Ken Preston, Scott Puailoa, Omel Nieves, Jenny (Santos) Lafferty, Linnea Mendoza Meister, Bill Pintard, Kyle Shotwell
Paul Wellman

The Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table (SBART) staged its 44th annual Hall of Fame Banquet on Monday night. It’s like an Academy Awards show for the sports community. Dozens of trophies and scholarships are handed out. Grateful recipients stretch the time limits of their acceptance speeches to acknowledge their coaches, teammates, teachers, and families.

The induction of seven new Hall of Fame members was the heart of the program. Softball star Jenny (Santos) Lafferty recalled her “Kirk Gibson moment” when she hit a game-winning home run in a Little League game. Linnea Mendoza Meister went from the Santa Barbara High volleyball court to Big Ten stardom at Michigan.

Omel Nieves described his junior year at San Marcos, when the Royals lost all their league basketball games, as “just torturous.” Valley Club golf pro Scott Puailoa, a former three-sport star at San Marcos, joined his late father, Satini Puailoa Sr., inducted as a coach in 1983.

Kyle Shotwell, a Dos Pueblos football standout, harkened back to the Friday after 9/11, when the Chargers ran onto the field behind the American flag and held hands with their opponents from Santa Maria. “This community will always be part of me,” said Shotwell, allowing that he might have to win the lottery to live here.

Bill Pintard has spread goodwill as far as Cuba with the S.B. Foresters, the summer baseball team he has managed since 1995. He remembered how the community rallied around his cancer-stricken son, Eric, at a UCSB basketball game 18 years ago. “Santa Barbara is not about the nice weather,” Pintard said. “It’s about the fiber of the people.”

Affirming that statement were representatives of the South Coast Community Aquatic Center. They worked to fund the Elings Aquatic Center at Dos Pueblos High even though their children had graduated by the time it was completed.

Ken Preston, who retired after 30 years as the UCSB men’s volleyball coach, has had a rewarding year. The last class he recruited took the Gauchos all the way to the 2011 NCAA championship game. When he was introduced Monday night by emcee Marc Jacobs, a former Gaucho volleyballer, Preston said, “It feels like I just hit a career-ending, walk-off grand slam.”

Another highlight was the speech by Larry Crandell, one of the early SBART leaders, who received a special award from Catharine Manset Morreale, outgoing president of the all-volunteer organization. Crandell, known for his verbosity and wit, said: “I’d like to surprise my severest critics by saying, I love you all, and good night.”

The final awards of the night went to almost 50 high school and college athletes for outstanding performances during the year. Receiving a hearty round of applause was UCSB basketball star Orlando Johnson, who recently withdrew his name from consideration for the NBA Draft to try to lead the Gauchos to their third consecutive NCAA tournament in 2012.

TRIPLE-HEADER: The West Coast Basketball League will crown its 2011 champion Saturday night, May 28, at Santa Barbara High’s gym. The entire Final Four will be played out that day: The second-place S.B. Breakers will take on the Venice Beach Ninjas at 1 p.m.; the undefeated Nationwide Allstars will face either the West L.A. Advantage or the Ventura County Jets at 3 p.m.; and the winners will play for the title at 7 p.m.

TRACK-AND-FIELD OF DREAMS: Santa Barbara schools have nine qualifiers for the CIF Masters Meet at Cerritos College on Friday, May 27. They include Dos Pueblos strongman Nicholas Scarvelis, the state’s leading shot-putter, who also qualified in the discus throw; the San Marcos girls in the 4×400 relay, who whacked four seconds off their best time by running 3:49.51 in the CIF Divisional Championships; and San Marcos triple jumper Shane Rowen, who nailed a 47’3” effort. Top five finishers in the Masters will move on to the State Meet June 3-4 in Clovis. … UCSB’s Ryan Martin ran the 800 meters in a sizzling 1:45.34—the third fastest time in the nation—at the Big West Championships and will lead a contingent of Gauchos to the NCAA West meet at Oregon this weekend. Westmont College’s competitors in the NAIA Championships at Marion, Indiana, include national leader Andrew Kolodinski in the javelin (230’3”).

DIAMOND DANDIES: The Dos Pueblos Chargers won a wild-card game and then upset top-seeded Cypress, 5-4, in the CIF D-2 baseball playoffs. The S.B. Dons also advanced with a 13-3 victory over Aliso Niguel. If they both survive two elimination games this week, the Dons and Chargers will meet in the semifinals next Tuesday.

TAYLOR MEMORIAL: The memorial service for celebrated fisherman and naturalist Neal Taylor, rained out in March, will take place June 12 at 1 p.m. at the Fireside Theater at Cachuma Lake. The parking fee will be waived for attendees.


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