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THINKING SMALL, WALKING TALL; THESE TINY SCHOOLS PACK PLENTY OF ATHLETIC PUNCH.

Byline: Lee Barnathan Daily News Staff Writer

You don't have to be big to be powerful.

Sure, we read and write about the football prowess of Taft, Antelope Valley, Newbury Park, Sylmar and Hart. When we think about boys' basketball, Chaminade and North Hollywood come to mind. Alemany is the girls' hoop program everyone wants to emulate.

How could we hear baseball and not mention El Camino Real, Chatsworth and Crescenta Valley? Quartz Hill and Simi Valley are among the softball rulers. Royal, Harvard-Westlake and Granada Hills are top volleyball programs.

What do they all have in common? They're big schools, many with enrollments of more than 2,000 students.

Wait, you say. What about Alemany, Chaminade and Harvard-Westlake? They're small. And Newbury Park is the smallest school in the Marmonte League.

True enough. But Newbury Park (1,550) and Alemany (1,420) are hardly small. Chaminade (1,088) and Harvard-Westlake (1,076) are smaller, but they're not little guys like Cornerstone Christian in Camarillo. With an enrollment of just 84 students, that school is a giant among small schools, having won 14 Condor League titles and three Southern Section championships in 15 years of existence.

That got us thinking. How good are the small schools? And who are the small-school powers?

We found no shortage of candidates. There are 42 schools in the area with enrollments of fewer than 1,000 students (sorry, Notre Dame, you miss by 80 students).

After eliminating schools we've never heard of or never seen on a playoff-bracket sheet, we picked eight criteria: number of sports; number of league, section and state titles; percentages of athletes who play one or more sports; scholarship possibilities; famous athletic alumni, and coaching continuity.

Then we put it all together.

Here is our look at some of the glory the little guys make. We hope it won't affect open-enrollment transfers too much.

TOP 10 SMALL SCHOOLS: Louisville, Crespi are tradition-rich

A look at the area's top 10 small-school athletic programs:

1. LOUISVILLE

Enrollment: 483 (all girls)

Varsity teams: 11

Athlete percentages: 65 percent participate. Of these, 40 percent are multi-sport athletes.

Famous alumnus: Cindy Daws (Notre Dame soccer, potential U.S. national team player)

Did you know? The school has resident deer that can be seen on campus early in the morning.

Nestled in the hills of Woodland Hills (did anyone know there were woods and hills?) lies the school of champions, our area's answer to UCLA. For all of you people who believe an athletic tradition begins and ends with the triumvirate of football, basketball and baseball,we bring you the winningest program of all: 12 Southern Section crowns, three runners-up, a state title, 13 individual section titles and one individual state champ to go with 40 league titles. The section titles are second to Montclair Prep's 13, but no one compares to 30 top-two section and state finishes.

And not a football player among them, although the most famous alumnus plays ball with her feet. In fact, soccer has just one league title, basketball has just four and softball has none.

At Louisville, greatness is measured among the other sports. Volleyball has 10 league titles since 1974 and section titles in '74, '75, '80 and '81.

OK, so it hasn't done anything since winning league and reaching the semifinals in 1989, but along came cross country. After winning the league in '83, the girls won in '90, '94, '95 and '97. They took the section and state crowns in '95. Also, Shaluinn Fullove won two section and one state titles between 1994-95.

In between the glory years of volleyball and cross country, there have been swimming and track. Swimming is the sport, where the Royals won 10 league titles, five section titles (three swimming, two diving) in parts of three decades. In addition, Sharon Thomas was a 100-yard breaststroke champion in 1979 and Susie Dorrough won diving titles in 1990 and '92. Three times, in 1979, 1982 and 1983, the 200 yard relay team won.

Track has six league titles between 1982-93. The girls won the section in 1983, led by Katie Manning's 800 meter title. Fullove won three more individual titles: the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters, and Cindy Murphy won a high jump.

Amazingly, athletic director Marilyn Hyman said, most of this has been accomplished off campus, since Louisville is on a small parcel of land and only plays a few sports on the school grounds. How many large schools can compete with this tradition? Our guess is not many.

2. CRESPI

Enrollment: 495 (all boys)

Varsity teams: 11

Athlete percentages: About 60 percent play a sport. Of these, about 70 percent are multi-sport athletes

Famous alumni: Russell White (football, L.A. Rams), Rick Dempsey (catcher, Baltimore and Los Angeles), Randy Cross (lineman, San Francisco)

Did you know? 25 alumni currently playing in pro leagues

Let's start with the obvious: football. Led by Russell White, this is one of only two area teams to win a Division I section title (1986, when it was called the Big Five Conference. Glendale won in 1924 and 1937). Crespi also won mythical state titles in '86 and '93 and was runner-up in '64.

