On May 12, Miramonte Principal Julie Parks and Athletic Director James Lathrop hosted a “Virtual Sports Fair,” focused on what hopefully will be a normal athletic calendar next school year. At the same time, they and others praised this year’s student participants, families and coaches, particularly Miramonte’s graduating seniors.
The presentation provided general information concerning athletic values, clearances and offerings and served to introduce new high school parents to Miramonte offerings, such as summer camps.
Ironically, it took place while all Miramonte teams were engaged in games, matches or meets or had just finished shortened seasons sanctioned by the State of California, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF, which governs prep sports) and local jurisdictions.
The “pause” in sports necessitated by COVID-19 proved a hot-button issue transcending the world of high school athletics.
With some student-athletes transferring out-of-state to play, and parents demanding sons and daughters be allowed to participate despite health warnings, constraints on play in California added to the debate about online and hybrid learning. Meanwhile, other states played even as pandemic cases swelled.
A movement, “Let Them Play CA,” spearheaded by football coaches Justin Alumbaugh, Patrick Walsh and Ron Gladnick of De La Salle, Serra and Torrey Pines High Schools respectively, and accompanied by parental lawsuits, found sympathizers. The uproar resulted in Governor Newsom updating the state’s stance on youth and high school sports.
Football, baseball, lacrosse, soccer and softball were allowed to resume play Feb. 26, but with restrictions. Other outdoor sports with less contact had earlier been given a green light based on county COVID -19 case rates and the state’s tier-system.
By Miramonte’s mid-May online meeting, virtually all the school’s varsity teams had played or were playing a truncated season within the same four-month window. All contests and practices for all sports were compressed into one spring season. Typically, there are three seasons in which six to seven sports compete at a time.
Cross Country, Boys and Girls Golf, Boys Tennis and Swimming and Diving could participate starting Feb. 1; Girls Lacrosse, Softball and Boys Soccer resumed play in the first part of March; Track & Field, Girls Tennis and Water Polo geared back up the latter part of March; and Baseball, Girls Soccer, Boys Lacrosse, Volleyball, Cheer and Basketball after that.
Because of overlapping schedules and the fact that student athletes could practice and condition for one sport prior to competition with restrictions, the compressed schedule made it virtually impossible for athletes to play more than one sport. CIF Executive Director Ron Nocetti also noted there would be no Northern California regionals this year.
While it is hoped the 2021-22 school year will return to a normal seasonal sports schedule, Athletic Director James Lathrop put his focus on this year’s participants, especially seniors “who didn’t know until the end they’d be playing.”
Miramonte Principal Julie Parks said, “In a year of so much interruption and loss, our athletic coaches were instrumental in keeping our students connected. For many students, the camps we ran during much of the summer and fall were the only opportunity to interact outside of the home and be at Miramonte. When our athletic programs were finally able to begin, the excitement from our students and coaches was visible. I am truly grateful to our coaches and Athletic Director, James Lathrop, for their commitment to our students during this time.”
Coach Jack Schram said, “I was really glad our seniors had an opportunity to play football this year, even if only for half a season. We had 15 seniors and the majority won’t play organized football after this year, though a number will play rugby or other sports collegiality. I was so happy they got to wear their helmets for a last time. We missed a lot this year – our Tahoe football camp, scrimmages, passing leagues, summer conditioning. Still, we got five games in.”
Another bump in the road occurred in the first game against Berkeley. The Mats had already lost the presumptive quarterback, who transferred out of state to play football during the fall. The next up starter, Russel Diep, suffered a high ankle sprain in the very first quarter, an injury that persisted through the five-game season. Senior Aidan Browne, a running back, stepped in to win that game and take the helm for the rest of the year.
“League opponents must have been surprised to see our very good running back pressed into service out-of-position,” said Coach Schram. “But typical of this year, he stepped up for the team.”
Coach Schram too stepped up during this COVID-19 year and spring semester. Also Miramonte’s boys golf coach, Schram basically had two sports to oversee at the same time. Golf started a little earlier than football due to less-restrictive pandemic controls for the non-contact sport.
Schram remarked that his golfers often had to practice at the same time at three different sites – Orinda Country Club, Moraga Country Club and Tilden Park with matches at Boundary Oaks or other locales. Schram praised his assistants in both sports who carried on in his place more than once.
Coach Jackie Pelletier and her girls’ lacrosse players completed their abbreviated season with a Diablo Athletic League title. The Mats finished 9-1 in league play and 11-2 overall. They outscored opponents 226-94 during the season.
MaxPreps ranked the Mats 18th in California and 6th among Northern California high schools. They were led by senior Emerson Bohlig, who earned a lacrosse scholarship to Northwestern. Bohlig registered 86 goals and 26 assists in 13 games.
