Athletics News

50 Years Of Miramonte High School (CA) Water Polo Celebrated This Fall


Miramonte HS celebrated 50 years of water polo earlier this Fall
Nov. 10, 2016

By Jeff Moulton

On Friday, September 23, the Miramonte High School Water Polo Program celebrated its 50th anniversary with an alumni game and dinner at the Bill Brown Aquatic Center in Orinda. The event also honored the memory of Dave Patching (Miramonte class of 1974), who died in 2011. Patching was a first team high school All American water polo player at Miramonte.

Boys’ water polo was officially recognized as a high school sport in northern California in 1967. Led by Coach Bill Brown and then by Coach James Lathrop, Miramonte has been the most successful northern California high school water polo program. It ranks with Newport Harbor, Long Beach Wilson, and Corona Del Mar as one of the four or five best high school programs in the country during the last 50 years. Almost 100 Miramonte players have been named high school All Americans, 18 players have been named to one or more NCAA All American teams, and 19 players have played for one or more NCAA championship teams.

Miramonte fielded its first water polo team in the fall of 1967 after several members of Miramonte’s swim team asked Bill Brown to coach the water polo team. Brown, a graduate of Albany High School and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, played college football and basketball. He started his teaching career at Miramonte in 1965. Brown was an excellent swimmer, but he knew nothing about water polo before he began coaching water polo. The 1967 team featured six players who played Division 1 college water polo, including Peter Schnugg (Class of 1969), Randy Williams (Class of 1970), Jon Svendsen (Class of 1971), and Rick O’Hare (Class of 1971). Schnugg, Williams, O’Hare, and Svendsen played together at Cal under legendary coach Pete Cutino.

Although Coach Brown is best known for his work with the Miramonte Boys’ Program, he was instrumental in helping establish the Girls’ Water Polo Program in 1995 and helping Heather Petri (Class of 1996) develop her water polo skills. In 1994, before the Girls’ Program was established, Coach Brown invited Petri to practice with the Boys’ Junior Varsity Team. Petri, a four-time Olympian, attributes much of her success in water polo to Coach Brown.

The U.S. men’s senior national team did not qualify for the 1976 Olympics. If it had, Schnugg and Svendsen would have been on the Olympic team. Except for 1988, there has been at least one Bill Brown-coached Miramonte water polo player on every Olympic team from 1980 through 2012. Specifically, 1980 (Schnugg, Svendsen, and Drew McDonald, Class of 1973); 1984 (Svendsen and McDonald); 1992 (Kirk Everist, Class of 1985); 1996 (Everist and Rick McNair, Class of 1987); 2000 (Petri); 2004 (Petri); 2008 (Petri); and 2012 (Petri). In addition to the six Olympians, Miramonte has had four other graduates play for the U.S. men’s senior national team: Colin Keely (Class of 1987), Michael Sharf (Class of 2004), Jon Sibley (Class of 2010), and Drew Holland (Class of 2013). Sharf holds the single-season scoring record at Cal, was a Cutino award (water polo’s version of the Heisman Trophy) finalist in 2007, and helped lead Cal to two NCAA championships.

Schnugg, Svendsen, and Everist were each named NCAA player of the year and helped lead Cal to multiple NCAA championships. They were also outstanding swimmers, each winning one or more Pacific 8 college swimming titles. After finishing his playing career with the men’s senior national team and serving as an assistant coach at Miramonte, Everist was named the head water polo coach at Cal in 2002. His Cal teams won the NCAA championship in 2006 and 2007.

Coach Brown, Schnugg, Svendsen, McDonald, and Everist have been inducted into the Water Polo Hall of Fame. Petri is expected to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in her first year of eligibility.

The California Interscholastic Federation’s North Coast Section has held a water polo championship every year since 1995. Miramonte has won 14 of the 21 Division 1 championships. No other school has won more than four.

Coach Brown retired from his teaching position at Miramonte in 2005. James Lathrop (Class of 1996), a high school All American at Miramonte and the former captain of the Cal water polo team, is a history teacher at Miramonte. Coach Lathrop, considered to be one of the best high school coaches in the country, has been the head coach at Miramonte since 2005. Coach Lathrop’s teams have won eight North Coach Section championships. He also coached the Junior National teams in 2012 and 2013.

The 2008 Miramonte water polo team was named the best high school sports team in the country by ESPN Rise magazine. No northern California team has been considered the best water polo team in the country since then. The 2008 team, which had a record of 26-1, won the North Coast Section championship, the Schmitt tournament, the S&R Southern California Invitational, and the North-South Water Polo Challenge. Miramonte is the only northern California team to win the S&R Invitational and the North-South Water Polo Challenge in the same year.

Ask Coach Brown and Coach Lathrop why Miramonte has been good at water polo for so long and they will credit much of the program’s success to the support and dedication of the players’ parents. As one of the most successful coaches in southern California has said, “Miramonte travels with its own cheering section.”

Not surprisingly, the 2016 Miramonte team shows great promise and is one of the favorites to win the North Coast Section championship.

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