High Schools: Sage breaks ground for new turf, track

J.R Tolver on Monday scanned the Sage Hill School field used by the football, soccer and lacrosse programs.

"This is what happens every year," said Tolver, the football coach and boys' athletic director at the school, who pointed toward many missing patches of grass and unlevel parts on the field.

"Basically at this time of the year, depending on the rain and the weather, the field is torn up by now. So we have to resod and close the field down for months at a time and it just doesn't allow us to maximize usage of it."

That will change come August, when Ramer Field will not have any grass, just a new artificial turf.

Tolver said he envisioned a turf field when he took over at Sage Hill three years ago. He and Megan Cid, the girls' athletic director, talked about it and the impact the playing surface might have on Sage Hill's athletic programs.

Thanks to a generous donation of more than $1 million from Gary and Lisa Jabara and their family to renovate Ramer Field, Tolver said Sage Hill and the community would reap the benefits.

The Jabara family joined school officials with shovels on Monday for the groundbreaking ceremony to the start of Ramer Field's makeover, which also includes a new running track.

Gary dug out a chunk of the field in which his daughter, Madison, played on with the girls' soccer team this junior season. She and many student-athletes at Sage Hill will be playing on a new field by Mondo Worldwide next season that reproduces the characteristics of natural turf.

"I think that it does go back to the fact that there's not enough athletic facilities, especially in Newport Beach," Gary said of the reason why his family donated to Sage Hill. "Irvine has so many nice facilities and some of the other schools are blessed with public funds … and they're able to do so much more. Sage, albeit it is a private school, a lot people don't understand that it costs an enormousness amount of money to manage a school and run a school, and hire teachers. We just thought [donating] was the right thing to do. There will be more kids running track, because they don't run track here. Kids have to go to … Corona del Mar to run track or [UC Irvine].

"I think it's more of a community kind of facility, than just a Sage facility. That was really important … for [Sage Hill Head of School] Gordon [McNeill] and the rest of Gordon's team that this was something that would transform the school into more of a community place."

Tolver said Sage Hill plans to open the doors to the field to many groups in the community, including the Slammers Futbol Club and the Newport-Mesa Seahawks.

Tolver said the completion of the field and track is on track for Aug. 3, two days before his football team begins two-a-days. Next fall, Tolver will be in his fourth season as Sage Hill's coach.

Tolver expects the new field will attract more students to the program. He is hoping the facility can narrow the playing field with the top program in the Academy League, St. Margaret's.

"The elephant in the room is that [our rival] St. Margaret's has had this turf for a long time and there's a ton of kids from this area that decide to drive right past our school and attend school there," Tolver said. "For us as a competitive advantage, we're hoping that some of the [students] take a closer look at Sage Hill, especially when it comes to, not only educationally, we know that's one of the areas that we're No. 1 in, but athletically. We hope that people start to take us seriously as an athletic option."

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The baseball regular season ends this week.

For Newport Harbor and Costa Mesa, the season will be over.

That won't be the case for Estancia, which finished in second place in the Orange Coast League and learns Monday during the release of the CIF Southern Section playoff pairings of its first-round opponent in Division 4.

Corona del Mar and Sage Hill are looking to join the Eagles in the postseason.

The Sea Kings remained in third place in the Pacific Coast League after picking up an impressive 9-5 win at home against University on Tuesday. University went into the day tied for first place with Beckman in league.

The Sea Kings (8-6 in league) close out league play at University (9-5) on Thursday at 3:15 p.m. and a lot will be at stake. With a win, CdM can move into a two-way tie for second place with the Trojans and lock up a first-round home game in the Division 3 playoffs.

Sage Hill remains in fourth place in the Academy League at 8-6, one game back of Crean Lutheran. The Lightning want to get into the Division 6 playoffs.

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The Corona del Mar boys' and girls' lacrosse programs are each playing for U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section South Division titles on Wednesday at Dana Hills High.

The top-seeded CdM boys (22-0) face third-seeded San Clemente at 7:30 p.m. The Sea Kings, who are making their third trip to the big game in the last four years, have never won the title.

The seventh-seeded CdM girls (17-3) are making their debut in the finale. The Sea Kings play top-seeded Los Alamitos at 5 p.m.

david.carrillo@latimes.com

Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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