Compiled by STEVE GALLUZZO
1. Rec Center’s “Field of Dreams” No sporting event in the Palisades in 2003 was more important or carried as much long-term impact as the completion of the “Field of Dreams” renovation project at the Palisades Recreation Center. The new fields were inaugurated by AYSO soccer teams in November, culminating a three-month long, community-funded project that was several years in the making. The $950,000 project was spearheaded by Mike Skinner, a longtime Palisades resident and youth coach. It included new bleachers, new turf and new dugouts and installing fences around the baseball diamonds. The entire town will benefit, as the fields are used practically year-round by youth organizations like AYSO, flag football and the Palisades Pony Baseball Association. Skinner’s committee hopes to hold an official grand opening of the fields at the PPBA’s annual pancake breakfast in March.
2. PaliHi Swim Teams Sweep City The dynasty continued in 2003 for the Dolphins, who swept the City Section swimming championships for the second year in a row. Longtime head coach Merle Duckett retired shortly after, making Pali’s victory all the more sweet. Sophomore Sean McDevitt led the boys, winning the 50 Freestyle and anchoring two relays. Pali’s victory was convincing, as the team accumulated 253 points to outdistance San Pedro (189) and Cleveland (138). Pali’s depth was evident by the results of the 500 Freestyle race, where the Dolphins qualified three swimmers. Senior captain Greg Walther finished third in 5:12.01, David Nonberg was fourth in 5:24.70 and Daniel Fox was sixth in 5:31.86. Other standout performances included Brian Johnson’s second-place finish in the 100 Backstroke and Nonberg’s third-place finish in the 100 Butterfly. The 200 Freestyle Relay team, consisting of Gavin Jones, Nonberg, Walther and McDevitt, won in 1:34.14 and the 400 Freestyle Relay team finished second in 3:28.25. Pali’s girls won just as easily, racking up 277 points to finish ahead of Cleveland (240), El Camino Real (182), Taft (118) and Marine League rival Venice (117). Cara Davidoff, a junior, led the way with All-American times in the 50 Freestyle (24.10) and 100 Freestyle (52.31) events. The Dolphins’ 200 Freestyle Relay team of Laura Johnson, Shira Frankel, Sheri Dunner and Davidoff took first place by over two seconds in 1:45.29. The 400 Freestyle Relay team finished third and Johnson was second in the 100 Breaststroke in 1:11.22. Luiza Campos won the 100 Backstroke and Frankel was fourth. Senior Stephanie Powers was third in the 500 Freestyle. Caitlin Owens was third in the 200 Freestyle and fourth in the 100 Butterfly. Georgia Hamilburg won the consolation finals in the 200 Individual Medley and Wishan was fourth in the 100 Butterfly.
3. Palisadians Win Will Rogers 5K Undeterred by scorching conditions, Peter Gilmore set a new Palisades- Will Rogers 5K course record for the second straight year, crossing the finish line in 14:10-eight seconds better than his previous record. It was Gilmore’s sixth 5K victory and he has set the course record on four occasions. “My goal is to break 14 minutes,” said Gilmore, who grew up in the Palisades but now lives in Menlo Park, where he trains with the Nike Farm team. “The heat isn’t really a factor in a short race like this. I figured I had to run the first two miles in nine minutes to have a chance. I ran them in 9:07, so I knew at that point it would be tough to break 14. I’ll probably try it one more time next year, then switch to the 10K.” Gilmore won the Post Cup Award as outstanding senior athlete at PaliHi in 1995 and went on to run cross country and track at UC Berkeley. He ran his first-ever marathon in Chicago last year, finishing in 2:21:48. Fellow Palisadian Kara Barnard won the women’s 5K for the fifth time, finishing 11th overall in 17:02. She won the 5K four straight times from 1997 through 2000, when she ran her best time of 16:50. Barnard switched to the 10K in 2001 and 2002 and won it both times, but the heat convinced her to stick to the 5K this year. “It was fun-it’s the fourth of July, I couldn’t miss this,” Barnard said. “What would the Fourth of July be like without the race?” Besides Gilmore and Barnard, several local runners won their age divisions in the 5K, including Peter’s mom, 63-year-old Rita Gilmore, who ran the 3.1 miles in 27:13. Gregory Myerson, 12, won the youngest men’s division in 22:37 while 16-year-old Ryan Gordon won his age division and finished fifth overall in 16:17. John Holcomb placed atop the 45-49 category in 