By NATE SMITH
After a banner year across the board in the 2016-2017 school year, it only seems fitting that Menlo-Atherton is our Prep2Prep Northern California Public School of the Year, as we prepare to turn the page into the coming seasons.
At all levels, the Bears captured a total of 17 PAL team titles during the year, including 10 team titles at the varsity level. Those 10 team titles included football, boys basketball, girls basketball, boys volleyball, girls volleyball, girls soccer, boys tennis, girls tennis, boys golf, and girls swimming and diving.
It was M-A’s success at the next levels, however, which truly set the Bears apart in winning this award. Menlo-Atherton’s football team captured one of the most prestigious section titles, blanking Bellarmine and Milpitas in back-to-back games to win the CCS Open 1 championship. The Bears then beat Manteca in the Northern California bowl regional before falling to Paraclete in the final game of the season.
In girls volleyball, success was achieved at a similar rate. After winning the PAL championship, Menlo-Atherton was selected for the CCS Open Division. Despite falling early in that bracket, the Bears were awarded the top seed in the CIF Division I tournament, where they lived up to billing. M-A swept through its first three matches, not dropping a set in wins over Skyline, Tracy, and Turlock, before beating Oak Ridge 3-1 in the regional final to reach the state championship against perennial power Edison-Huntington Beach.
In addition to the team success at the section and state level, the Bears also enjoyed success from individuals. Two girls wrestlers, Chelsea Wilson and Folashade Akinola, captured CCS titles, as did 1-meter springboard diver Mia Paulsen and 50 freestyle swimmer Izzi Henig. Wilson and Paulsen went on to win CIF titles, the first state titles in any sport for Menlo-Atherton since 1990.
All of the success falls in line with the efforts of the athletic administration, spearheaded by athletic directors Paul Snow and Steve Kryger, who were named the NorCal Girls and Boys Athletic Directors of the Year by the California Coaches Association.
“We are teaching kids about being adults, through sports,” Snow commented. “Hard work and accountability are tenets of all of our programs. We’ve also been able to hire and retain high-quality coaches. We take a lot of pride in that, and it’s not easy with the pay that is offered to high school coaches.”
The efforts of the athletic administration and coaching staff extends beyond those sports which captured titles at the highest levels. The Bears compete in the top division of the PAL, the Bay Division, for most sports, and many others also contended for section titles.
The girls soccer team beat Palo Alto 3-0 to advance to the semifinals of the CCS Open Division bracket, one of the top four teams in the entire section. The boys soccer team was a semifinalist in the CCS Division I bracket.
The boys basketball team was one of just two public schools in the CCS to qualify for the section’s Open Division, and upon later advancing to the CIF Division I tournament, knocked off Oakland Tech in the first round before falling to Heritage in the regional quarterfinals. Similarly, the girls basketball team was the only public school in the CCS Open Division, beat a pair of WCAL teams to finish fifth in the bracket, and advanced to the quarterfinals of the CIF Division I tournament.
“We are generally well-rounded across the board,” Snow said. “A lot of our kids come in with a lot of experience, and that certainly helps. But we also have great support from our community, including our boosters, who puts a lot of time and effort into raising money for our programs and helping achieve that success on multiple levels.”
As a result of that well-rounded approach, Menlo-Atherton won the PAL Commissioner’s Cup for the ninth straight year. Now, the Bears have another honor to add, as our Public School of the Year for all of Northern California.
The Cougars enjoyed considerable success across the board last school year, winning NCS and CIF titles in football, and reaching the CIF title game in girls basketball. Boys basketball reached the NCS title game, while boys lacrosse reached the NCS semifinals after sharing the DAL championship. Girls volleyball also won 30 games and captured a NCS championship.
The Sac-Joaquin Division I champions in baseball showed strength in multiple sports, also winning a Delta League title in football and finishing second in the league behind Sheldon in softball. The girls basketball team reached the SJS Division II semifinals, as well as the CIF Division II North regional quarterfinals.
The Falcons captured Bay Valley titles in football, baseball, softball, and boys soccer, making playoff runs in all four sports as well. The football reached the first-ever NCS Open Division title game, falling to De La Salle, while softball and boys soccer each reached the NCS Division I semifinals. Baseball upset Foothill before falling in the Division I quarterfinals.
The Patriots captured 10 Bay Valley Athletic League titles this past year, including boys basketball, girls basketball, softball, girls water polo, and boys water polo. Both basketball teams, along with football, baseball, and softball, advanced to the NCS semifinals, with the girls basketball team falling to Carondelet in the NCS title game and later reaching the CIF Division I North regional semifinals.
The Wildcats made an undefeated run through the SCVAL-De Anza last football season, and earned runner-up finishes in boys and girls basketball, plus baseball and softball, with 20-win seasons in each of those four sports. Los Gatos also captured league titles in boys and girls lacrosse, and the girls volleyball team had a 20-win season.
The Buffaloes captured league titles in football, boys basketball, and girls basketball. Football then won the SJS Division IV title in football, while boys basketball reached the section semifinals and girls basketball reached the section quarterfinals. The girls soccer team also reached the SJS quarterfinals, while baseball reached the Division III semifinals.
The Vikings captured SCVAL-De Anza titles in boys and girls basketball, plus baseball, among the sports covered year-round by Prep2Prep. Palo Alto pulled a championship double in basketball, winning CCS Division I titles for both genders, with the boys also reaching the CIF Division I North regional final.