St. Francis sports medicine adds to historic two-week run

It's still fair to say St. Francis High owns the National High School Sports Medicine Championships.

Not only did Eli Hallak, director of the Golden Knights sports medicine program, develop the online competition two years ago, but his students won its division in consecutive years.

It capped off what has to be the best two-week span in the history of St. Francis sports medicine program after it also received a Safe Sports School Award from the National Athletic Trainers' Assn. on May 20. The National High School Sports Medicine Championship results were released May 31.

"I've got to agree it is," chuckled Hallak, who developed the national online competition in association with the American Academic Competition Institute and John Meadows of the computer company Meadows and Associates. "A couple of my colleagues said, 'OK, we're done congratulating you.' … It's a testament to the program and a testament to our school, administration and our students that make this program happen."

St. Francis won the National High School Sports Medicine Championships Alert Services (Small Schools) Division for the second year in a row. The Golden Knights also placed in the fifth in the nation with 71.54 points. Culver City was tops in the nation with 78.26 points.

A total of 400 students from 28 high schools and seven states competed at the national level after qualifying out of a field of 2,000 students and 190 schools on a regional scale this year.

Schools advanced by placing in the top 10 in a state or regional division. The competition was put together in 2012 to allow schools to hone and test their sports medicine skills with having to pay to travel out of state.

"[Hallak] did a great job of preparing us for it," said St. Francis' Sean Bird, a student in Hallak's introduction to kinesiology and rehabilitation course that took part in the test and received top-25, All-American status after tying for 16th in the nation. "It's a great thing we were able to win it two years in a row.

"Coach Hallak has been really excited about it and I know both classes have been really excited, as well as the school as a whole."

In another example of repeat success in the competition, which was designed to test and celebrate high school students' sports medicine/athletic training knowledge, St. Francis' Brett Homer took second in the state.

Nine other Knights — Patrick McGoldrick (fifth), Alec Hagen (seventh), Jared Sharfstein (ninth), Scott Marshall (11th), Joseph Sarni (12th), Sean Garcia (tied for 14th), Bird (tied for 16th), Ryan Veiga (21st) and Kevin Baker (25th) — earned All-American status by placing in California's top 25.

"It was awesome knowing I was top 25 and it was really surprising how much Eli does teach us," said Baker, citing how interesting and enjoyable the class is. "It doesn't feel like you're leaning much during the class, but when you see how much you know it makes you feel awesome that you're able to do these things."

Hallak was proud of all the success his program had this past year and was able to bask in it when he announced the All-American students in class.

"It's very gratifying as an educator to know your students are working so hard and they can prove their knowledge and they excel in what you teach them," said Hallak, who was moved by the look of pride on his students' faces. "It's everything you want to see in a student, they seemed inspired at the moment. You make a student realize they're truly intelligent and they get something."

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