17:03, finishing one second behind Barnard. Palisades’ kickboxing champion, Baxter Humby, placed 17th in the 5K in 17:33. Elizabeth Farnan finished first in the 30-34 age division in 19:57. The Riley family once again pulled off a trifecta in the 5K. John Riley finished first in the men’s 55-59 division in 20:15 while his wife, Bev Lowe, did the same in the women’s 45-49 division in 20:49. Daughter Ali, a standout in soccer and track at Harvard-Westlake, was first in the women’s 13-15 age group in 19:48. Kimberly Selby, 30, was the first Palisadian to finish the 10K, placing fifth overall in 42:27. Palisadian Maria Marrone placed first in the 45-49 division of the 10K with a time of 46:12. Three local runners won their age divisions in the men’s 10K. Ethan Meyers was first in the 13-15 division with a time of 38:04. Mervyn Cooper, 65, who has qualified for the Boston Marathon in April and will run the New York Marathon in November 2004, won his division in 54:18. In the 70-74 age group, Palisadian Andrew Martin won the 70-74 took first in 53:58. Palisades Bike Shop owner Ted Mackie, who has run almost every race since 1978, finished fourth in the 70-74 division of the 10K, completing the course in 1:00:43.
4. PaliHi Volleyball Wins 22nd Title Hanging in the gym at Palisades High are the banners of all the schools’ City championships. The girls volleyball team has accounted for 22 of those titles, including the one it captured in November at Occidental College in Eagle Rock. The Lady Dolphins won their first City title since 1999 by besting Granada Hills 25-19, 25-13, 18-25, 25-19 in head coach John Caravella’s first season. Palisades had reached the finals two seasons before, but lost in five games to Van Nuys. This time, Pali finished the job. “I’ve been wanting this for two years and now I’ve finally got it. It feels great,” said PaliHi senior defensive specialist Tracy Takemura, who finished with 20 digs and two aces. The match was the culmination of a season’s worth of hard work for the third-seeded Dolphins (16-1), who won 16 consecutive matches after losing their season opener to Sylmar in five games. Setter Diana Grubb ran the offense expertly en route to 28 assists, three kills and two aces. Senior Allison Houpt led the Dolphins with 13 kills while Ann Marie Barrette and Natasha Vokhshoori each had six kills and junior Stephanie Vaughan added five kills and an ace.
5. Nissan Open Playoff at Riviera Mike Weir shot a five-under-par 66 on the final day of the Nissan Open to overcome a seven-stroke deficit and beat Charles Howell III in a playoff in one of the most exciting finishes ever at Riviera Country Club’s famed golf course. “Everything went right for me today. I made some key putts on difficult holes,” said Weir, who walked away with the winners’ check of $810,000 and his second PGA title of the year. “Charles is a great player and he’ll have plenty of chances, as good as he is.” What made Weir’s effort improbable was the fact that he had failed to make the cut in four previous tries at Riviera. Like so many of his peers, Weir considers Riviera one of the best stops on the PGA Tour and said the course was as challenging as it’s ever been. “It says something when a course this old is still one of the hardest we have on tour. It’s a tremendous golf course and, in my opinion, the prototype of how a course should be designed.” After both players made par on the first playoff hole-the par-four 18th-Howell III hooked his drive on the 10th tee into a bunker. Weir hit the fairway. Howell III recovered by chipping his second shot within six feet and Weir’s second shot rolled to a halt eight feet from the hole. Weir calmly sank his birdie putt and when Howell III tapped his try left of the hole, he had to settle for the runner-up prize of $486,000. Lost amid the excitement of the playoff was Tiger Woods’ final round 65-the lowest score of the tournament and equal to Woods’ best round ever at Riviera. After shooting a 73 on Saturday, the world’s No. 1 player found himself in an unfamiliar position-11 strokes back and out of contention on Sunday. He finished tied for fifth with K.J. Choi with a four day total of 278-three strokes behind the leaders. Fred Funk, who held the lead after Thursday’s first round, tied for third with Nick Price at seven-under-par, Fred Couples finished at five-under-par and defending champion Len Mattiace tied Chad Campbell at four-under par. The playoff was the first at the Nissan Open since 1998, when Woods lost to Billy Mayfair at Valencia Country Club in Santa Clarita.
