitler said. “One of the hardest things to do in sports isn’t to win a championship, but to defend your title and that is exactly what they did.”