Evolution in Sports

For many, the extensiveness of our school’s benefits does not end with the classes they take each year; it also includes the multitude of athletic programs they participate in as they venture through high school.

Owen Hite, Reporter

Since its conception in 1972, our school has provided an invaluable education to the thousands of Petalumans who passed through its halls as they prepared themselves for college life and responsibility. Though for many, the extensiveness of our school’s benefits does not end with the classes they take each year; it also includes the multitude of athletic programs they participate in as they venture through high school. Throughout the existence of our school’s athletics, numerous alterations in competition, coaching, and popularity have allowed sports to blossom into the broad-spanning and beneficial programs that they are today.

As our school’s attendance increased from its first 897 attendees to over 1700 students this year, the popularity of sports programs have equally followed suit. In the past twenty-five years alone, sports such as men’s lacrosse, women’s wrestling, and women’s lacrosse were added to the dozens of teams already competing to allow space for our community’s growing interest. Rick O’Brien, the athletic director at our high school, weighed in on the athletic progression.

The participation in our sports programs has always been great. Throughout the years in the Sonoma County League (SCL), North Bay League (NBL) and now in the VVAL Casa Grande has often had the largest number of student athletes on teams,” said O’Brien.

O’Brien, who is also the commissioner of the Vine Valley Athletic League (VVAL)―our school’s current competition bracket―has witnessed and taken part in the array of divisions, and understands the shifting that occurs as school-based athletics continue to develop in the North Coast Section. Though the logistics of such moves can be a complicated process―as they often include redefining scoring criteria and start times for sporting events―O’Brien explains that the transition that occurred nearly two years ago from the North Bay League (NBL) was indeed a beneficial one.

“The switch to the VVAL has been a positive move for Casa Grande. The North Coast Section (NCS) granted 3 Napa schools (Napa, Vintage, American Canyon) entry into the NCS from the SJS. A new league had to be formed and Casa Grande, Petaluma, and Sonoma were chosen to join the 4 Napa schools.  Casa Grande has been very competitive and enjoyed many VVAL Championships since the move.” said O’Brien.

Besides the visible development of our school’s athletic popularity, many students also find the guidance provided to them by sporting programs to have a more meaningful impact on their own evolution. Spencer Torkelson, an alumni and current major league baseballer for the Detroit Tigers, explains the benefits of the athletic experience. 

As an athlete you get thrown into situations that make you problem solve, or overcome things like injuries that you have to incorporate in your everyday life.  [You have] coaches teaching you, making you better at your craft, but also coaching you in life and holding you accountable,”

— Spencer Torkelson

“As an athlete you get thrown into situations that make you problem solve, or overcome things like injuries that you have to incorporate in your everyday life.  [You have] coaches teaching you, making you better at your craft, but also coaching you in life and holding you accountable,” said Torkelson.

Experiences such as these play directly into the student athlete mentality that O’Brien aims to cultivate in our school’s athletics by supporting players in the classroom as well as in their sport. 

Torkelson, too, recognizes the importance of education, even when faced with the challenge of balancing it with his professional baseball career.

“Very few people get to make livings off of the sport, and to be able to get your education at the same time is very important,” said Torkelson. “I take it really seriously; I’m going to complete my education within the next couple years while I’m playing professional baseball.”

It’s clear through Torkleson’s account that success in life evolves and progresses alongside athletics, as the two are proportionately intertwined. As sports at our school have evolved, the ensuing victories for athletes have become quite prevalent. As competitors, they benefit from new leagues and increasing athletic popularity, and as students and individuals, they succeed with the guidance provided to them along the way.