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Eric Sondheimer’s top 13 Southern California high school athletes

John Elway of Granada Hills looks to pass during the 1979 California Shine All-Star game.
John Elway of Granada Hills looks to pass while leading North to a 35–15 victory over the South in the 1979 California Shrine All–Star game at the Rose Bowl.
(Andy Hayt / Los Angeles Times)

This weekend Los Angeles Times preps columnist Eric Sondheimer will mark 45 years covering high school sports in Southern California, the last 24 with the Times. He has not seen every area high school athlete in every area high school sport during that period, but it’s almost certain that he’s seen more than of them than any other individual. Here is a list of Sondheimer’s top 13 greatest athletes that he’s covered:

1. John Elway, Granada Hills, 1979. Led the baseball team to 1979 City Section title at Dodger Stadium after becoming the No. 1 quarterback prospect and signing with Stanford. Went on to win two Super Bowls in Hall of Fame football career.

2. Giancarlo Stanton, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, 2007. All-CIF in football, basketball, baseball. Could do everything but shoot free throws. MLB all-star.

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Bret Saberhagen pitched a no-hitter for Cleveland High School beating Pacific Palisades.
Bret Saberhagen pitched a no-hitter for Cleveland High School during a 13-0 win over Palisades for the City Section championship at Dodger Stadium in 1982.
(Courtesy of Linda Saberhagen)

3. Bret Saberhagen, Reseda Cleveland, 1982. Pitched no-hitter in City title game at Dodger Stadium. Two-time Cy Young Award winner.

4. Jack McDowell, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, 1984. Led Knights to 27 straight wins before loss in Division 1 semifinals. Cy Young Award winner in 1993.

5. Russell White, Encino Crespi, 1989. Led Celts to Big Five football title in 1986 as a sophomore. NFL running back.

6. John Williams, Crenshaw, 1984. Two-time City basketball player of the year. NBA first-round draft pick in 1986.

7. Quincy Watts, Taft, 1988. Set the City Section record in the 100 meters at 10.36. State track champion in 200 meters. Olympic gold medalist in 400 meters in 1992.

L.A. Baptist runner Allyson Felix wins the girls' 200 meters during the Southern Section championships.
L.A. Baptist runner Allyson Felix wins the girls’ 200 meters during the Southern Section championships at Cerritos College on May 24, 2003.
(Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)

8. Allyson Felix, North Hills L.A. Baptist, 2002. Five-time state track champion who became a five-time Olympian and 11-time medalist, the most medals by any track athlete in U.S. history.

9. Marion Jones, Thousand Oaks, 1993. Won four consecutive state 100-meter championships and averaged 22.4 points as a basketball player. Won three gold medals at 2000 Olympics but stripped of medals for steroid use. Played for WNBA’s Tulsa Shock.

10. Cheryl Miller, Riverside Poly, 1982. Miller scored 105 points on Jan. 26, 1982, in a game against Norte Vista. She was a four-time All-American at USC and won two NCAA championships. Inducted into Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995.

11. Russell Westbrook, Lawndale Leuzinger, 2006. Late basketball bloomer who averaged 25.1 points his senior year, gained scholarship to UCLA and has become future Hall of Famer.

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12. Michael Norman, Vista Murrieta, 2016. Ran national NFHS record 400 time 45.19 in 2015. Four-time NCAA champion at USC. He finished fifth in the 400 Olympic final in Tokyo.

13. Tiger Woods, Anaheim Western, 1994. When it comes to phenoms, Woods was in a class by himself. From Western High to Stanford to PGA stardom, Woods blazed a trail few have ever come close to.


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