El Cajon, CA
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Articles by Mary York

The first story I ever covered for The East County Californian was a boys water polo game. It was a warm evening in September of 2015 and I had never been as far east as El Capitan High School where the game was being played.

I was born and raised in the South Bay. I took ballet lessons at the civic center in Chula Vista, went to church in Bonita, attended Southwestern College for both of my associate degrees. Whatever lay east of the I-25 was largely uncharted territory for me when the then-editor of The Cal, Albert Fulcher, asked me to help cover sports in East County.

At 3:30 a.m. one morning in October of 2007, Donna Perry woke up to a hundred foot wall of fire. In the flurried scramble to evacuate, the confounding question became: what to do with the horses.

After getting her own horses to safety, Perry said she and a few others went back to take care of her neighbors ponies who refused to be moved to safety.

The terrifying experience, followed by several long days at the Lakeside Rodeo where most local livestock are taken during fires, put into sharp focus the question of equine emergency response.

In January, the high hopes of El Capitan’s all-underclassmen varsity girls basketball team were only a glimmer on the horizon. The dream arrived sooner than expected.

Entirely staffed with freshmen and sophomores -- and one lone junior who is a foreign exchange student -- the Vaqueros tampered their expectations for the season. That was before they went undefeated in league, before they earned a place in semifinals.

The Grossmont Hills league is heating up as soccer sensations battle for end-of-season wins.

West Hills is currently leading the league 4-0-3, but head coach Robert Romero said it has been a close season.

“We’ve been hanging on by a thread,” he said. “I think our league is one of the more competitive ones. Each of our games have been very close.”

Bleachers shake from stomping feet. Gleeful shouts of painted fans overpower the squeaking of shoes on the glossy court. Shrill whistles and screaming buzzers join the symphony of enthusiasm in a delightfully packed gym. This is another Helix-Grossmont rivalry game. 

The Foothillers hosted the Highlanders on February 2, 2018 for their second face-off this basketball season. Helix (5-1) won, 60-52, making them 2-0 against Grossmont (3-3) this year. 

After six weeks of stiff preseason competition, league play can seem to fly by quickly. East County girls basketball teams are coming to the end of the first round of conference matches, a frustrating reality for some and an unbelievable milestone for others.

El Cajon Valley is starting a new season on the heels of a historic year for the school’s soccer program. The Braves took home the 2017 State title, a momentous victory for a school that tends to see very little in the way of athletic success, compared to its powerhouse neighbors. 

But if anyone expected the Braves to slide into another victorious season, they sorely mistook the nature of high school sports. Only five players from the title-winning team returned, and of those, only two are starting.

Every program goes through rebuilding seasons, but El Capitan girls basketball team is really starting from the foundations. 

The varsity squad has no seniors and no juniors. In fact, on the roster of about a dozen enthusiastic up-and-coming athletes, only three are even sophomores.

Head coach Darin Curtis said the makeup of the program is pretty unusual this year.

The year may be almost over but the Matador’s basketball season is just beginning, and it is shaping up to be a good one. 

For the D3 Grossmont Valley conference team, this year is the culmination of the last several, with a robust roster of juniors and seniors who have played together long enough to build what co-captain senior James Allen calls chemistry.

Steele Canyon players gave an emotional pregame tribute to Will Burton, a former Granite Hills football player, an all-section first team defensive selection who was tragically killed on Dec. 11 in an automobile accident. At Saturday’s state championship game, Steel players wore a special No. 19 decal on their helmets in remembrance of Burton in the spirit of community rival team camaraderie. Convinced Burton was watching Saturday’s game, players gave a performance that took their place as state champion.