Santa Barbara High sophomore Melia Haller competes in surf contests and golf matches. She helped the Dons dethrone longtime champion Dos Pueblos in Channel League golf this season.

It was expected to be a showdown at La Cumbre Country Club last Thursday when Santa Barbara High’s girls’ golf teed off against Dos Pueblos in the concluding match of the Channel League golf schedule. But the Dons had already clinched the team championship, ending an extraordinary run of success by Dos Pueblos. The Chargers had won or shared the title for 19 consecutive years.

“Most of the girls are going to their home schools,” Chargers coach Dan Choi observed. “For years, the best golfers kept coming to Dos Pueblos. It’s better for parity now.”

The Dons, who had edged DP by two strokes at Glen Annie Golf Club last month, completed a 10-0 sweep through the league by outscoring the Chargers, 254-261. DP senior Gabby Minier was the best individual golfer. She was at even par through eight holes before a double bogey on the closing hole left her at 38, still eight strokes better than the next low scorer, Santa Barbara’s Melia Haller with a 46.

Minier, whose father is a teaching pro at Glen Annie, said her strength is in the short game. “I don’t hit that far, but I can chip it pretty close to the hole,” she said. She intends to keep playing after high school and had a visit to Colorado State coming up.

“Gabby’s been fantastic,” Choi said. “She’s super consistent. She has been the medalist in every match.”

Santa Barbara was led by a pair of sophomores, Haller and Lizzie Goss, who shot a 48. Golf is not their only sport. Goss plays soccer for the Dons, and Haller is a surfer. Both have come to appreciate the challenge of the links.

“Golf is bipolar,” Goss said. “It’s very humbling. It looks so easy.”

Haller said, “When I’m surfing with my friends, I never have a bad day. Golf can make me frustrated sometimes.”

Haller started surfing at age 9, two years before she took up golf. “We live on the Mesa, and my dad took me out at Leadbetter Beach, and I loved it,” she said. She competed last year in a Scholastic Surf Series event in Ventura — with surfers from Morro Bay to Santa Monica — and took first in the longboard division.

She spends more time on the golf course nowadays, Haller said. DP’s Minier has taken notice. “Melia’s improved a lot,” she said. “She’s trying really hard.”

Santa Barbara will be a force in the league for some time to come. Malta Olhiser is the only senior on the team. “We have three sophomores and three juniors,” Dons coach Ryan Throop said. “They get along well. They enjoy practicing, and they enjoy competing.”

Melia Haller
Paul Wellman

RECK RECOGNIZED: The CIF Southern Section Hall of Fame honors coaches and administrators who have distinguished themselves in the highly competitive athletic programs of more than 500 high schools. Five coaches from the greater Santa Barbara area have been inducted: Clarence Schutte (SBHS football and basketball), Sam Cathcart (SBHS football), John Stoney (San Marcos football and golf), Maury Halleck (San Marcos basketball), and Lou Panizzon (Carpinteria football and baseball).

This week, JoAnn Reck of Santa Ynez High joins their ranks. She retired in 2007 after coaching the Pirates girls’ basketball team for 30 years, during which they won 19 league titles, made 23 consecutive playoff appearances, and won three CIF championships. Their win-loss record was 579-177.

JoAnn Stephenson grew up in a sports-loving Anaheim family: Her father was a baseball scout, and her older brother Jerry Stephenson pitched for the Boston Red Sox in the 1967 World Series. But when she played basketball at UCSB, where she enrolled in 1968, the women’s team received scant support and attention.

JoAnn, who taught English (as does her husband, Jeff Reck), was determined to bring respect to girls’ basketball in Santa Ynez when she began coaching in 1976. It helped that the CIF was just starting to initiate full-fledged competition for girls. Over the years, her Pirates became the pride of the community. Former UCSB stars Erin Alexander and Kristi Rohr were among many of Reck’s players who went on to college careers.

Reck was a pioneer as a coach, and it’s led her to be a pioneer in the CIF Hall of Fame. Through last year, its roster comprised 163 men and just 16 women.

MORE FAME: Gregg Wilson, who coached men’s swimming at UCSB for 40 years, 32 of them also as women’s coach, was inducted into the American Swimming Coaches Association Hall of Fame last month. The Gauchos won 36 Big West team titles under Wilson, including a 23-year streak by the men’s team. His swimmers included Olympic gold medalists Jason Lezak and Richard Schroeder.

GOODBYE, MR. THORESON: Dave Thoreson, fondly remembered as a physical education teacher at La Colina Junior High, died last week in Lynchburg, Virginia. He was 77. A native of North Dakota, Thoreson was a track-and-field athlete at Westmont College in 1962-63. He continued to train for the decathlon at UCSB with a group including Bill Toomey, the 1968 Olympic champion. Thoreson was known for his energy and his antics. He invented the 30-minute decathlon, a brisk alternative to the traditional two-day competition, and he was the first to claim a world record. With the same mind-set, he made fitness fun for the La Colina kids. Longtime friend John Warkentin, a fellow decathlete, said whenever he accompanied Thoreson around town, adults who had once been among his students invariably addressed him as “Mr. Thoreson.”


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