Prep Rally: A salute to multi-sport stars

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Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. Let’s salute the multi-sport athletes in Southern California. Somehow, some way, they’ve been able to balance commitments and get coaches to cooperate. Let me introduce a pair of three-sport athletes.

Juggling sports

Jack Fairchild of Crean Lutheran is a three-sport standout.
(Nick Koza)

Rising at 5 a.m. to make a Saturday morning drive from Irvine to Arcadia, Jack Fairchild was fortunate that his father, Michael, was serving as his chauffeur so he could take a nap. A football player in the fall and a basketball point guard in the winter, Fairchild was sticking with his plan to be a three-sport athlete, so he was on his way to compete in a winter track meet in the morning and a basketball game in the evening.


“Honestly, playing three sports is something my parents pushed me to do and I fell in love with each of them individually at different times,” said the 6-foot-3 senior from Irvine Crean Lutheran.

It takes commitment, cooperation and special time management skills to pull off being a three-sport athlete in high school. If it were easy, there would be a lot more multi-sport standouts. It isn’t. Among the obstacles are getting coaches to agree on practice times, solving transportation issues, setting a schedule so that cross-training can take place and figuring out ways to sleep while worrying about sports commitments, homework assignments and college aspirations.

Tyler Hampton from Huntington Beach Edison is another senior following Fairchild’s path in the same sports. Hampton, 6 feet 4, was a standout receiver in the fall, averages 14 points and 10 rebounds for the 22-3 basketball team and is the defending Southern Section Division 2 champion in the high jump.

Here’s a look at how Fairchild and Hampton pull off their three-sport experiences.

Top 25 rankings

Going into the final week of the regular season for Southern Section teams, Corona Centennial holds down the No. 1 spot in The Times’ top 25 boys’ basketball rankings with a 24-1 record.

A look at the top 25 high school boys’ basketball teams in the Southland:

Rk. SCHOOL (W-L); Comment (last week)

1. CORONA CENTENNIAL (24-1); Donovan Dent scored 31 points in OT win over Nevada Coronado (1)


2. SIERRA CANYON (20-3); Trailblazer suffered defeat in Allentown, Pa. (2)

3. HARVARD-WESTLAKE (20-2); Brady Dunlap continues to deliver (5)

4. RIVERSIDE POLY (23-2); Young team is ready for Open Division playoffs (3)

5. DAMIEN (22-2); Host Etiwanda on Monday (6)

Here are the complete list of top 25 teams.

Wide open City Section

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 22, 2021 - - Westchester High School's #44 Angel Corona
Westchester’s Angel Corona fights for loose ball.
(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

For those who like playoff competition to be so unpredictable that No. 1 could lose to No. 8, get ready for the City Section Open Division basketball playoffs next month. Calling the tournament wide open is the best way to describe the state of City Section basketball.

Some of the section’s long-time powers should be in the running to put up another banner, but anyone who says they know with certainty which team will win is simply popping off. Taft (13-3) may have started the season as the favorite, but the list of potential champions keeps growing.

Perhaps the COVID-19 start, stop and start again experience in the Los Angeles Unified School District is having an effect, but the lack of consistency among the top teams is very visible, along with a noticeable lack of experience among players. For the first time, there are no City Section teams in The Times’ top 25 rankings, which indicates a decline in talent. Also, the Open Division champion could end up being put in Division II for state playoffs.

Here’s a look at the contenders.


Kory Blunt has father’s athleticism

Birmingham point guard Kory Blunt is the son of the late Sean Blunt.
Birmingham point guard Kory Blunt is the son of the late Sean Blunt, who was a star athlete at San Fernando and football coach.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Whenever junior point guard Kory Blunt of Birmingham steps onto the basketball court, you can be certain one of his father’s former teammates or friends is in the bleachers rooting him on.

It was in 2014 that Sean Blunt, an All-City football player at San Fernando who’d go on to play at UNLV and coach football at San Fernando, died of colon cancer. He was 48. Kory was 9. Since then, with help from his mother, Kim, and his father’s friends, Kory has continued on in a sports career in basketball.

“I had a falling out with football,” Blunt said. “I found out I like basketball more.”

Blunt has become one of the top players for Birmingham. Here’s a look at Blunt.

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Etiwanda stays No. 1

Unbeaten Etiwanda High continues to be No. 1 in this week’s girls’ basketball top 20 Southern California rankings from

1. (1) Etiwanda 18-0

2. (2) Sierra Canyon 20-1

3. (3) Corona Centennial 18-5

Here are the complete rankings.

All-America honors

The McDonald’s All-American game announced its player lists, and Gabriela Jaquez from Camarillo made the girls’ team.

On the boys’ team were Kijani Wright and Amari Bailey from Sierra Canyon.

Newest sport: Flag football for girls

With support from the Rams and Chargers, a proposal was made Tuesday at a Southern Section Executive Committee meeting to create flag football for girls as an official CIF sport.

It would first need to be recommended by the Southern Section Council, then approved by the CIF Federated Council. The earliest it could happen would be 2023-24, Southern Section commissioner Rob Wigod said.

