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Newport Rib Co., Costa Mesa United team up to honor student-athletes

Estancia High varsity athletes pull forward at a spring sports drive-through banquet at Newport Rib Company  on Tuesday.
Estancia High School varsity athletes pull forward at a spring sports drive-through banquet at Newport Rib Company in Costa Mesa on Tuesday. The event was hosted by the Newport Rib Company and Costa Mesa United.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Andrea Barasch drove a minivan full of hungry teenage girls on Tuesday afternoon.

Barasch’s daughter Angelina sat with her mother in the front seat, while Alondra Galvez and Annette Gonzalez sat in the back seat. Each of the three girls were members of the Estancia High junior varsity softball team this spring.

That season, like those of all spring sports, was cut short due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. But each of the girls at least got a free meal out of the deal.

They were part of a drive-through lunch giveaway, put on by Costa Mesa United and Newport Rib Co. at the restaurant on Harbor Boulevard on Tuesday. Newport Rib Co. owner John Ursini said about 350 meals were given away, featuring pulled pork or beef brisket sandwiches, macaroni and cheese and barbecue beans. The meals were free to any spring sports athletes from Estancia or Costa Mesa high schools.

“[Angelina] has been cooped [up in] the house,” Andrea Barasch said. “[We’ve been] going for walks, drives, lots of ice cream. It’s been hard, so it’s nice for them to see familiar faces. They can’t be physically at a banquet, so it’s nice that they’re doing this. It makes them feel special and appreciated.”

Newport Rib Company employees and Costa Mesa United volunteers restock and organize box meals to hand out Tuesday.
Newport Rib Company employees and Costa Mesa United volunteers restock and organize box meals to hand out as Estancia High School spring athletes pull up to a drive-through banquet at Newport Rib Company in Costa Mesa on Tuesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Balloons in the colors of each school decorated the Newport Rib Co. driveway, and a DJ spun tunes. Estancia also brought cheerleaders to celebrate. The event was designed in lieu of the All-Sports Cup, which has been awarded to the overall winner of the Battle for the Bell rivalry every year since 2009-10.

It will not be awarded this year.

“There were so many sports that didn’t get played,” Ursini said. “I talked to Costa Mesa United and said, ‘What do you want to do this year?’ It’s hard to give away a cup when you didn’t play all the sports, but I thought there’s got to be something to do that will make a positive impact. That’s when we kind of came up with the idea, why don’t we just celebrate the spring sports that never got a banquet?

“Maybe this isn’t exactly what we normally do, but we’ll make something positive out of this thing. We want to show the kids that there’s a lot of people out here that support them and feel bad for them a little bit.”

Costa Mesa athletes came through the parking lot from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., followed by Estancia athletes until 2 p.m. Estancia High senior Jake Covey, who has committed to New Mexico State for baseball, pulled through in his pickup truck to grab a meal.

“It’s really nice for all of this to be set up,” he said. “It’s better than nothing. We still get to have our meal and get appreciated like we normally would.”

Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley, whose sons Sammy and Ben Swanson went to Costa Mesa High, waved green and white pompoms for the Mustangs who came through. Of course, she put them away when it was the Eagles’ turn.

“I represent the whole city,” she said with a smile, adding that her husband Casey is an Estancia High graduate and the pompoms were given to her by the Costa Mesa cheer coach.

“This is great. I think our families needed a little bit of a boost, something positive for their days. It’s been a struggle, and missing out on your team banquet and your sports season is just really hard. As a sports mom myself, I know that the kids look so forward to all of these spring activities. This is just something nice to give them a little bit of a positive vibe as they embark on the summer, and some of them moving on to the next phase of life. We have a good community.”

It was part of a busy day for Costa Mesa senior student-athletes, as the Mustangs held their virtual graduation ceremony online Tuesday at 6 p.m. Estancia’s graduation, also online, is scheduled for Wednesday at 3 p.m.

“I think it was important for [the student-athletes] to realize that they were still valued,” Costa Mesa Athletic Director Sharon Uhl said. “We still thought it was important for them to celebrate the success that they did have. We had a lot of seniors, and this is going to be it for them. It was important for them to have closure, that they were able to finish off in style, and what other way to have style than to have lunch at Newport Rib? It was really nice.”

Mayor Katrina Foley, right, and Sharon Uhl, left, greet Costa Mesa High athletes along with Frank Albers, center.
Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley, right, and Sharon Uhl, left, greet Costa Mesa High athletes as Frank Albers, with Costa Mesa United, brings out a box meal during a drive-through banquet at Newport Rib Company in Costa Mesa on Tuesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

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