6. PaliHi Baseball Takes City Invitational The “feel good” story of the year may have been the Palisades High baseball team’s improbable run to the City Invitational championship in coach Russ Howard’s final season. The seventh-seeded Dolphins routed fourth-seeded Granada Hills 10-0 in five innings in the finals at Dodger Stadium behind a one-hitter from senior left-hander Dylan Forrester and a near home run to left field by sophomore shortstop Dylan Cohen. “The feeling I have is indescribable,” senior outfielder Jeff Megee said afterward. “It’s been a dream of mine since I was three years old to play at Dodger Stadium. When we got on the bus [assistant coach] Kelly Loftus said ‘Let’s win this one for Howard’ and we went out there and did it.” A questionable decision by the official scorer on a hard ground ball to third base in the fourth inning was all that separated Forrester from a no-hitter. He pitched with poise, striking out four, walking two and allowing three fly balls to the outfield. Palisades (21-9) got stellar defensive play from Cohen, second baseman Matt Skolnick and right fielder Byron Brooks. Evan Reis, Spencer Kirksey, Adam Franks, Niles Cook and Ron Michel all had key hits in the final. “Yeah, it’s cool to be able to end it like this,” said Howard, who announced before the playoffs that he was stepping down after 18 seasons to spend more time with his family. “We finished the season playing great baseball. Through the ups and downs, we never gave up. That’s the mark of a good team.” Howard leaves several lasting legacies at Palisades. He was responsible for having the Dolphins’ field named after George Robert, a former PaliHi teacher and longtime athletics supporter who died of a heart attack in May 2002 at the age of 86. Howard also initiated the program’s chief fundraiser, the annual alumni game, which he started when he took over for Jerry Marvin in 1987.
7. Palisadian-Post Tennis Open The third annual Palisadian-Post Tennis Open in September and October was the biggest and best yet. Palisades Tennis Center pro Eric Horine organized a stellar event, which featured local players in 16 age divisions. Played exclusively on courts throughout the Palisades, the tournament’s men’s Open final featured a rematch between last year’s champion and finalist. This time, PTC pro Francisco Franceschini beat defending champion Ross Loel in three thrilling sets. Other winners included Alex Baettig (boys’ 10s), Brian Alle (boys’ 12s), Chase Pekar (boys’ 14s), Matt Dubin (boys’ 14s), Arden Shore (girls’ 10s), Emily Keating (girls’ 12s), Yasmir Navas (girls’ 16s), Alan Greenburg (men’s 3.5), Danny Sembello (men’s 4.5) and Heidi Wessels (women’s 3.5).
