Local High School Sports Teams Return to Action

Photo courtesy Jennifer Godwin-Minto
Poly held its first official high school athletics event last week, hosting Flintridge Prep in an outdoor volleyball match played on grass. The Panthers’ water polo teams also played matches against the Wolves in the pool.

It’s been a long journey for administrators, coaches and athletes, but high school sports are officially back in Pasadena.
Cross-country teams began running after being given the green light by state and county officials, and some schools have set up volleyball nets outdoors to give players an opportunity to play while adhering to health orders.
Mayfield Senior held its first sporting event in 358 days last Thursday, hosting San Marino High School and Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy to outdoor volleyball matches. The sight of volleyball players competing outdoors while wearing masks was strange, but Cubs Athletic Director Steve Bergen was just glad to give the athletes a chance to play, even if it is a shortened season with no playoffs or championships.
“It felt like we were watching history,” he said. “I have never seen our teams play outdoor volleyball on our [campus] lawn. It was just great to be able to host volleyball matches.”
It was especially gratifying for Bergen to see seniors from San Marino and Mayfield being honored and celebrated after sports were sidelined due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was so great for our seniors. They lost — of their junior year and pretty much all of their senior year to this point,” Bergen said. “To see our four seniors get a chance to put on their Mayfield Senior jerseys one last time and compete in front of their parents, be a little nervous before a game and have music to be able to run out to was special for everybody.”
FSHA returned the favor and hosted Mayfield in an outdoor match on Friday, March 5. Scores and statistics didn’t matter to Tologs coach Trent Tcheng, who just appreciated seeing the players enjoying a game against another program.
“We have been doing outdoor conditioning since October and then took December and January off to wait for the numbers to trend down,” he said. “It was nice to just see the girls play competitive volleyball. This year is really about just having fun. It doesn’t matter if we win or lose. The fact that we are playing is a win in my book.”
Polytechnic administrators were also hard at work in developing a schedule for fall sports. The school held its first two varsity athletic events of the year last Thursday, hosting rival Flintridge Prep in volleyball and water polo matches.
“Everything went well, given the circumstances,” said Poly volleyball coach Katrina Damasco. “It truly was a competition unlike any other. But at the end of the day, it was really uplifting and refreshing to see my girls play and have fun doing so regardless of it being non-traditional and unconventional.”
Poly held another “non-traditional” event by hosting Palos Verdes Chadwick for a coed water polo match — a first for Panthers athletics since 1997 — on Saturday, and another special event was announced on Monday. The varsity football team will open its season against Arcadia Rio Hondo Prep at Rose Bowl Stadium on Friday, March 19, at 3 p.m.
“If you asked me the question, ‘If you can only play one game, who would you play and where?’ I would pick playing Rio at the Rose Bowl,” Poly football coach Chris Schmoke said in an email. “We are beyond grateful and excited for the opportunity to get to play football, period. The fact that it’s against our rival and at the Rose Bowl is just amazing.
“I am really thankful to all of the folks who set out to make it happen. This pandemic has been really difficult on lots of folks, particularly on young people. I am hopeful that we are moving to a place where we are able to provide kids with more opportunities to get out and be active.”
The iconic venue recently announced it was opening its doors to host high school football events, including home games for Pasadena High and Muir.
“We’re in a pandemic and we have the opportunity to help kids and do something to enable high school football players to have a very special memory,” said Darryl Dunn, the Rose Bowl’s CEO and general manager. “It is gratifying to be able to provide something positive. We are an important part of the community and it feels like the right thing to do.”
La Salle College Preparatory athletes have been active for a few weeks now, participating in practices and cross-country events. The Lancers’ football program will scrimmage against La Verne Bonita on Friday, March 12, and play its first official game at home against St. Genevieve of Panorama City on Friday, March 19.
“Our biggest challenge right now is getting them up to speed and game ready,” said La Salle A.D. Brian Walsh. “It’s exciting. It has taken a lot of work to get to this point. I’m just impressed with the commitment from our coaches and players, staying focused and positive with so many uncertainties out there, not knowing whether or not they will have a season.”
There’s still plenty of work to be done for Walsh and all athletic directors. Planning limited fall sports schedules along with full spring athletic schedules has been difficult due to the lack of available facilities.
“That’s our biggest challenge,” Bergen said. “Track and field has the biggest challenge right now because not every school has a track. Some schools, as is the case with Poly, have multiple teams using the same field. If indoor sports come back as people expect them to be announced, it’s going to be even more difficult. It’s going to be a very hectic couple of months to look for facilities.”
“We have so many offsite facilities we use,” Walsh said. “We rely on county facilities for baseball, aquatics, and it’s been challenging to find locations for programs to practice.”
Administrators are also concerned about attendance. Some leagues made the decision to not allow fans for the remainder of the month. Walsh said that the Del Rey League agreed to allow two fans per player and coach for football, which only means more work for administrators of the schools involved.
“There are so many layers of responsibility to make sure we’re keeping everybody safe,” Walsh said. “It’s great that we can move forward but there is a lot of work to get here and a lot of work that still needs to be done. It’s going to be very different work from what we’re used to.”