Fellow senior Mina Jenab anchored the defense with a 46% goalie save percentage. Fellow seniors Lindsey Bliss and Sally Peterson also played their last games for Miramonte, while six juniors and nine sophomores will return next year.
Coach Pelletier, who has coached the Mats for six years, saw teams win D-2 North Coast section championships in 2015 and 2018.
Basketball, an indoors sport, started later than others. Play was in doubt until the mid-March go-ahead.
Coach Vince Wirthman’s first year as Miramonte’s girls’ basketball mentor would have been challenging enough, even without COVID-19 considerations. After coaching Miramonte’s JVs for three years, Wirthman replaced Kelly Sopak, who moved on to Carondelet after an incredible 12-year run with the Mats.
With the uncertainty of whether high school basketball would be played at all, senior star Mia Mastrov graduated early to enroll at UC Berkeley in January, where she played seven or eight games. Another senior looking forward to a great year, Nikki Lynch, blew her knee out playing rugby just as basketball practices resumed inside.
Other seniors on the team included point guard Julia Miller, who played all four years at Miramonte, Daniella Resch and P.K. Hall, who is committed to play at Grinnell.
The other senior starter, Jordan Allred – recipient of an Idaho hoops scholarship – emerged as the team’s star. Wirthman lauded Allred’s attitude and talent, noting she scored 27 points in an early season thumping of Campolindo in which she remarkably hit nine, 3-pointers.
“And the seniors persisted and showed much heart when they could have quit, even practicing outside in the cold of winter when not allowed inside. After losing their coach and star player, they stuck together and were a joy to coach,” Wirthman said.
Midway through their schedule and after a thrilling 66-64 win over Heritage High of Brentwood, the Mats found themselves ranked in the top 10 of the Bay Area News Group’s girls’ high school basketball rankings, just ahead of Carondelet.
“We’d usually play 25 to 30 games,” Wirthman said, “but this season we’ll get in about 16 or 17. We’re also back in league [after playing as an independent the last couple years], so we’ll have a league title to motivate us. But the main thing is being able to play at all, especially for the seniors.”
Senior Water Polo captain Adam Ting (slated to play at UC Davis) echoed that sentiment. He said, “We were super grateful to have a season and took advantage of it by being the best team we could be.” His season ran from March 29 to May 22.
Fellow senior captains Will Hollerbach and Will Coons (scholarship in hand to UCSB) helped Ting lead an impactful group of seniors: Rigby Blair, Chris Bruen (headed to Colby for swimming), Charlie Cohen (who will play at Chapman), Jared Fineman, Griff Hallahan, Parker Hett, Ryan McAninch, Johnny Shepherd (set for Santa Clara), Spencer Tarkoff and Cooper Tunney along with eight other varsity participants and 20 more players on the JVs.
“We are very grateful to have had the opportunity to play a high school season this year. This season has been fun and rewarding because the boys did such a great job blending hard work, competitiveness and a joy for playing together,” said Coach Lathrop. “We have a really big senior class, and I could see how much they appreciated the chances they had to play together, challenge each other and support one another. Our depth allowed us to get contributions in the game on offense and defense from a variety of players throughout the season, and we have also had many players display great leadership and sacrifice for the team as well. Since pretty much every game was a rivalry game against a local team, it was rewarding seeing the competitive spirit of the team really come out, but the aspect of this team that stands out the most was the appreciation for the season and for their teammates.”
Early season highlights included a 12-6 defeat of rival Campolindo and a 12-11 nail-biter against San Ramon Valley. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the team was not able to practice with a ball for much of the off season, a fact that pointed to the resiliency of all Miramonte athletes this year.
Miramonte Senior Commitments to Play Collegiality
In mid-May, Athletic Director James Lathrop said the following Miramonte seniors, in addition to those noted in the main story from the football, water polo, basketball and lacrosse teams highlighted, had secured collegiate athletic scholarships. Other seniors had opportunities still pending or had been encouraged to walk on to college teams:
Audrey Allen (UCLA – Cross Country); Bella Deanhart (Swathmore – Soccer); Macey Dowd (Vassar – Tennis); Ryan Edminister (Cal State Maritime – Wrestling); Alex Eversole UCLA – Crew); Olivia Eukel (Oberlin – Swimming); Madeline Giron (Louisville – Crew); Greg Hemming (Cal – Rugby); Lindsey Hemming (Pepperdine – Swimming); Amber Lee (Arizona State – Tennis); Sophie Lurie (Middlebury – Swimming); Nikki Lynch (Brown – Rugby); Mackenzie Murphy (UCSB – Water Polo); Simon Neuwirth-Stein (Willamette – Soccer); Kate Rochios (Indiana – Water Polo); Ava Schmitt (Claremont McKenna – Soccer); Caleb Waechter (UCSD – Crew); and Fiona Young (Michigan – Water Polo).