Warkentin donation spurs San Marcos to break ground on new field

The Warkentin family has made great contributions to athletics at San Marcos High, with siblings Kara, Mark and Paul all excelling in their respective sports at the school,  earning college scholarships and playing internationally.

Now parents John and Mardi Warkentin are making their mark, not only at San Marcos but in the entire Santa Barbara community.

The Warkentin family is donating $500,000 to The Field of Champions project, and the school announced it will break ground on the new synthetic turf field on Tuesday in a noon ceremony at the newly renamed Warkentin Stadium.

The event is open to the public. The new field will be completed over the summer in time for use when school starts September.

The $500,000 gift from the Warkentin family includes $100,000 designated for improvements to the 9-year-old track and the addition of track and field competition space. According to Tim Vom Steeg and Rich Ridgway, The Field of Champions campaign co-chairs, another $75,000 is needed to completely fund the new field and track improvements.  $900,000 has been raised to date.

The new state-of-the-art turf field will replace the existing grass field. It will eliminate down time due to muddy fields, lack of grass, dangerous holes, and months of re-seeding every year. In addition, the new field will provide operating cost savings, such as a significant reduction of labor costs, chemicals and fuel for mowing, seeding, fertilization, pesticides, irrigation, field preparation, and striping. The environmentally friendly turf field filler material is made of recycled tires.

“The completion of this project will not only add substantial hours of recreational play but will open up space on other fields in our community for other user groups.  It really is a win/win situation,” said Vom Steeg.

The Warkentin Family is well known and respected in the Santa Barbara sports community.  John was one of the top decathletes in the world and the United States for over a decade with national and world rankings from 1967 to 1979.  John trained under legendary coaches, such as Dutch Warmerdam while he attended Fresno State, and Sam Adams at UCSB.

He and Mardi moved to Santa Barbara specifically to train with Adams during the 1970s.

John’s wife, Marjolein, or Mardi, was the top high school women’s tennis player in the Fresno area during the 1960’s. John and Mardi raised three children, Kara, Mark, and Paul all who attended San Marcos.

The Warkentin kids were excellent athletes.

A multiple Channel League tennis singles winner and CIF singles finalist, daughter Kara attended USC on a tennis scholarship. She was named team captain and played No. 1singles and doubles. After USC, Kara played one season on the WTA (women’s professional tennis circuit) and served several years as the San Marcos girls tennis coach.

Mark was a CIF swimming champion for the Royals. He competed on numerous USA Swimming National Teams and won gold medals at both the World University Games and Goodwill Games. He turned to open-water swimming and in 2008 he won the U.S. Open Water swimming national title in both the 6-mile and 15-mile. He represented the USA at the Beijing Olympics in the 10k open water swim race.

Paul was a Channel League champion in tennis and also attained top U.S. national rankings.  After San Marcos, he attended Ohio State and later the University of Arizona on tennis scholarships.  Paul played three years on the men’s professional tennis tour.

Also recognized at the ground-breaking ceremony will be Valley Club golf pro Scott Puailoa, a former three-sport star at San Marcos. The Sut Puailoa Field was named for his late father.