Bella Obando and Sam Meister sign their Letters of Intent | Credit: Courtesy

After years of construction, the renovated Peabody Stadium served as the perfect backdrop for Santa Barbara High’s signing day ceremony last Tuesday.

Water polo standout Bella Obando and versatile volleyball player Sam Meister cemented their commitments to Loyola Marymount and UCSB, respectively, by signing their National Letters of Intent at the 50-yard line in a memorable moment for the two seniors.

“From us here at the school, we can’t tell you how proud we are,” said Santa Barbara High athletic director Todd Heil. “This is a huge moment for the two of you, and to be able to honor you guys and celebrate this with you is very important to us.”

For Meister, the short trip up the 101 freeway to UCSB is a dream come true and the culmination of years of hard work. “I grew up practicing there for the past four years, and I’ve always wanted to go to [UCSB].They’re a great program that was super close to winning a [national] championship a year ago, and hopefully we can win one in the future.”

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Meister was a versatile weapon for head coach Chad Arneson at Santa Barbara High. He’s an elite athlete at 6′4″ with a nearly 40-inch vertical leap.

“The guy could jump out of the gym, but he was also coordinated, so that always helped out a lot,” Arneson said. “He’s a good kid, a good athlete, and it’s really neat to see how much he progressed throughout each year.”

Obando’s journey to Loyola Marymount was anything but typical. She did not play water polo until the 8th grade, which is very late by Santa Barbara standards, but a strong foundation in swimming gave her the tools to excel once she made the move.

“I was thrown into swimming when I was 6 years old, and that gave me a good base to go play water polo,” Obando said. “My brother (Mateo) and sister (Olivia) started playing water polo before I did. I stuck with swimming, and then they convinced me to get into it, and now I love it.”

Credit: John Zant

The $39 million Peabody Stadium construction project to update the nearly 100-year-old structure was marred by setbacks and delays but is now complete. It’s hard to imagine a more picturesque venue for high school sports.

“It’s breathtaking, and there’s these moments where I catch myself thinking, ‘I can’t believe I am the principal of this beautiful school and Peabody Stadium,’” said Santa Barbara High Principal Elise Simmons. “We appreciate all of the support of our community, district, alumni, and everybody who has helped and stuck with us through this whole thing.”

New features include brand-new field turf, an all-weather track, a state-of-the-art press box, and a clear view of the campus and the Riviera from the home stands.

In addition, the stadium pays tribute to former Dons who served our country in times of war with the Doug & Ann Allred Veterans Memorial.

San Marcos High Signing Day

Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

The Royals had a large contingent of eight student athletes taking advantage of the early signing period.

Among the group were twin brothers Caden and Jared Vom Steeg, who signed to play for their father, UCSB men’s soccer coach Tim Vom Steeg.

“It was a tough recruiting deal, but I was able to secure them,” said the elder Vom Steeg with a smirk. “We’re looking forward to watching them develop over the next four years.”

San Marcos standout pitcher Henry Manfredonia will stay close to home after signing with UCSB. Head coach Andrew Checketts is known for developing pitching prospects, and Manfredonia hopes to be the next in a long line of success stories.

“My dad used to work at UCSB, and I would go to their games every weekend, so it has always been a dream of mine to go there,” Manfredonia said. Coincidentally, Manfredonia was on the Goleta Valley South all-star baseball team with the Vom Steeg twins that won their section when they were 12 years old.

The San Marcos High girls’ water polo team continues to churn out elite players as Caroline Courtois and Chloe Spievak signed with UC San Diego and UC Irvine, respectively. In addition, Zosia Amberger will be attending Pomona College and playing water polo, but she was unable to sign Tuesday due to Division 3 regulations.

Track and field standout Annabelle Tiller signed with Cal. She excels in multiple events at San Marcos but specializes in the 300 meter hurdles.

Beach volleyball is an emerging sport at the collegiate level, and Madison Oriskovich will continue her career at Pepperdine. Taylor Wilson was unable to attend the signing ceremony, but she signed to play beach volleyball at Stanford.

Dos Pueblos High did not hold an in-person signing day but had two athletes sign their letters of intent, including Kelly Meckelborg, who will play water polo at Hawai‘i, and Liv Naaman, who will play lacrosse at Mount Holyoke.

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