Mark Tennis, editor of Cal-Hi Sports and an employee of ESPN, stood in admiration Friday night at Buchanan High and talked about the school's house of national champions.
He was certain that the Bears' 30-2 baseball team will maintain their ESPN RISE No. 1 national ranking following a 9-3 Central Section Division I championship win over Centennial that evening.
He then said it appeared Buchanan's boys 39-3 volleyball team would likely move into the ESPN RISE top spot given a victory over Otay Ranch-Chula Vista the following night at Irvine for the Southern California Regional D-I title. And, sure enough, the Bears would rally for a 3-2 conquest in that one.
And, finally, he pointed to Veterans Memorial Stadium and said it would be there, on Friday and Saturday, that Long Beach Poly's boys and girls would have a good chance of securing ESPN RISE national top rankings as well at the CIF State Track and Field Championships.
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Tennis explained that ESPN and its high school sponsors, such as POWERADE for baseball, provide about $10,000 in spoils to programs that finish with national top rankings.
Further, he said, it's up to each program to determine what form of goods it would prefer to receive.
In baseball, for example, the Bears will certainly choose to apply some of the money toward a championship banner. And coach Tom Donald's initial thought soon after Friday's win was to mount it atop the stadium's scoreboard in left-center field such as Clovis has for its consecutive No. 1 baseball rankings in 1997-98.
Tennis also said ESPN RISE makes formal presentations on school sites for mythical national championships.
And to think Buchanan is destined for a double ceremony -- to close one season, no less.
With all respect to your favorites -- Fresno, Bakersfield, Hanford, Bullard, Clovis? -- in the 109-year history of prep baseball in the central San Joaquin Valley, Buchanan reached an unprecedented level of accomplishment this year.
No team has dominated such a high caliber of competition. The Bears' opponents went 2-30 against Buchanan, but 280-174 (.617) against everybody else.
Among the opponents were four ranked in the state at some point (Centennial, Clovis West, Central, Clovis), six 20-game winners (Frontier, Madera, Hanford West, Centennial, Central, Clovis) and two section champions (Frontier, D-II; Hanford West, D-III).
The Bears lost 8-3 to Frontier to open the season and 4-1 to Clovis West on April 12 before winning their last 14.
Centennial senior starter Grant Watson, 9-0 before Friday, was the last to exit the Golden Hawks' dugout, having sat on the bench sobbing for at least 15 minutes. He then collected himself and said this about the Bears, who finished with a .317 team batting average: "They put the ball in play, make good at-bats out of everything and hit in the clutch with two outs. They battle every single pitch, every single swing. I've got to give it to them: They're ranked No. 1 nationally for a reason."
Donald's 13-year record with the Bears is 308-90 (.774). That means he won No. 300 April 26 in a 3-0 decision at Clovis. And he didn't say a word.
The state track meet, historically as good as a Junior Olympics given the caliber and depth of talent in California, is set for another mega show.
California individuals and relays represent nine of the nation's current 32 leading marks, featuring Long Beach Poly's Melia Cox (hurdles) and Akawkaw Ndipagbor (400, relays) in the girls field and Agoura's Johnathan Cabral (hurdles) in the boys.
Clovis All-American Jenna Prandini will compete in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and the long jump. She won those three events in addition to the triple jump for a third straight time in the section Grand Masters Championships, but knew she would drop one because of the state-meet demands.
She won the long and triple jumps and placed second in the 100 in last year's state finals. She is top-seeded this weekend in the 100 (11.51) and 200 (23.66), wind-aided marks that rank Nos. 7 and 6 nationally.
Clovis West's Alyssa Monteverde ranks third nationally with a legal 41.90 in the 300 low hurdles.