SBART Luncheon: Dons lifted by the spirit of Nick Johnson

Santa Barbara High Athletic Director Joe Chenoweth, left, school Principal John Bechio, center, and water polo student-athlete ???

Santa Barbara High Athletic Director Joe Chenoweth, left, school Principal John Bechio, center, and water polo student-athlete John Salman.

The spirit of Nick Johnson lives on with the Santa Barbara High boys water polo team.

Santa Barbara coach Mark Walsh shared a story of Johnson’s impact on this year’s team during Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon at Harry’s Plaza Café.

Johnson died last spring while doing a swim workout at the high school pool. The coroner attributed the death to “accidental drowning.” A standout water polo player for Walsh at Santa Barbara, he was in his sophomore year at UCSB.

Walsh and his team met for dinner on the eve of last week’s Channel League opener against CIF top-10 ranked Ventura. Rather than watching a scouting video of Ventura, Walsh elected to show the team a video tribute to Johnson. He said he hadn’t yet addressed this group about Johnson, “so I thought it was a good time.”

The video stirred something inside the players.

“His anthem has a lot to do with trying as hard as you can all of the time, only look at yourself, don’t blame others, no one controls how good you can be, only you can control how good you can be; what do you do when you go up against someone who is bigger, stronger and faster than you? Do you shrink or do you become mentally tough? What are you going to do in those situations? We talked about that a little bit,” Walsh explained.

In the game, it was crunch time and the Dons saw a four-goal lead shrink to one with 2.5 minutes to go.

“They called a timeout, I talked to the guys about what they were going to do and as I’m walking away I heard one of the guys say: ‘Hey, guys, just remember what Nick said,’ Walsh recounted. “At that my moment, I said: ‘Oh my gosh. In time of crisis, they’re referring to what was said last night and they got it.’ I just had a really good feeling things were going to work out well for us. We ended up keeping them from scoring, we ended going up by three and winning the game by two.”

It was such a stirring moment that Walsh called Berkeley Johnson, Nick’s father, and told him what happened.

“It was a really, really neat moment. I shared it with Nick’s dad and he was really excited for us,” said Walsh.

The Dons are having a good season. They’re 13-5 with a team of mostly sophomores and freshmen. The win total matches their season total for wins last season, a season in which they missed the CIF playoffs for the first time in several years.

Walsh introduced seniors John Salman and Chris Bartholomew, whose work ethic and maturity have played a key part in the team’s success. He said Salman “lives his life a lot like Nick does. He’s just on it; he gets it. He’s been so great to have for our younger guys.”

On Bartholomew: “He’s changed his mindset and is working hard at every practice, and is a very good leader,” Walsh said. “Maturity-wise, he really flipped the switch. He’s a guy others can look to in how you work out, how you prepare yourself for a game, how you conduct yourself.”

San Marcos: Coach Jeff Ashton said fans who attended the Royals’ league opener against Buena “got their money’s worth. There were 34 total goals scored.” The Royals won 20-14.

“I don’t like to score 20 on an opponent, but they put up 14. It’s kind of that line but we needed all of them to get through it.”

Kameron Bebb, a four-year varsity player, is the Royals’ “ultimate utility guy,” said Ashton.

Goalie Jack Palmer anchors the defense and plays “solid every game,” the coach noted.

San Marcos plays host to Dos Pueblos on Thursday.

Dos Pueblos: Athletic director Dan Feldhaus gave a shout out to Jim Ranta, the father of Dos Pueblos aquatics, who was in attendance.

Feldhaus said the Chargers have a 7-6 record playing against a tough schedule. Two key players on the squad are goalie Kyle Krutenat and Kelly Reynolds, the fourth leading scorer on the team.

Carpinteria: The Warriors are 3-3 going into their Tri-Valley League opener against Nordhoff this week. Athletic director Pat Cooney introduced team member Forrest Van Stein, a multisport athlete who has an artistic side. He plays the piano and guitar.

Cooney noted that coach Matt Organista couldn’t make it because he’s probably training. Organista won the Santa Barbara Triathlon, Pier to Peak half marathon and Carpinteria Triathlon. “It’s probably unprecedented,” Cooney said.

SBCC Women: The first-year program is 6-9 and 2-1 in the Western State Conference. Rocio Fesembeck is the leading goal scorer in the conference with 53 goal.

Sports Information Specialist Dave Loveton, speaking for coach Chuckie Roth, said, “The kids are buying in and establishing a culture for the future of the program.”


UCSB won its first two conference games and is on a four-game win streak.

“We are buzzing right now,” assistant coach Waid Ibrahim said. “We knew it was going to be a slow start this year having 20 freshman and sophomore in the program.”

The Gauchos are 6-3-1 overall.


Santa Barbara High: Athletic director Joe Chenoweth brought sophomore Jared Levy and junior captain Alice Upton. Reading notes from coach Olivia Perdices, Chenoweith said Levy “has made a successful transition from track to cross country.” Upton has “taken on a leadership role and handles it beautifully.”