You want famous alumni? Look no further. Besides White, Dempsey and Cross, let's not forget Jeff Suppan, now pitching for Kansas City, tight end Christian Fauria of the Seattle Seahawks and safety Shaun Williams of the New York Giants. There's also backup quarterback Babe Laufenberg (Washington, Dallas); and J.J. Lasley, now playing for the Green Bay Packers.

There are famous coaches, too. Anthony Curran coaches pole vaulters at UCLA but set the national Catholic high school record (17 feet, 4-1/4 inches) while at Crespi. Harry Welch was a skinny defensive back who went on to coach Canyon High to 46 straight victories and three straight section titles in 1983-85.

There's still more. No school has won more than Crespi's 78 league titles between 1960 and 1998. In addition to football's section title, water polo won one in 1981 and track won in 1973.

Ah, track. This is the sport that rules the school. It has a winning percentage of .880. In one season, it shut out four different opponents 127-0. More than 50 athletes have earned scholarships. Mike Kearns won a section two-mile title in 1965. White won the triple jump in 1987 and '89 and the 1989 long jump. Cross won a state shotput title in 1972. Tim Curran won a state pole vault title in 1973.

There are also the records. Anthony Curran not only set a national pole vault record, he also set a world age group record of 15-0 in 1972, at age 14. That same year, Tim Curran won the section pole vault with a leap of 15-2. Also, Cross set a national Catholic shot put record with a throw of 67-5. White holds the triple jump record at 50-6. Willie Curran's 35.9-second in the 300-meter low hurdles set the national mark, which likely won't be broken because the event is now the 300 intermediate hurdles. Guy Arbogast ran six miles in 29:40, and Steve Caminiti clocked 18.1 in the 180 yard low hurdles, another no-longer-existing event.

3. PARACLETE

Enrollment: 731 (co-ed)

Varsity teams: 15 (8 boys, 7 girls)

Athlete percentage: 46 percent play a sport. Of these, 80 percent play multiple sports.

Famous alumni: None

Did you know? The school has more section titles than any Antelope Valley-area school.

Who knew this school was the real athletic giant of the Antelope Valley? Surrounded by six schools with enrollments that average 2,432, tiny Paraclete has won seven section titles and has been runner-up eight times. Plus, there have been nine individual track section champions.

It's been evenly divided, too: Other than boys' soccer's two league titles, no other sport has finished first fewer than six times. Football has seven league titles, and section titles in 1967 and '97. And 1980 was a good year: Girls' cross country, girls' volleyball and baseball captured section titles. Cross country also won in 1975, and track won in 1987.

The hardest-luck sport is softball: 20 consecutive High Desert League titles but no section crowns. But the Spirits have been to the finals six times in 17 years.

Gayle Deisinger won the section high jump in 1983-84. Zenzile Johnson won four section hurdles titles between 1992 and '94. Matt Phelan won the '94 shotput and Liz Phelan took the 1998 3,200 meters this past spring.

All told, the athletes have won various athletic scholarships to 22 Division I schools.

4. L.A. BAPTIST

Enrollment: 531 (co-ed)

Varsity teams: 14 (8 boys, six girls)

Athlete perentage: 75 percent play a sport. Of these, about 50 percent are multi-sport athletes.

Famous alumni: Steve Tetrick (football - held state career rushing record of 5,181 yards for three years); Tim Feirfeil (football, baseball)

Did you know: While at LAB, football coach Don Markham created what is now known as the double-wing offense.

Here's a sure sign a school is aware of its tradition: It retires athletes' jerseys. Nine players from six sports have gotten this honor. The criteria: Players must have been a section or state player of the year, or they must have done something so amazing it merits a number being retired. Tetrick was the second, in 1972. (By the way, after starring as a tailback at LAB, Tetrick played nose guard at UCLA.) The most recent was Feirfeil, who not only was Cal-Hi Sports' small school athlete of the year, he led the nation with 1,730 yards receiving last year.

And yet the most famous athlete might be a swimmer who no longer attends the school. Jennifer Parmenter now is at Granada Hills, but before she transferred, she was a one-person swim team and set the Division I 200-yard butterfly record.