“It will be big,” said one member of the Executive Committee.

One issue would be what part of the school year to hold flag football. Field availability would be key. Should it be in the spring? Should it be in the fall, when girls who participate in soccer or lacrosse would be more available?

The proposal is in its initial phase. It certainly would help schools attract more participants in sports.


Dalia Frias is honored

Dalia Frias of Mira Costa won the Woodbridge Invitational sweepstakes race.
(Dylan Stewart / PrepCalTrack)

Dalia Frias of Mira Costa has been selected as the Gatorade girls’ cross-country player of the year in California.

She won the state Division II championship with a time of 16:52 and led her team to the state title. She also won the Woodbridge Classic, Mt. SAC Invitational and Southern Section championship.

She has a 4.09 grade-point average and is committed to Duke.

Here’s a profile on Frias from last fall.

Winter track

Arcadia High was the site for the winter track and field championships.

Here’s a report on new faces and some old ones.

New focus for Max Thomas

Servite's Max Thomas is going to try the 400 this spring instead of focusing on the sprints.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

There’s going to be a new focus this spring for Servite track star Max Thomas.

After winning the Southern Section Division 3 championships in the 100 and 200 last year, the USC commit said Saturday he will focus on the 400 this year.

“I think the 400 is my best event,” he said. “I’m training for it and I’m ready for it.”

The 400 is one of the most exciting and grueling events, but if anyone has the talent, stamina and speed for it, it should be Thomas. He decided not to play soccer this year to focus on track, and it will be fun to see his development.

It does mean the 100 meters loses one of its top state title contenders, but there are plenty around to keep the event very competitive.

Top assistant joins Bishop Amat

Sean Koelle is leaving Servite to return to Bishop Amat.
Sean Koelle is leaving Servite to return to Bishop Amat, where he will be an assistant this season and take over as head coach in 2023.

Sean Koelle, who helped build Servite’s high-powered offense the last two years as offensive coordinator, is returning to Bishop Amat to be defensive coordinator this fall under head coach Steve Hagerty and is likely the leading candidate to replace Hagerty when he decides to call it quits.

Koelle was an assistant at Bishop Amat for 16 seasons and is a Bishop Amat graduate. He has a license plate with “Amat ’98” and an “A” tattoo. He joined the Servite staff under Troy Thomas and helped develop quarterback Noah Fifita.

Haggerty said he welcomes Koelle’s return because it adds another top assistant to the program. He said he has made no decision on when he might step down in the future.


Thomas said he will launch a search to find a replacement for Koelle at Servite.

Soccer showdown

Birmingham and El Camino Real, the top two boys’ soccer teams in the City Section, finally face off in the first of two West Valley League games Wednesday at Birmingham.

Birmingham has been struggling with injuries this season. The Patriots have rarely been healthy. The good news is top player David Diaz is back. Birmingham is 15-1-2 and 5-0-1 in league. El Camino Real is 14-1 and 6-0 in league.

Mira Costa, ranked No. 1 in Southern Section Division 1, is rolling along with a 12-1-2 overall record and 5-0 mark in the Bay League. Not much has changed with the Mustangs in that the closer the game, the more likely they will emerge victorious at the end because they love pressure situations.

Notes . . .

Rick Finch is the new football coach at Don Lugo. He was a longtime assistant at the school. . . .

Bishop Alemany running back Floyd Chalk has committed to Grambling. . . .

Orange Lutheran quarterback Logan Gonzalez has committed to Portland State. . . .

Defensive back Quincy Craig from Mater Dei has committed to Portland State. . . .

Jake East, a standout receiver and defensive back at Agoura, has committed to Cal Poly SLO. . . .

Former El Monte football coach Jesse Ceniceros will be the next head coach at Sierra Vista. He guided El Monte to a 16-0 record in 2019. . . .

Former Hart High and Stanford WR Trent Irwin is on the Bengals and gets a free Super Bowl plane ride home.

From the archives: Sherri Howard

Sherri Howard was inducted into the Los Angeles City Section Hall of Fame in 2013. She was state champion in the 400 meters in 1979 at San Gorgonio and was the state track athlete of the year in 1980 at Granada Hills Kennedy and NCAA champion in 1985 for Cal State Los Angeles.

Howard and her three sisters, Denean, Tina and Arta, teamed up to set a still standing national high school record in 1979 in the 4x440 relay. She competed at the 1980 Olympic trials at age 16, along with her 14-year-old sister, Denean, making the team.


Howard won a gold medal at the 1984 Olympic Games in the 4x400 relay. She’d go on to become the track coach at Valencia High and has become a trainer teaching young athletes in Southern California.

Here’s a 1985 story looking at the Howard sisters.


From the Washington Post, a story on how a Virginia girls’ basketball player became a star with 100 frigid free throws at a time.

From the San Jose Mercury News, a story on how two Northern California football leagues have decided to merge and create 32 teams over five divisions next season.

From the Seattle Times, a story on why high school football players aren’t getting scholarship offers.

From the San Fernando Sun, a story looking at the family legacy of the White family.


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Until next time...

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