--They can not, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered typical spectator sports.
As a matter of fact, very few Southern California high schools give out varsity letters in field hockey, team handball, canoeing or kayaking.
It is only at the national and international levels that these very low-profile activities manage to gain a measure of recognition.
The U. S. Olympic Festival, which began last Saturday and concludes Sunday, is an event which provides such an opportunity.
And the 38 Ventura County athletes participating in the three sports are taking full advantage of it.
In the men's field hockey competition, exactly half of the 50 participants split among the four regional teams list Ventura County cities as their hometown.
A first-round game between the West and the South last Sunday resembled a Conejo Valley all-star scrimmage. Of the 30 players taking part in the game, 24 were from the East end of Ventura County, former home of the sport's national federation.
Appropriately enough, the game ended in a 1-1 tie.
Mark Ruvalcaba of Thousand Oaks scored the South's only goal 7:55 into the game. The West's scoring came from Ventura's Benjamin Maruquin, whose goal came with four minutes left in the half.
The South missed a chance to go ahead on a penalty attempt when John O'Neill of Newbury Park kicked a shot over the top of the goal with seven minutes left in the game.
A Festival single-session record crowd of 1,084 watched goalkeeper Tom Vano of Simi Valley secure five saves for the West.
After two games, the South and West are both undefeated. On Monday, the South got four goals from County players in a 5-2 decision over the North. Meanwhile, Vano accounted for six more saves as the West tied again, 2-2, in a match against the East.
The medal games will be played Friday night at Cameron Stadium in Lawton, Okla.
In team handball, members of the Condors, a Ventura club, have accounted 39 of the 58 goals scored by the West as it won two of its first three games.
Denny Fercho of Camarillo scored five times in a 17-16 decision over the North on Saturday, then followed it up with four goals in a 27-21 loss to the East on Sunday. He had three more in a 20-17 win over the South on Monday.
Against the East, Kevin Withrow of Thousand Oaks led all scorers with seven goals. He added four more against the South.
Monday was Jeff Fruin's turn to lead the team in scoring. Fruin, of Camarillo, made a game-high six goals, including four in the last 12 minutes of the first half as the West fought back from an early deficit.
A family team brought the County its first gold medal of the Festival on Saturday.
Buena High graduates Fred and David Spaulding won the two-man canoe 1,000-meter race at Lake Overholser with a time of 3:55.87. Earlier in the day, Fred won a silver in the individual 1,000-meter race with a time of 4:17.74. David took the bronze in 4:21.83.
On Sunday, the Spauldings combined efforts again in the 500-meter doubles event, but this time had to settle for silver. Fred won another silver in the 500-meter singles race with a time of 2:01.98. David was fourth in 2:05.64 and Jim Harper of Ventura was sixth.
In all, there are 50 County athletes and coaches participating in the Festival. Among the other top local performers are figure skater Tisha Walker and men's basketball player Don MacLean.
Walker, a 5-1, 101-pound 15-year old from Thousand Oaks, was fifth in women's figure skating.
MacLean, a UCLA sophomore from Simi Valley, scored 31 points in three games for the West team.
EIGHT IS ENOUGH
Eight field hockey players from Ventura County competing in the U. S. Olympic Festival are selected to the U. S. team in the Junior World Cup. Page 14.