By Zach Cavanagh
In a year like none before it, Dana Point athletes still found success in the small early window it had and well after the stadiums and gyms had closed.
Here is a look back at some of the memorable Dana Point sports moments of 2020:
Harkey, Walker, Donahoe Win Conference Titles
The Dana Hills wrestling program opened a successful postseason run with three individual titles at the Coast View Conference Tournament. Josh Harkey won at 182 pounds, Gavin Walker won at 145 pounds and Layla Donahoe won the girls title at 162 pounds. Six more Dolphins also qualified for the CIF-SS postseason
Harkey was the first Dana Hills boys state podium finisher in 13 years with a fifth-place finish at 195 pounds. Donahoe placed in the top 16 at 160 pounds for the best girls finish in Dana Hills history.
Shane Kaemerle, 15, Signs with California United Strikers FC
Dana Point native Shane Kaemerle became the youngest professional signing in National Independent Soccer Association history when the 15-year-old signed with Irvine’s California United Strikers FC.
CUSD Athletics, Youth Sports Suspend Activities
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Capistrano Unified School District canceled all athletic events and competitions on March 12 through spring break, and nearly all youth sports organizations suspended activities earlier or immediately thereafter.
CIF Cancels Spring Sports Championships
The CIF State office and CIF-SS canceled the section, region and state playoffs for spring sports. The move, along with CUSD schools closing indefinitely, brought an end to any hopes of resuming and finishing the spring sports season.
DPYB Distributes Hand Sanitizer to Seniors
While their teams were off the field due to coronavirus restrictions, the Dana Point Youth Baseball program filled 6,500 plastic bottles with 80 gallons of hand sanitizer to hand out to the city’s homebound seniors.
Layla Donahoe finished second in the CIF-SS Girls Wrestling Southern Regional. Liam Boersma set a Dana Hills football single-season sack record with 22, the most in California. Carrick Denker posted a boys cross country program-record CIF State Meet time of 14:59. Josh Harkey won his second straight CIF-SS Coastal Division wrestling championship at 195 pounds.
Youth, High School Sports Put on Hold Again
After Orange County put out guidance allowing youth sports to resume in June, many programs started practices, and CUSD was set to open camps on July 6. However, CUSD canceled those plans ahead of July 7, when the state counteracted the county and confirmed earlier guidance that youth sports were not yet permitted to return.
CIF Pushes Back Start of School Sports to December
CIF State reorganized its sports calendar and scheduled fall sports to begin in December, starting with boys volleyball games on Dec. 12 and football practices on Dec. 14. In December, the start of school sports was delayed until January and fall sports regional and state championships were canceled.
DHHS Alumnus Blake Taylor Earns First MLB Win
After seven years in the minor leagues, which included stints with eight teams and three organizations and a Tommy John surgery, Blake Taylor earned his first major league win close to home as the Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Angels, 6-5, in 11 innings.
CUSD Athletic Programs Begin Conditioning Camps
After finally receiving state guidance on Aug. 3, CUSD athletic programs began conditioning camps with small groups and many limitations in Phase 1.
CUSD Athletics Programs Expand Camps
As some COVID-19 restrictions eased, CUSD allowed for larger groups and varied workouts and drills in Phase 2 in late September and Phase 3 in late October. Teams were able to start using weights and could incorporate balls and equipment into their drills.
Former Dana Hills Football Coach Bill Cunerty Dies
Bill Cunerty, who was the Dana Hills football coach from 1975-76, died from complications of Parkinson’s disease. Cunerty was also known for successful stints as the football and golf coach at Saddleback College and as a local high school sports broadcaster.
Four DHHS Baseball Players Sign to Colleges
CJ Zwahlen (Washington State), Ian May (UC Berkeley), Aedan Anderson (Xavier University) and Rocco DiFrancesco (Colorado Mesa) all committed to their colleges of choice on Fall Signing Day.
State Provides Guidance Tied to Tier System
The state finally delivered guidelines for youth and high school sports tied to the four-tiered, color-coded coronavirus monitoring system. Low-contact sports including cross country and baseball could return in the purple or red higher-risk tiers, but high-contact or indoor sports including football and basketball couldn’t return until the orange or yellow lower-risk tiers.