San Marcos: Coach Lawrence Stehmeier brought captain Leah Urzua, Emily Pearlman, Adrian Perea and Logan Briner. The Royals run at the second Channel League meet on Wednesday at Arroyo Verde Park in Ventura.

“We’re ready to get out there show what we can do,” said Stehmeier.

Dos Pueblos: Co-coach Kyle Visin said sophomore Hunter Clark is a great role model. “He’s one of those rare ones you hope for. He truly loves running and the pureness of the sport.”

Visin added that sophomore Christina Rice is coming along as an athlete. She finished second at the Righetti Invitational.

Laguna Blanca: Coach David Silverander said he’s impressed with the athleticism of Alex Furukawa. Isabelle Davenport is the lone girl running for the Owls. She finished second in a race against Midland.

Carpinteria: Simon Priest is one of the most valuable student-athletes at Carpinteria. In addition to running, playing in the band, being involved in musical theater, mock trial, the school’s Junior State of America president and being an Eagle Scout, “he maintains all the iPads on campus,” Cooney said. “He’s a guy we all need and rely on.”

SBCC: The Vaqueros host their annual SBCC Invitational at Shoreline Park on Saturday. The race is unique in that it starts on the beach.

Westmont: Coach Russell Smelley sent his men’s team drove to Pomona Pitzer for a meet in their own cars after the bus they were supposed to take broke down. Another bus arrived to take Smelley and the women’s team. When he arrived at the meet, the men were already racing.

“Coaching is way overrated,” Smelley quipped. “The guys got themselves there, warmed up and got themselves in the race and they had a very fine race.” He introduced junior Evan Kramer.

On the women’s side, Smelley said the top three runners ran well. He gave the men a B effort on the day and the women a C minus.


SBCC coach Craig Moropoulos said Rodriquez Jones “rose up big and was a crucial part of our defense” in the Vaqueros’ 30-18 win over L.A. Southwest. It was SBCC’s fourth straight win.

Moropoulos also praised freshman quarterback Brandon Edwards, saying he’s getting better every week. “He had no interceptions. That’s huge in our offense,” said the coach.

Moropoulos said his team showed the benefit of its conditioning on the hot day.

“In the third quarter, I looked over at (the L.A. Southest) sideline and about every one of their guys was sitting on the bench, and our guys, nobody was sitting on bench. That was a good sign. I could tell right then our guys were in better condition, more mentally prepared and ready to be successful. That’s a credit to our guys.”

The Vaqueros (4-1, 2-0 in the American Pacific League) have a bye this week.


Santa Barbara: The Dons finished the pre-league campaign with a 3-3 record. They open Channel League play at home against Ventura.

Chenoweth, standing in for coach JT Stone, introduced receiver/punter Bolden Brace and cornerback Alex Guadarrama. They played well in the loss to unbeaten Pacifica

Carpinteria: Linebacker Greg Elizarraraz and guard Jorge Arroyo have been standout players and leaders for Ben Hallock’s Warriors.

“I have confidence these guys are going to be great adults. They’re a picture of what you want to accomplish through athletics in terms of building citizens,” said Hallock.

The coach said the team has an expected bye this week. They had Chadwick on the schedule but the school had a low turnout for football and decided to play 8-man football this season.

Laguna Blanca: Shane Lopes said he’s confused his wife because after the first four games the Owls won he was in a bad mood. Following Saturday’s loss at Orcutt Academy, “I was actually happier than ever because so much was gained from that loss.”

Lopes introduced freshman Kelvin Chen, who is new to this country and new to the sport of football. He made an open-field tackle against Orcutt Academy.

Noseguard/center Alex Lindskog has been a standout for the Owls.

Dos Pueblos: Coach Nate Mendoza introduced defensive backs sophomore Blake Erwin and junior Josh Flora. They were part of a secondary that intercepted four passes against a strong Sierra Canyon team last Thursday.

After going 1-5 against a tough pre-league schedule, the Chargers are looking forward to their Channel League opener on Friday against Buena.

“George Rempe, Santa Barbara’s baseball coach, he’d ring a bell and say, ‘League has started, the bell has rung.’ That’s the way we’re looking at it,” Mendoza said. “It’s a new season for us. We’re healthy and we’re very excited to host our homecoming game Friday night against Buena.”

San Marcos: Coach Anthony Linebaugh said Juan Guevara played a big part in the Royals’ win over Nordhoff last Friday. He sealed the win with a sack.

The other athlete Linebaugh introduced was Robert Moreno. He came out for the team from Linebaugh’s physical education class and has not missed a day of training.

Unfortunately, a health problem has kept Moreno from playing, but he’s an MVP in Linebaugh’s eyes. He does filming, analyzes film, sets up drills, does whatever the coach needs.

“He’s such a responsible type of person that you can give him the keys to your car and house and when you come back your car will be filled with gas and the house cleaned,” said Linebaugh. “He’s first team in our books.”