Girls' volleyball is the most successful sport, with the recently retired Sue Newcomb guiding the girls to 13 league titles, 16 straight playoff appearances, a section crown in 1991 and runner-up finishes in '88, '92 and '94. Football has the most section titles ('71, '93), but boys' soccer and boys' track have finished second twice each.

Only girls' soccer has failed to win a league title, but it has made the playoffs in each of its four years of existence. Boys' golf has been around for three years and already has one league title.

Finally, the tradition extends to the faculty. The school's first athletic director, Ivan Mears, is in the Southern Section Hall of Fame. Principal Gary Smidderks is a Southern Section past president and a member of the state CIF executive council.

5. MONTCLAIR PREP

Enrollment: 380 (co-ed)

Varsity teams: 6 (3 boys, 3 girls)

Athlete percentage: 26 percent of the student body plays a sport. Of these, about 26 percent are multi-sport athletes.

Famous alumni: Toi Cook (San Francisco 49ers), Brad Fullmer (Montreal Expos), Russ Ortiz (San Francisco Giants)

Did you know? The school was a motel before becoming a school in 1956.

Here's a dream school for those who worship the football-basketball-baseball triumvirate. Those three sports have combined for 22 league titles, an area-best 13 section championships, five runners-up, a state title and a state runner-up. And just about all of this came before troubles with the football program led to the school being banned from a league after 1992. The one exception is football's 1994 section title.

One other thing: Most of the league titles occurred in succession. Baseball won nine in a row from 1984-92 and won four section titles between '78 and '82. Basketball won six leagues from '87-92, and football won five straight from '88-92.

As a result, Montclair Prep has the largest list of scholarship athletes (at least 35 Division I colleges) and a great list of famous ones. Five schools each from the Pac-10 and Big Ten have received Mounties, as have schools like Cal State Northridge, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Fullerton, Columbia, Louisiana State, Texas and Penn. Besides the three famous already mentioned, there's Torey Lovullo of Detroit, Oakland and the Angels, and Tim Stallworth of the 49ers. And we won't even touch the famous non-athletic alumni, including Michael Jackson and Cher.

Unfortunately, the girls' sports are almost afterthoughts: Only four league titles, all in girls' basketball. But at least the girls are in a league (Westside), and they haven't lost in four years.

6. LA REINA

Enrollment: 386 (all girls)

Varsity teams: 9

Athlete percentages: About 45 percent play a sport. Of these, about 60 percent are multi-sport athletes.

Famous alumnus: Kathy Slaten (CSUN softball, 20 no-hitters)

Did you know? Equestrian is offered as a sport

Of the school's eight section titles, perhaps the most impressive was the first. In 1974, Pam Curran won the team track title singlehandedly. She won the long jump and the 220 yards and was second in the 100. Her 13 points was enough to beat 200 teams, and she was named a face in the crowd by Sports Illustrated.

As for equestrian, the athletes work out in their own barns with their own trainers, then come together for the Interscholastic Equestrian League, which is the sanctioning body. Louisville also has equestrian, but La Reina has been dominant the past four years. This year, it swept the varsity, junior varsity, freshman and novice divisions.

Softball is the school's signature sport, having won 14 league titles since 1979, including all but one this decade, and four section titles (1980-81, 1991-92). Teams have made the playoffs every year but one since 1978 and five players have gone on to play collegiately at places such as Stanford, Ohio State, Penn State and CSUN.

Slaten is the Northridge phenom who recorded 20 no-hitters and struck out 1,537 between 1983-86. She was so dominating that she was one reason the pitching circle was moved back to 43 feet.

Soccer also is strong. Nine players have won scholarships in a sport that won 48 league matches in a row, was unbeaten in 58 straight league matches and has been to the playoffs every year since 1989, finishing second in 1993. Basketball won a section title in 1983, and tennis finished second three straight years (1984-86) before winning in 1994-95.

7. CORNERSTONE CHRISTIAN

Enrollment: 84 (co-ed)

Varsity teams: 6 (3 boys, 3 girls)

Athlete perentages: 61 percent play a sport. Of these, 49 percent play more than one sport.

Famous alumni: None

Did you know? The school served as the inspiration for this story.

A school with just 84 kids already has won 14 league titles and three section championships (girls' volleyball in 1996-97 and softball is 1998) and was runner-up once (girls' basketball, 1996) in its 15-year history. This merits closer consideration.

Principal Martin Young says it's the quality of the kids. ``The kids who come here tend to be motivated and close to each other,'' he said. ``They have high expectations.''

If also helps that these players have played together since they were in kindergarten (the school is K-12, with just 84 in the high school). It also helps that everyone shares the same religous faith.

