Prep Review / Steve Lowery : Trabuco Hills Athletic Complex Might Be Ready by Fall of 1990

If all goes well, several Trabuco Hills High School athletic teams will soon be able to call Trabuco Hills High home.

A month ago, the Saddleback Valley Unified School District approved plans for a new athletic complex to be built at the school. According to Gary Sabella, Trabuco Hills’ athletic director, the plans have gone to the State Board of Education, a step necessary to obtain state matching funds for the project.

The complex will be composed of a football stadium, an all-weather track, tennis courts, swimming pool and an auxiliary gymnasium. Sabella, who said the district might start taking bids from contractors as soon as this summer, hopes the project will be completed for the opening day of the 1990-91 school year.

Although Sabella said a decision has yet to be made between a 3,000- and 5,000-seat football stadium and whether to have six or eight tennis courts, the complex is great news to several Trabuco Hills teams that have lived rather nomadically in the school’s four-year existence.


The tennis team practices and plays its home matches at Vic Braden Tennis Center about eight miles away from the school. The swimming team travels to the Marguerite Recreation Center for practices two miles away and does not have any home meets.

Most notable is the football team, which won the Southern Section Division VIII championship last season, but only recently started practicing at the school. The Mustangs practiced this season in the large field where the complex is to be built.

If a practice field doesn’t sound like much, consider that Jim Barnett, Trabuco Hills football coach, used to take his team to nearby Del Lago Elementary School to work out.

“The place (at the elementary school) is built into a hill; it was on a slant,” Barnett said. “Which direction we pointed them depended on how fast or slow we wanted them to run.”


Trabuco Hills plays its home football games at Mission Viejo High, about five miles away, and is one of four teams to share the stadium. Mission Viejo plays there, as does El Toro and Laguna Hills.

So Barnett is joined in his enthusiasm by the stadium’s other tenants.

“I think this is great for everyone concerned,” said Ron Drake, Mission Viejo athletic director and assistant football coach.

Drake refers to the beating the Mission Viejo field has taken in the past few years. Trabuco Hills won the Division VIII championship against Woodbridge on a Mission Viejo field that resembled a dirt patch painted green.

The field takes such a beating each year that the Mission Viejo football team doesn’t even practice on it, choosing instead to use the outfield of its baseball field.

“It (football field) gets so much use that we don’t want to beat it up anymore,” Drake said.

And Drake sees advantage beyond lawn care.

“When you sit down and try to schedule four teams for one field, you end up playing some very good games on Thursday,” Drake said. “I don’t think the playing conditions are the only thing that’s going to improve. We’ll be able to schedule more games for Friday when we can get the bigger crowds.”


Though the stadium will be at Trabuco Hills, Sabella believes “we’ll more than likely end up sharing with El Toro.”

Another team that will benefit is the Trabuco Hills track and field squad, which works out on what Barnett calls “a dirt thing that goes around the football (practice) field.”

Space age it isn’t. Sabella said the team must make its own markings and measurements when running any distances. Because of that, the track and field team must always go to its opponents’ track when it competes.

The proposed track will be made of a synthetic surface, able to withstand all types of weather.

Add Trabuco Hills: Rainer Wulf turned the Trabuco Hills boys’ basketball program into a high-profile package this season, coaching the varsity to the Southern Section 3-A championship and a spot in the state final.

What does a guy do to celebrate? If you’re Wulf, you coach junior varsity softball.

“I got back Sunday from Oakland (site of the state basketball championships),” Wulf said. “Monday, I had to be out on the field for a softball game.”

Wulf, in his second season of coaching softball, said he has always coached a spring sport.


“It’s a good way to wind down and make some extra money,” he said.

When he was at University High, he coached athletes throwing the discus and shotput.

“I’d never picked up one of those things in my life,” Wulf said. “But I read up on it.”

Wulf doesn’t claim to be a great softball coach.

“My strategy is pretty much, ‘Hit the ball, run to first.’ ”

Canyon High wrestling Coach Gary Bowden and Sunny Hills water polo Coach Jim Sprague were honored as the state’s top coaches in their respective sports last week by the California Coaches Assn.

Bowden, in 16 years at Canyon, has guided his varsity team to nine consecutive Century League championships and three Southern Section 4-A titles--1984, ’87 and ’88.

In the 1980s, Canyon’s dual-meet record is 105-5.

“I have to admit, it even sounded impressive to me as they were reading this stuff out,” Bowden said.

Sprague has coached at Sunny Hills for 22 years and has led the Lancers to four Southern Section championships--1971, ’73, ’76 and ’86. He has also led them to 109 consecutive Freeway League victories over the past 19 years.

Freshman phenom: Keri Phebus, a freshman at Corona del Mar High, won the girls’ 16-and-under division singles title at the Easter Bowl tennis tournament in Miami Friday. Phebus defeated Stacey Moss of Pembroke Pines, Fla., 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Last December, Phebus became the first Orange County girl to win the Southern Section singles title when she defeated Nicole Hummel of San Marino. Phebus, The Times’ Orange County girls’ tennis player of the year in 1988, had a 53-2 record last fall for the Sea Kings.

She also led Corona del Mar to the Southern Section 4-A championship, defeating Miraleste in the final.

Add Easter Bowl: Jon Leach of Laguna Beach, who won the boys’ Southern Section tennis title last spring, advanced as far as the third round in boys’ 16-and-under singles.

Leach, a sophomore at Laguna Beach High, was defeated by Chris Woodruff of Knoxville, Tenn., 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.

Leach’s teammate at Laguna Beach, Graham Gilles, also advanced to the third round. Gilles was beaten by Peter Ayers of Charlotte, N.C., 6-1, 6-2.