8. Falcon Volleyball Squads Repeat St. Matthew’s eighth-grade boys and girls’ volleyball teams both won the Junior Delphic League championship for the second consecutive year. In June, the Falcon boys’ squad rallied to defeat Calvary Christian, 10-15, 15-3, 15-13 in the final. Seeded third, St. Matthew’s beat second-seeded Chaminade in the semifinals. “Knowing Calvary was going to come out tough and give us a solid match and also knowing it was the finals, I think the guys came out a little tentative,” said Falcons coach Lyndsey Banks, who celebrated her fourth championship in three years at the school. “But after the first game the guys were really supportive of each other and hung in there as a team.” The Falcons opened the championship match with a serving run by setter Matt Kremer to build a 6-2 lead before succumbing. St. Matthew’s led from the start in Game 2, with Jonathan Sebastian serving nine straight points, including three aces. In Game 3, St. Matthew’s built a 9-3 lead on the serving of Kremer, Sebastian and Blaine O’Neill. Calvary, however, held the Falcons scoreless for 10 rotations and took a 12-10 lead. But inspired play by Sean Dennis, Clark Porter and Daniel Auten allowed St. Matthew’s to turn the tide again and close out the match. In November, the girls wrapped up an undefeated season with an 11-15, 15-12, 15-12 victory over Harvard-Westlake in the finals. The Falcons beat Calvary Christian 15-3, 15-1 in the semifinals, with Katherine Sebastian serving seven straight points in Game 1 (including three aces). Cathryn Quinn and Sarah McMahon were dominant at net. Alexa Bagnard, Quinn and Chelsie Root each had four-point serving runs. In the finals, Quinn served four aces in the first game and Bagnard served three as the Falcons overcame a 7-1 deficit in the second game. Alexis Dunne and Nora Mardirossian also contributed from the outside. Quinn had a seven-point serving run in the decisive game. St. Matthew’s girls’ tennis team also enjoyed a successful season, winning its first-ever league championship.
9. AYSO Rattlers Rack Up Victories The Rattlers, a local boys U-12 AYSO team, enjoyed one of the winningest seasons ever by a Palisades-based youth soccer team. The team posted a 51-1-4 record and won 10 tournaments. Its only loss, at the Spring Break Classic in Pasadena, came to Hacienda Heights after 44 games, an overtime and 10 penalty kicks. The Rattlers shook off that loss by winning the Armed Forces Day Invitational in Torrance and the Irvine Memorial Classic, a CYSA tournament consisting of both AYSO and club teams. Coached by Chuck Davis, Glen Grimditch and Bill Barnum, the Rattlers consisted of Jared Davis, Charlie James, Zack Piehl, Alex Pack, Patrick O’Donnell, Michael Ray, Sean Grimditch, Alex Silverman, Jackson Liguori, Grimditch, Jimmy Carter, Greg Myerson and Spencer Koo, and Etaih van Herwerden.
10. Bryant & Grubb Win Post Cup Football player Damian Bryant and soccer/volleyball player Charlotte Grubb won the Palisadian-Post Cup Award as outstanding senior athletes at Palisades High. At 5-9 and 175 pounds, Bryant was hardly an imposing figure. But set him up behind the line of scrimmage, give him a running start and it’s amazing how intimidating he became. The Dolphin tailback scored 17 touchdowns and rushed for 1,470 yards in 2002, second-most in school history, and finished his final season third in yards gained amongst running backs in the City Section. He averaged 5.64 yards per carry, scored three touchdowns in a game three times and accounted for nearly half of the Dolphins’ points. More impressive to first-year coach Jason Blatt were that Bryant never missed a practice and did not fumble once in nearly 1,100 carries. Bryant rushed for 287 yards and three touchdowns in Pali’s opener against Cleveland, but his best performance came in the season finale at Westchester. He rushed for 121 yards and two scores and his electrifying 77-yard kick-off return clinched a 24-14 victory-Pali’s first victory over the Comets since 1991. Bryant played at El Camino College this fall but sat out much of the season due to injury. , Grubb, meanwhile, was the backbone of both the soccer and volleyball programs. She was a four-year varsity player in both sports and earned the Western League most valuable player in soccer as a junior and twice made the All-League team in volleyball. In addition to Pali, Grubb played for coach Hugh Donald on the Pacific Coast Soccer Club’s U-19 Premiere team, called “The Rage.” Respected by her teammates, Grubb led more by example than through words. That trait made her a calming influence in the heat of battle. Her biggest thrill in volleyball came in November of 2001, when she and the Dolphins played Van Nuys in the City championship match at Occidental College. Her favorite year in soccer was her sophomore season because “we had a good team and we all just loved to play.” Grubb accepted an academic scholarship to George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where she hopes to graduate with a degree in international affairs and/or minor in human services. Her younger sister, Diana, also plays soccer and volleyball at Pali.