Girls' basketball and softball have won five league titles apiece, followed by two by boys' basketball and one each by baseball and girls' volleyball. In the last four years, every team has reached at least the section quarterfinals, and softball players Karen Breshears (Toledo) and Julia Tamai (Wright State) have earned the school's first Division I college scholarships.

8. BELL-JEFF

Enrollment: 465 (co-ed)

Varsity teams: 11 (6 boys, 5 girls)

Athlete percentages: 60 percent play a sport. Of these, about 80 percent play more than one sport.

Famous alumni: Doug Savant (actor, ``Melrose Place''; played quarterback), Chris Morgan (1996 Olympic steeplechase athlete), Jackie Johnson (basketball), Ruben Douglas (basketball)

Did you know? Angie Dickinson graduated from here, but there's no record of her having played a sport.

Just because football hasn't won anything since 1954 doesn't mean there isn't tradition here. Cross country rules, with the boys and girls' programs accounting for 22 of the school's 42 league titles. The girls won seven straight leagues from 1991-97 and have appeared in the playoffs 23 times in 26 years. The boys have won seven leagues, have made the playoffs 21 times and finished in the section's top 10 15 times, including a runner-up finish in 1991. That same year, they finished second in the state.

The only section title belongs to the girls' basketball, when Jackie Johnson led the Guards to the title in 1997, four years after a runner-up finish. Johnson went on to earn one of the school's numerous Division I scholarships (to Kansas). Arizona, Brigham Young, UNLV and Grambling are some of the other schools.

9. FLINTRIDGE SACRED HEART

Enrollment: 385 (all girls)

Varsity teams: 8

Athlete percentage: 33 percent play a sport. Of these, only a handful are multi-sport athletes.

Fanmous alumni: None

Did you know? The school's nickname, Tologs, is an acronym meaning ``To our Lady of Good Success.''

Being the smallest school in the Mission League has made it difficult, if not impossible, to win league titles. But when the playoffs come and schools are drawn into divisions based on enrollment, this school shines, especially in volleyball. The Tologs were second to Harvard-Westlake in each of the last two years but won Southern Section Division IV titles (Harvard-Westlake is in Division III). The school also has two other section crowns in volleyball, a swim title in 1993 and runner-up finishes in volleyball, basketball and softball in 1985.

A lot of scholarships are to be had here, especially in swimming, where the McPherson sisters (Laura, Heather and Melinda) moved on. But none of them ever won an individual section title, as Shannon McIntyre did (twice) in the 100 breaststroke in 1981-82.

There's also section volleyball player of the year Holly Doran at Texas, swimmer Megan Jones at Bucknell, diver Francie McCoppin at Notre Dame, runner Shelly Gomez at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and soccer player Katie Conrad at New York University. Yet none of these players ever got to enjoy the new gym that opens for this fall.

10. CAMPBELL HALL

Enrollment: 300 (co-ed)

Varsity teams: 17 (9 boys, 8 girls)

Athlete percentages: 68 percent participate in a sport. Of these, 60 percent are multi-sport athletes

Famous alumni: Regina Jacobs (three-time Olympian in 800 and 1,500 meters), Harold Sylvester (member of UCLA's 1995 championship basketball team)

Did you know? In 1989, punter Don White returned his own punt for a touchdown.

Boys' volleyball is the school's most visible sport, having won 40 straight Alpha League matches and four straight league titles. The Vikings have dropped three games in that span.

And yet, Campbell Hall has never advanced past the semifinals (1995, '96 and '98). The only section titles belong to boys' basketball (1992, 1994). One player on those teams, C.J. Thompkins, went on to Columbia and set several scoring records and was named Ivy League player of the year.

In the late 1980s, Crissy Mills won the state high jump three times.

THE SECOND 10

11. OAK PARK (775, co-ed)

There's no doubt these Eagles love to run. The 1988 boys' track team won the school's only section title, and Jen Frank won the 1990 and '93 100-meter section titles. The boys' cross country teams have won three league titles and have finished in the section's top 10 six times, including runner-up finishes in 1993, '95 and '96. They also have finished in the top five in the state three times, all in this decade.

The boys' soccer teams, which also require a lot of running, have won the most Tri-Valley League titles (five) of any sport (tied with football). They also have section second-place finishes in 1983 and '87. The girls' soccer team finished second in 1986.

But say this for the other sports, and not every school can make this claim: Every sport has won a league title. Notable alumni include Erik Affholter (USC football), who still holds the section record with a 64-yard field goal, and Tarik Smith (Cal football).

