CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (Dec. 10, 2021) — Before we say goodbye (good riddance?) to 2021, we are going to take a brief look back at what transpired for local athletes and teams. From two local women whose Olympic experiences last summer in Tokyo ended very differently to high school athletes this fall who finally got to complete a full season with their teams after the (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime previous school year’s pandemic-dictated schedule that crammed three seasons into five months.
Kara Kohler, a 2009 Clayton Valley High grad, missed her chance for a second Olympic medal, when a bad start cost her dearly in the single sculls semi-finals in Tokyo. The Clayton resident was less than a second out of a spot in the six-boat Olympic medals finals. Early in the year Kohler dominated the field at the U.S. Trials to get back to the Olympics. The former Cal Berkeley all-America won a bronze medal in women’s quad in 2012 but was overlooked in selections for Rio 2016.
Melissa Seidemann graduated from College Park High in 2008. She went to Stanford and soon gained a spot on the USA national water polo team. That journey continued in Tokyo when Seidemann won her third Olympic gold medal. She also won three world championship golds and two from the Pan Am Games. Away from the pool Seidemann played youth soccer in the Diablo Valley Soccer Club.
The condensed and abbreviated high school sports season for the athletes and teams in the 2020-21 school year all happened in the first five months this calendar year as officials and administrators had to creatively rework all the schedules under the moving shadow of the pandemic. There were no playoffs held in the North Coast Section.
During the March-April football season both De La Salle (6-0) and Mt. Diablo (4-0) had undefeated seasons. It was the Spartans first unblemished record since 2014 but their 22nd overall since 1982. For the area’s oldest high school, Mt. Diablo, it had been decades waiting for a league championship which the Red Devils claimed last spring in the Diablo Athletic League.
The area lost two local sports titans in February. Long-time San Francisco 49er defensive lineman Charlie Krueger of Clayton died Feb. 5 at 84 years after a lengthy illness. The College Football Hall of Famer for Texas A&M was a stalwart in the 49ers defense from 1959-73. He owned a business in Concord for many years after retiring from the NFL.
De La Salle’s beloved wrestling coach Mark Halvorson died suddenly 10 days after Krueger at just 57 years of age. He guided the Spartans wrestling program to unprecedented heights with 11 North Coast Section championships in the previous 12 years. Two of his star pupils, Kyle Parco and Peyton Omania, in recent years won the first state championships for the Spartans.
Omania surprised everyone by winning the USA World Team Trials to earn a berth in the World Greco Roman Championships in Oslo in October. Halvorson had coached Omania since he was a youngster at the Community Youth Center.
Return to normal
Almost all competitive and recreation swimming was canceled in 2020 when the pandemic brought sports to halt that March. This past summer, schedules pretty much returned to normal, and no one was happier for that than the Dana Hills Swim Team of Clayton.
After finishing second three times and spending the last decade among the top three teams in the annual Contra Costa Swimming Championships, the Dana Hills Swim Team outpaced the field to claim its first-ever Division I championship this year. The County Meet followed the Concord Swimming Championships where the Otters won the title for the 28th time in the last 29 City Meets. Gehringer Park defended its city B Division championship by just three points.
Million dollar season
Someone who wins over a million dollars in her rookie season on the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour must be doing something right. Concord’s Yealimi Noh did that this year and also represented the USA in the Solheim Cup this fall, winning two matches for her American team that lost to Europe by a 15-13 score in the biennial showdown.
Noh would be the first to say those accomplishments came during this second year on the LPGA Tour that began and ended with her not playing her best golf. As is her recent track record, she was blistering hot during the summer months, which enabled her to grab one of the 12 cherished spots on the Solheim team.
The biggest shock of the year was De La Salle High School football having its second and third most noted streaks ended. Thirty years after they last lost a NCS championship game De La Salle saw its 318-game unbeaten streak against high school teams north of Fresno ended Sept. 10 in Mountain View. Saint Francis scored the winning touchdown with 16 seconds left to beat the Spartans 31-28.
Then last Friday evening on their own field, De La Salle fell to Folsom 31-28 in the Northern California Regional Bowl Game. That loss means De La Salle will miss the CIF State Bowl Game for the first time since the series began in 2006. They have by far the most State appearances of any school in California.
Of course, their most famous steak was the 151-game winning streak that is a national record and spanned books and a major motion picture about the Spartans. That streak ran from 1992 until 2004. For more on De La Salle’s historic streaks, visit MaxPreps.
Jay Bedecarré is a long-time resident and writer in Concord and Clayton. He began his newspaper writing career while still a senior at Mt. Diablo High School and he has been part of The Pioneer since its inception in 2003. Jay also operates Bay Area Festivals, presenting events around the San Francisco Bay Area including Bay Area KidFest annually in Downtown Concord.