12. ST. FRANCIS (620, all-boys)

The all-boys school that once was a country club (the classroom building sits on the first tee) and brought you famous alumni such as major leaguers Matt Young, Mark Loretta and Greg Zaun and NBA player Mike Newlin, went a long time between its section titles. It enjoyed a 29-game football win streak and section championships in 1963-64. Then no team finished first until soccer won in 1996.

Still, the school has 46 league titles, led by football's 14 and track's 10. Steve Schwartz won the section 440 in 1958.

13. PROVIDENCE (545, co-ed)

Playoff tradition lives here. Eight of the 10 sports have combined for 16 league titles in this decade and regularly make the postseason. Boys' cross country has qualified in 19 of 22 years. Boys' basketball has been in eight of the past nine years, and girls' volleyball has advanced the past six years.

Baseball won it all in 1986 with some guy named Jeff Cirillo (he now plays for Milwaukee).

But if you would rather act, that's OK, too. Helen Hunt graduated in 1982.

14. ST. GENEVIEVE (463, co-ed)

You don't think of the Valiants when you think of football powers, but they have nine league titles in parts of four decades and section titles in 1966, '70 and '78. They also have eight baseball league titles and titles in '72 and '78. Alumnus Roland DeLaMaza has nine days of major-league pitching experience. Softball and girls' volleyball also regularly compete, with the volleyball team winning a league title in 1994.

15. FAITH BAPTIST (190, co-ed)

So you want to be an Eight-man football star? Then this is your place. The Contenders won six league titles between 1982-90 and won the section in 1984, '91 and '94 and finished second in '85, '90 and '93.

There's also boys' basketball, which won it all in '90 and two years later finished second in the section and state. Softball, girls' track and baseball also have won league titles.

16. VILLAGE CHRISTIAN (604, co-ed)

Living in Alpha League rival L.A. Baptist's shadow isn't easy, but the Crusaders have made a name for themselves in football and girls' basketball. Football has had one coach, Mike Plaisance, for 19 years. In that span, he has guided his teams to a 122-61-2 record, three league titles, 15 playoff berths, three berths in section semifinals and no losing records since 1985.

Ignacio Brache's 60-yard field goal in 1994 is second-best in the section, and he made 71 PATs in a row at one point.

Girls' basketball made appearances in the 1994 and '96 section finals.

17. L.A. LUTHERAN (140, co-ed)

Once upon a time, this school, now in Sylmar, was the small-school power, winning 10 section titles with four runner-up finishes in five sports between 1963 and 1984. However, most of those championships came when the school was located in Inglewood.

Track dominated after the school moved to Burbank in February 1977. Both teams won section titles, and the boys repeated in '78. Also, Gwenn Loud won the section 200 in 1977, Steve Releford won the long jump and Andrea Ward took the 800 in '78, and Nina Jackson won the 200 in 1983-84.

Boys' basketball also won in '84.

18. GRACE BRETHREN (145, co-ed)

One of the area's emerging small programs, the Lancers won a section baseball crown this spring and won league titles in three of the six sports they play in their first year in the Heritage League. Three years ago, they were 3-14.

Despite being an Eight-man football program, Peter Foy earned a scholarship to Liberty University.

19. FLINTRIDGE PREP (285, co-ed)

The Rebels won a six-man football section title in 1973, then won an Eight-man title in 1989 and finished second six years later. The boys' basketball team won in 1989, and the boys' cross country team won in '95 after a runner-up finish the year before.

20. ANTELOPE VALLEY CHRISTIAN (48, co-ed)

The school won Eight-man football titles in 1990 and '95 and finished second in 1991.

CAPTION(S):

4 Photos

PHOTO (1--Color) Prominent area small-schools athletes include (front row, left to right) Cornerstone Christian's Alizabeth Johnston, Louisville's Paloma Slezak, Paraclete's Barbara Alaniz, L.A. Baptist's Kerri Hazama, La Reina's Monica Thompson and Flintridge Sacred Heart's Megan Hosp; (back row, left to right) Crespi's Robert Muller, Providence's Chris Zimmerman, Montclair Prep's Gabriel Abikasis, Bell-Jeff's Galo Naranjo and Campbell Hall's Aaron Kerr.

Myung J. Chun/Daily News

(2) Brad Fullmer of the Montreal Expos is one of several Montclair Prep players to go on to the pros.

(3--4) Actress Helen Hunt, left, and Milwaukee Brewer Jeff Cirillo both attended Providence High.

Daily News File Photos
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 10, 1998
Words:4135
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